Celebrating the implementation of the values and aspirations of the Freedom Charter where the needs of the poor and unemployed are placed at the centre Of our National Agenda – Our contribution to advancing the values of our Constitution
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Members of the media,
Fellow South Africans,
On 20 September 1909, and in the aftermath of the so-called Anglo-Boer War (properly construed as the South African War), the British Parliament passed the South Africa Act of 1909 which created the Union of South Africa comprising the British colonies of the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, the Orange River Colony and Transvaal.
The establishment of a Whites-only Union of South Africa, to the exclusion of the Black majority, in 1910 missed a golden opportunity to build a united and prosperous, non-racial and non-sexist South African society inclusive of all the national groups. Instead, the result divided the people and meted out privileges solely on the basis of skin colour and balkanised the country into so-called ‘homelands’. This was spearheaded with the passage of the 1913 Land Act, which denied ownership rights to the Black majority with the consequence that thousands of people were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands, which provided fertile ploughing, grazing and hunting fields and places in which they thrived and had called home for centuries.
The adoption of the apartheid policy by the National Party, which came into power in 1948, which was used to intensify the racial exclusion and oppression of the Black majority resulted in the passage of several laws such as the Colour Bar Act, Influx Control Act, Group Areas, Separate Amenities Act, Immorality Act, Bantu Administration Act and many other laws to foster racial segregation and socio-economic marginalisation of the Black majority, especially women.
In 1955, over 3000 delegates from different parts of our country, representing people from all walks of life, met at Kliptown to consider and map out a vision for the kind of South Africa they would like to live in.
During the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom Charter, in 1980, the longest-serving President of the ANC, Oliver Tambo, said:
“The Freedom Charter contains the fundamental perspective of the vast majority of the people of South Africa of the kind of liberation that we all of us are fighting for. Hence it is not merely the Freedom Charter of the African National Congress and its allies. Rather, it is the Charter of the people of South Africa for liberation.
“It was drawn up on the basis of the demands of the vast masses of our country and adopted at an elected Congress of the people. Because it came from the people, it remains still a people’s Charter, the one basic political statement of our goals to which all genuinely democratic and patriotic forces of South Africa adhere.”
It was, therefore, only natural that when the Constitution of the new South Africa was written, the Freedom Charter clearly served as the foundation upon which our Bill of Rights was hinged. It clearly maps out the work that needs to be done to undo the spectre of apartheid which continues to haunt us to this day and to build a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it.
The Preamble of our democratic Constitution contains the commitment to, amongst other things, establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights, lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law and improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person. One of the methods used to achieve these objectives is the inclusion of enforceable socio-economic rights in the Bill of Rights.
We have made great strides in the deracialisation and unification of the delivery of services over the past 25 years of democracy. Millions of people who were previously excluded now have access to education, water, electricity, health care, housing and social security.
THE PEOPLE SHALL GOVERN!
The Freedom Charter states that “no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.” In exactly 48 days, the people of our country will exercise their will by participating in a general election where they will elect a government of their choice.
South Africa is a participatory democracy with an active citizenry, a free and vibrant media, durable democratic institutions (including Chapter 9 institutions), and an independent judiciary. Members of the public are able to give government their views, complaints and suggestions during unmediated public engagements such as izimbizo and public hearings in the consideration of legislative proposals.
The people can only participate effectively in governance when they understand their rights and responsibilities. The Department of Justice & Constitutional Development makes use of community radio stations using the GCIS platform “Let’s Talk Justice” to promote awareness of constitutional rights. The DOJ&CD also collaborates with other role-players under the Constitutional Rights Education Working Group (CRE WG) structure to promote constitutional literacy and awareness.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, in partnership with the Foundation of Human Rights, is the joint implementer of the Socio-Economic Justice for All (SEJA) programme funded by the European Union through Sector Budget Support. Launched under its popular name ‘Amarightza’, the SEJA programme is based on the principles of dignity, universality, indivisibility, interrelatedness, and interdependence of all rights which are enshrined in the South African Constitution. The main thrust of the SEJA’s objective is the realisation and enhancement of socio-economic rights with the aim of eradicating poverty, promoting sustainable and inclusive growth and consolidating and improving democratic and economic governance.
ALL NATIONAL GROUPS SHALL HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS!
National Action Plan
The Cabinet has, during February this year, approved the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (NAP). On Monday, 25 March 2019, 3 days before the second anniversary of the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, Deputy Minister John Jeffery will officially launch the NAP in Pretoria.
