Government has achieved a lot and apartheid is to blame for the underdevelopment of the majority in South Africa
11 September 2012
The Presidency is disappointed and surprised by the hysteria by some sections of the media in response to the statements by President Jacob Zuma that government has achieved exceptionally well in only 18 years of freedom and democracy, and that apartheid is to blame for the backlogs and the social ills that South Africa has to reverse.
The President addressed the special national conference of the South African Local Government Association in Midrand, yesterday on the 10th of September.
Both statements made by the President are factual. The President stands by every word and will repeat what he said at any given time. South Africa should not be forced into amnesia with regards to the experiences of the past, and the President will not be party to the apartheid denialism that is being promoted.
South Africa has gone through about three centuries of colonialism and decades of apartheid, during which there was a systematic and deliberate underdevelopment of the majority socially, economically and politically. The transformation programmes of government since 1994 have been aimed at reversing the impact of colonialism as well as apartheid, which was declared a crime against humanity.
The President stated that there was almost no local government system for black people before 1994, and no investment had been made in ensuring the economic or social viability of black residential areas before 1994. Some black people, especially in rural villages, saw electricity in their homes for the first time only after 1994.
Having said so, the President in his address at SALGA went on to speak out against some ills in local government such as bad financial management and the distance between the people and government. For example, he observed that most communities say leaders and officials in government do not engage them about service delivery and do not explain where problems lie with regards to the delivery of much-needed services. In the absence of information, people become frustrated and use protests as a means of communicating with government, which is wrong. Corruption is another point raised by the President as needing attention, amongst many others.
There is no hiding of the fact that there are some problems in local government that must be attended to. At the same time, we cannot erase the fact that at the source of all this underdevelopment is a deliberate system of dehumanisation that was in place for decades, and that the democratic administration faces the mammoth task of reversing the impact. There is also no need to deny that already a lot of progress has been made by the democratic government in only 18 years.
Achievements of government
There is a running narrative in the media that government has not achieved anything in 18 years. Any statement by government pointing out progress made is received with cynicism and hysteria as it goes against the dominant script. Part of the problem in finding ways to overcome the racist spatial configuration of services and facilities as well as underdevelopment as it affects the overwhelming majority of our people, is the denial of the magnitude and impact of apartheid. Such denial, especially by many in the media, prevents us from undertanding the challenges our country faces, from appreciating the progress we have made since 1994 and the distance we still have to travel to achieve an equal and just society.
This will not stop the President or government from communicating the progress made, and to point out as well the challenges that remain.
Some of the political achievements are as follows, and these are just a few;
- Peace, stability and democracy.
- A constitution which guarantees human rights for all, the right to a minimum standard of life, including the right to access health, education, social security, food and water;
- the right of all people to elect a government of their choice in regular, free and fair elections in a multi-party democracy;
- mobilisation of our people to actively take part in decision-making processes that affect their lives;
- an independent judiciary and freedom of expression;
- equality and freedom from discrimination on racial, gender or any other ground;
- workers rights, collective bargaining, freedom of association; and
- Over two and half million houses have been built for the poor giving shelter to over ten million people.
- Six million households have gained access to clean water since 1994 and electricity has been connected to nearly five million homes.
- In 1994, only 62% of households had access to clean drinking water, today 93% do.
- In 1994, only 50% of households had access to decent sanitation, today 77% do.
- In 1994, only 36% of South Africans had access to electricity – today 84% do. Today the majority of our people are provided free basic services in water and electricity.
- By 2010, close to 15 million people were receiving social grants. Of those, nine point five million are children aged under 14 years, compared with just 2.4 million in 1996. This has contributed immensely to reducing poverty levels in many households
- Our programmes have opened the doors of learning. More than eight million children at primary and secondary schools benefit from school-feeding schemes.
• We have offered more opportunities for the children of the poor. Student loans are now being converted into bursaries for qualifying final-year students.
• Students in further education and training colleges who qualify for financial aid are now exempted from paying fees.
• Crime statistics show a decrease in most crimes, including armed robberies, housebreakings and contact crimes. The murder rate, for example, has declined by 8,6% in 2010.
• Through the implementation of the major infrastructure programme over the years, government has helped create jobs and protected our communities from the worst effects of the global economic crisis. To date, R800 billion is being invested in infrastructure programmes that will change the socio-economic landscape of the country, building dams, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and two universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga. The President leads the programme through the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission.
This is just a small tally of the achievements scored.
More to be done
The President and government in general never fail to point out that much more still needs to be done. The legacy of colonialism and apartheid cannot be reversed in only 18 years. That is impossible. But more is done each day to bring about a better life.
More is being done as well to improve the performance of government, so that officials do what they are supposed to do, and so that government eradicates corruption and improves performance in the public service and meets is delivery targets. That is why President Zuma instituted the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in his office, so that he can keep track of progress and intervene where necessary. That is also why he visits so many communities to undertake hands-on monitoring of service delivery.
The President is pleased with the progress made, and will continue leading government to improve the quality of life of all.
Statement issued by Mac Maharaj, The Presidency, September 12 2012