Address by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP (UDM President) to Parliament in reply to the State of the Nation Address on 19 February 2013

Mister Speaker, Mister President and Deputy President and Honourable Members

Mister President, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations on your re-election as the President of the African National Congress (ANC) at the party’s 2012 Mangaung Conference. It was gratifying to see that, contrary to popular belief and media speculation; the Conference was peaceful.

Coming back to the business of the day, South Africans from all walks of life have over the past few days shared their views on your 2013 State of the Nation Address.

In this regard, the United Democratic Movement (UDM) would like to add its voice by proposing solutions to some of the critical issues affecting South Africa. In doing so, we will avoid rehashing and repeating what has already been said.

The overreliance of state departments on consultants and independent contractors requires urgent attention. According to the Auditor General’s report, national government departments spent R33.5 billion on consultants between 2009 and 2011, whilst provincial departments spent another R68.5 billion. In other words, government departments spent a staggering R102 billion on consultants during that period.

This is a damning indictment of a modern day public administration.

It is also clear that there are serious structural and organisational deficiencies which cause departments to procure the services of consultants to do that which the taxpayers pay them to do.

The Public Service Commission should be requested to investigate and write a report on the causes of this overreliance of state departments on consultants and independent contractors.

The truth of the matter, Mr President, is that the goals of the National Development Plan will not be realised if Government continues to appoint incompetent people.

The billions of Rands wasted on consultants could have been used to create jobs.

While on the subject of job creation, we believe that it is possible to reduce unemployment.

This can be done by Government refurbishing all the abandoned factories in areas such as Dimbaza, Butterworth, Queenstown and Mthatha in the Eastern Cape; KwaMhlanga in Mpumalanga; Ekurhuleni in Gauteng; Thohoyandou in Limpopo and Mmabatho in North West with a view to create jobs for the youth.

We should partner with leading international companies in textile- and steel manufacturing industries, in a mentorship programme for the youth. Upon completion of this mentorship programme graduates should be put in charge of these factories.

The much talked about youth wage subsidy should be structured in a way that accommodates a programme of this nature.

In the past, a lot of raw materials were processed domestically, but today these factories close in droves. The common denominator is their inability to compete with imports from countries where their governments subsidise their products.

We are concerned about the business community’s perceived preference of employing foreign nationals over South Africans. This trend has been observed in industries like security and hospitality in particular. We need to address this as it has serious implications for social cohesion.

We have to consider whether businesses should not be compelled to ensure that sixty to seventy percent of their staff complement is made-up of South Africans.

We must also deal with the tensions caused by the takeover of businesses in townships, small towns and rural areas by foreign nationals. These tensions are created by, amongst other factors, the fact that these businesses do not create jobs for local people – they are run by the foreign owners and their families.

There has been much talk about the greening programme for South Africa. Packaged properly, these programmes have the potential to create job opportunities for semi-skilled workers. Such job opportunities could range from projects to combat soil erosion to creating community forests, and so on.

You mentioned infrastructure development as one of Government’s apex priorities. It would help public debate as well as progress monitoring, if Government publishes the infrastructure development map including projects that are run by State Owned Enterprises (SoEs).

For example, last year I wrote you a letter requesting your infrastructure committee to consider building a railway between Mthatha, Kokstad, Queenstown and East London. The purpose of the railway line would be to improve public transport in these areas and reduce traffic thus reducing the high rate of accidents on the N2.

The development of a monitoring mechanism is very important Mr President in that it enables one to keep track of progress. For instance, are you aware that the company that was tasked with the construction of the Mthatha Airport terminal building has left the work unfinished? We are however pleased with the progress made by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on the runway.

While still on the subject of infrastructure development, today I received a letter from Mr Muthala, Principal of the Tshadama Secondary School in the Vhembe District of Limpopo.

Mr Muthala talks about the difficulties facing the teachers and 480 learners in eight classrooms. The school has been teaching many of its learners under trees. Despite these challenges, it managed to achieved a 100% pass rate in physical sciences and this without a laboratory. Their overall pass rate for 2011 was 69% and this increased to 96% in 2012.

The school claims that the Education Department has not helped it with the request to build extra classrooms. Mr President, I have the pleasure of handing you this letter so that you can ask the relevant departments to look into it.

We have taken note of your announcement that you will deal decisively with violent protests and strikes.

According to the Multi-Level Government Initiative (which tracked protests in South Africa between February 2007 and August 2012) in the first eight months of last year, a total of 79.2% of protests turned violent. In other words, in eight out of ten service delivery protests ended up in violence.

This unprecedented increase in service delivery protests, together with the use of violence, is cause for concern.

Not only are the poor are unhappy with the levels of corruption, maladministration and poor service delivery, at the various Government levels, but they are so desperate for Government’s attention that they resort to violent civil disobedience.

We look forward to seeing Government taking steps to address the underlying causes of this problem.

We ought to ensure that our efforts to create peace and prosperity in the world do not distract us from our primary mandate of ensuring the safety and security of South Africans.

I thank you.