Uncle “Kathy”, as he was known, began the process of consultations on the NAP with us three years ago when the first consultative workshop was held in Cape Town.
Since then, the NAP has evolved into a living document; a plan indeed – one that firmly places the issues of racism and intolerance on the national agenda.
The Plan has been developed through a comprehensive consultation process involving among others; government, Chapter Nine institutions and civil society.
It commits all sectors of our society to the promotion and protection of human rights, and to raising awareness of anti-racism, equality and anti-discrimination issues.
This Plan calls for commitment by all South Africans to values and behaviours that will break with our hurtful and damaging past and that will keep our moral compass trained on our path of renewal and growth.
The launch will be a critical milestone in giving effect to South Africa’s obligations in terms of the of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) which was adopted following the 3rd World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) hosted by South Africa in Durban, in 2001. The DDPA urges States to establish and implement national policies and action plans to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, including their gender-based manifestations.
THERE SHALL BE HOUSES, SECURITY AND COMFORT!
In response to the peoples’ demands in the Freedom Charter that there shall be houses, security and comfort, government has produced over 4 million new housing opportunities through it subsidy programme for the poorest South Africans.
The percentage of households connected to an electricity supply stood at 84% in 2017. This is no small feat – given that the majority of our people were deliberately excluded from these services and opportunities for decades under apartheid. Today, 8 out of 10 South Africans have electricity in their homes.
Government’s free basic services programme currently supports more than 3.5 million indigent households. An estimated 2.6 million households benefit from the indigent support system for water.
An additional one million households have been provided with water in the last five years in communities that have never had access to clean water. Today, nearly 9 out of 10 South Africans have access to clean drinking water.
As President Ramaphosa outlined during the State of the Nation Address, millions more South Africans will benefit from easier access to clean water as government is making more investments in bulk water infrastructure, reticulation and boreholes.
More than 17 million social grants are paid each month, benefiting nearly a third of the population.
The health condition of the majority of South Africans is getting better. More South Africans are living longer, with average life expectancy increasing to 64 years in 2018 from a low of 53 years in 2005. The ANC-led government has built new clinics and hospitals and expanded access to healthcare for the poor communities who used to travel long distances to access health facilities.
More than 4.3 million South Africans living with HIV receive life-saving antiretroviral drug treatment following a deliberate policy of the ANC government to intensify the fight against HIV/Aids and its companions, opportunistic infections, especially Tuberculosis.
THE DOORS OF LEARNING AND CULTURE SHALL BE OPENED!
Further, in response to the call by the Freedom Charter that the doors of learning and culture shall be opened and bearing in mind that if we are to break the cycle of poverty, we need to expand access to education for the children from disadvantaged backgrounds. We have insisted that this should start in early childhood. Today, we have over a million children in early childhood development facilities.
There are over two million students in our institutions of higher learning and vocational training colleges, many of these from poor and working class backgrounds. This is particularly important because education can change a family’s fortunes in a single generation and break the cycle of poverty, unemployment and inequality often passed from one generation to another.
We have near universal access to schools for children between the ages of 7 and 15 and we are now intensifying our focus on improving the quality of education. Out of 12,9 million learners, more than 9,2 million benefit from the national school nutrition feeding scheme. Starting in 2018, free higher education and training was made available to first year students from households with a gross combined annual income of up to R350,000.
The ANC government has, despite many obstacles, continued over the past 25 years to pursue land restitution efforts, culminating in the adoption of a resolution at its 54th National Conference in December 2017 of adopting the policy of Land Expropriation without Compensation to ramp up its effort to correct this injustice of the past of subjecting the black majority to the state of landlessness whilst their white counterparts continue to own large tracks of land. This is in line with the Freedom Charter’s command that the land shall be shared among those who work it.
Through our restitution and redistribution programmes, we have returned more than 10 percent of farm land to black South Africans. Government has launched an accelerated programme of land reform, which will work to expand our agricultural output and promote economic inclusion. Policy and legislative interventions will ensure that more land is made available for agriculture, industrial development and human settlements. A Constitutional Review Committee has been established and tasked with the review of Section 25 of the Constitution which culminated in the adoption yesterday of the Adhoc Committee’s report to unambiguously set out provisions for expropriation of land without compensation to be completed in the 6th administration after the May elections.
In addition to the constitutional review process, President Ramaphosa has tasked Deputy President David Mabuza to lead an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform tasked with establishing systems to fast-track land reform in South Africa.
