Despite challenges, SA much better than it was 29 years ago: Mashatile
Deputy President Paul Mashatile says the government remains committed to addressing the “stubborn challenge” of load-shedding, which continues to undermine economic growth.
“Load-shedding has adversely affected the economy, overall quality of life and the safety and security of our citizens. To this end, the ANC-led government continues to implement the energy action plan to end load-shedding and achieve energy security,” he said on Tuesday.
He was delivering his inaugural annual address to the National Council of Provinces.
Mashatile told MPs that much had been done to deliver services to South Africans since 1994.
“Our journey as a leading political party started back in 1994. We can unequivocally state that South Africa is in a much better place now than where it was 29 years ago.”
He said more children have access to learning opportunities, the prevalence of disability has declined, more than 82% of households have running water in 2022 and access to electricity has risen to more than 90% of the country’s residences.
“Though this is expected as standard practice, the progress achieved in recent years indicates that efforts to ensure adequate access to social services has been accelerated.”
On municipalities, Mashatile said President Cyril Ramaphosa tasked him with implementing the district development model which aims to co-ordinate service delivery within the three spheres of government.
“We seek to reconfigure the design, planning and implementation of service delivery through this DDM. We seek to change the relationship between the spheres of government and communities they serve and stakeholders they need to work with.”
Legislation has been amended to improve accountability and reduce corruption in local government, he said.
Acknowledging the role of parliament, he said in 2023 critical legislation was passed. “As of November 24 this year, the sixth parliament has passed 119 bills from 2019 to date.”
Despite several disruptions such as the burning of the National Assembly, the July 2021 unrest and the pandemic, Mashatile said parliament had done well in executing its mandate.
On March 29 2023, the cabinet approved 42 bills and as of Friday November 25, 22 bills have already been introduced to parliament.
“As of November 30 there are 17 bills before the NCOP committee and we remain optimistic that all these critical bills will have been passed by the end of this administration.”
As leader of government business, Mashatile said he will continue engaging presiding officers of parliament on critical matters of accountability in the executive.
“The sixth administration committed to transforming the economy along a developmental growth path to create decent jobs ... Due to the pandemic, our nation has experienced more than 2-million job losses and the closure of several businesses. We also experienced the July 2021 riots where 350 people tragically lost their lives and significant damage was caused to our economy.”
He said just as the world emerged from the pandemic, South Africa confronted the Ukraine-Russia war and adverse weather.
“Despite these challenges over the past five years, the ANC government in collaboration with labour, business and civil society has focused on growing and building an economy that serves all South Africans.”
This included the temporary unemployment relief scheme for workers and the R350 social relief of distress grant which helped almost 10-million people.
“While more than 16-million people are employed in our country, unemployment remains unacceptably high with about 8-million to 10-million people unemployed.”
To address this, he said, the government had established the presidential employment stimulus which has benefited 1.2-million people.
“As government, we aim to stimulate job creation by expanding private sector investments with an initial target of R1.2-trillion over five years — more than R1.5-trillion in investment commitment has been mobilised.”
He said many of these investment pledges will translate into real jobs and economic recovery. He said the government remained “unwavering” in its commitment to ensuring quality education for all citizens with the number of matriculants, children accessing early development and beneficiaries of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme increasing annually.
Furthermore, he said, more than 15-million South Africans have access to free healthcare.
“However, there is still significant inequality regarding quality healthcare and as a result the ANC government will continue to engage key stakeholders, including organised business and labour, to find amicable solutions in areas that may hinder the passing of the National Health Insurance bill to enable every South African to receive standardised quality healthcare regardless of the ability to pay.”
Mashatile said the government further commits to eradicating the indignity of the bucket [toilet] system. “We can eradicate this, coming from where we were, I am sure very soon this will disappear from our communities.”
On crime, he said the government was aware of the impact it had on communities and that gender-based violence had reached “crisis proportions”.
“Measures have also been taken to address corruption and patronage in government departments.” He called on MPs to work together on the collapse of municipalities and urged the NCOP to continue playing its part in ensuring that provinces are given a voice in parliament.
ANC MP Tshilidzi Munyai welcomed Mashatile’s address, however he said load-shedding remained the major constraint undermining economic recovery.
“The economic loss due to load-shedding has lowered production and disrupted social life. We welcome the dedicated focus on this crisis and we welcome the Eskom debt relief bill which will enable the entity to be financially stable.”
The DA’s Allan Winde took a swipe at the ANC’s financial woes, saying the person who wrote Mashatile’s speech would have to be subjected to a disciplinary process at Luthuli House for setting up the deputy president for failure.
“But, when they get there, I am sure there will be no chairs, furniture, computers and probably no water cooler but also when you look at the provision of services, I’d say Sassa and the ANC are totally failing the citizens of this country.”
He was referring to an incident in which the sheriff of the court went to the ANC's headquarters in Johannesburg on Monday with the intention to seize assets worth more than R102m from the ruling party.
Winde said that, in South Africa, the poor pay for the ANC failures “but there is hope in the Western Cape”.
The EFF’s Mbulelo Magwala criticised the ANC for failing to deliver on its promises to South Africans.
“If this was a relationship, the ANC would be a party that would have been cheating on you for the past 30 years but still wants South Africans to give them another chance. I don’t know what kind of chance and what kind of relationship this would be in this state that we are in.”
Magwala said Mashatile had failed to demonstrate any meaningful progress in relation to the provision of social services, safety and the advancement of economic reform for citizens.
The FF Plus’ Stephanus du Toit said the ANC boasted about the R350 SRD grant being one of the world's most expensive systems but “we are currently experiencing the highest unemployment levels ever (over 40%) and the government still plays the racecard when it comes to the economy, blaming whites for the problems it created.”