This past weekend on Saturday, 16 March 2019, Deputy President David Mabuza presided over the Presidential handover of the settled and finalised land claim of the Ubizo Community in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal. The Deputy President said at the event:
“We are creating a new era of access and opportunity. It is about empowerment of our people through broadening of access to land. In so doing, we are implementing a programme of radical socio-economic transformation that the governing party resolved on at its national conference in Nasrec. Therefore, land reform and transformation of the economy, is a national imperative and will continue to be implemented with vigour. We must act differently and with speed. The patience of our people is wearing thin. Those of us in government must work with speed in implementing interventions that will take us forward. As we implement our land reform programme, we shall do so within the prescripts of our laws.”
The Freedom Charter also states that All Shall Enjoy Equal Human Rights. In this regard and in giving effect to the Bill of Rights and the many laws that this Parliament passed since the dawn of democracy in 1994 in support of the objects of our Constitution, the judgments of our courts are continuously being factored into the policies of Government to ensure the strengthening of a human rights culture in the country.
South Africa's policy on social justice and socio-economic development for all derives from the South African Constitution, national legislation and policies. Our Bill of Rights states that, with the exception of 4 sections, the majority of rights are guaranteed to everyone within our borders.
Over the past two decades, many ground-breaking court decisions were handed down during what may be termed as the golden era of South Africa’s constitutional jurisprudence, which is the envy of many nations of the wold.
In support of the 2018 Presidential Summit resolutions, the DoJ&CD continues to establish the victim-centric Sexual Offences Courts countrywide, which now stand at 84 courts, with 5 more courts about to be finalised at the end of this month to bring the total to 89 courts.
As reported by SAPS, in 2017 the reported sexual offences cases stood at 49 660, but in 2018 they were already trending upwards to 50 108 which could be a reflection of increased confidence of victims in the system resulting in increased reporting of such incidents. In response, the NPA has recorded an improved national conviction rate of 72.7% in sexual offences, whilst Sexual Offences Courts, supported by Thuthuzela Care Centres have reached a notable conviction rate of 74,5%.
Working with civil society and relevant government stakeholders, the DoJ&CD, as the custodian of this legislation, has commenced with the review of the Domestic Violence Act to tighten its provisions against all forms of domestic homicides, including femicide cases. This is our immediate response to the resolutions taken at the 2018 Presidential Summit against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) where the DoJ&CD was tasked to review all laws relating to gender-based violence to make them more victim-centric, preventative and responsive.
The celebrated Guinea-Bissau revolutionary leader, Amilcar Cabral, counsels us to: "Tell no lies. Claim no easy victories". We have to concede that the picture in terms of violence against women and children is still not where we would like it to be. In spite of the stated successes, the criminal justice system has to up its game in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.
One of the drawbacks that have vitiated against our effort to bring about radical change in the economic and social life of our people articulated in our Constitution and the Freedom Charter I have alluded to is the persistent scourge of fraud and corruption and other serious economic crimes in virtually all facets of our society.
The President, in his determination to lead the course of renewal of our nation has spearheaded the fight against the scourge by making various interventions including the appointment of commissions of inquiry, the creation of a special investigative directorate in the NPA to strengthen its prosecutorial capacity as well as the resuscitation of the SIU Tribunal to expedite the recovery by the SIU of losses sustained by the State due to fraud and corruption.
The Freedom Charter remains the lodestar that guides our blossoming democracy.
"Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili" is a Zulu proverb that means "those who have gone before us are the ones who can show us the path. As we march on and continue to build a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, united in its diversity, we shall continue to draw inspiration from the giants who walked before us. We are indebted to the ANC leaders including Pixley KaIsaka Seme, John Dube, Charlotte Maxeke, Winnie Mandela, Lillian Ngoyi, Ruth First and Chief Albert Luthuli, Sol Plaaitjie who are the heroes of our century-long walk to freedom that commenced with the formation in 1912 of the African National Congress and culminating in the commencement of an even more treacherous journey that commenced at the dawn of democracy to bring about the realisation of Vision 2030 articulated in our National Development Plan as well as the African Union Vision 2063 for lasting peace and prosperity for all our people here at home and on the rest of the continent.
Madame Speaker, tomorrow, the 21st of March’s commemoration of Human Right Day led by President Cyril Ramaphosa is a day where all South Africans should join hands and celebrate the human rights culture ushered in by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
And, finally let us not forget to go and vote for the African National Congress in our large numbers so as to demonstrate our unwavering support for its unrelenting effort to bring about the kind of change for the better in our society sanctioned by the Freedom Charter and the Bill of Rights that all our people deserve.I thank you!