Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
This week's Presidency Budget Vote Debate saw sparks fly in the National Assembly, with several speakers taking the opportunity to campaign ahead of 2014. The President responded yesterday, complaining that the opposition had been wholly unconstructive.
I beg to differ. The IFP actually considered the Presidency's budget and spoke to the issue at hand. Unfortunately, with only 7 minutes to discuss the allocation of billions of Rands, most of our contribution had to be read afterwards, rather than heard in the debate.
Nevertheless, the points I raised were certainly constructive. The fact that there is still no parliamentary oversight committee which can deliberate on the Presidency's budget, means that we receive the budget as a fait accompli. How can we honestly debate on what will be spent, where it will be spent and how it will be spent, when none of this has been scrutinised, questioned or justified?
Surely it is constructive to call for the establishment of an oversight committee, as we have for the last few years. It would also be constructive for Government to heed my repeated warning about our country's rising debt and increased borrowing, without a strategy of when or how we will pay it back. We are setting the next generation up for economic disaster.
Like many South Africans, I questioned the Presidency's excessive bill for consultants. The civil service has managed to spend R102 billion on consultants over just 3 years. Does this mean that over the past nineteen years no progress has been made within our civil service in learning how to govern efficiently and effectively, or at all?
In light of that, one has to question the legitimacy of the Presidency spending R58,3 million on consultants and professional services to provide business and advisory services, and R25,2 million on consultants and professional services relating to legal costs. What is the cost per person, or the cost per day?
These are staggering amounts. If we don't question it, where will we begin to adjust personal attitudes within the public service in the spending of money that is ultimately not ours? Moreover, obtaining services at a higher cost than is absolutely necessary opens the door to corruption.
Although time did not allow in the Presidency Budget Vote Debate, I had wanted to point out that the IFP finally sees hope for the National Youth Development Agency, which consumes R392,7 million of the Presidency's budget. Our hope is that the new Board brings improved performance.
The IFP has continuously called for the establishment of a dedicated Youth Ministry, which will enable us to interrogate how well Government is fulfilling the mandate of "reducing youth unemployment and promoting social cohesion", which currently rests with the NYDA.
With this mandate, the question must be asked - how many jobs have been created through the NYDA? In the 2011/2012 financial year, 12 579 employment opportunities were provided. Against a figure of more than 9 million unemployed youth, that is a drop in the ocean.
More than 90% of these jobs were created through the financing of micro-enterprises. R26 million in loans were given to youth-owned micro-enterprises over the course of the year. But a rapidly increasing number of recipients default on loan repayment. Clearly, this is not a sustainable way of creating jobs.
Like others in the Opposition, who quoted the recent warning of the Reserve Bank Governor, I hoped to ask the President during this debate whether he agreed with the advice of Ms Marcus. Is there anyone better equipped to give advice to the ANC than the Governor of the Reserve Bank; a former Minister and a stalwart of the ANC?
Ms Marcus has urged Government to show "decisive leadership", "to act coherently, and exhibit strong and focussed leadership from the top".
Repeatedly, Government ignores this good advice.
I was quite surprised that the President considered my contribution unconstructive. But I was also surprised by his own unconstructive contribution to the current race debate, which came out of nowhere in his response to the Presidency Budget Vote Debate.
Racism is rearing its head again and again in our country, in our schools and universities, in our national airline, in our police service, in our economic policy, in politics, and in the immature hate speech of individuals on various social platforms.
One example is the bizarre statements emanating from the Mazibuye African Forum, that South African Indians are not African and should return to India. This is the kind of incendiary debate that our country's President should temper with decisive leadership.
How can anyone say that Indians do not belong in South Africa? Should Americans leave America if they are not Sioux or Cherokee? Should Australians leave Australia if they are not Aborigines? Of course Indians born in South Africa are indigenes. In most cases, their parents and grandparents were born here too. South Africa would not be where it is today without the important contribution of Indians to our country's liberation, development and prosperity.
Clearly there is still great need in South Africa for reconciliation if, almost twenty years into democracy, and despite our Constitution, there are people who still speak nonsense about other race groups. It is particularly worrying when this comes from our youth, who should by now have moved closer to a sense of unity and social cohesion.
But unity and social cohesion don't spring out of legislation or a Constitution alone. We need to work to create unity, and work to overcome obstacles to our reconciliation.
I was therefore disappointed to read that the former ANC Youth League President, Mr Julius Malema, intends establishing a political party that, in his words, will shift the focus away from reconciliation. Mr Malema is a great admirer of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who recently surprised everyone by criticising former President Nelson Mandela for being "too reconciliatory" in his approach.
Three Presidents later, reconciliation has, no doubt, been pushed off the agenda under the present ANC leadership. That, I would argue, is one of the most unconstructive approaches of the ruling party, considering that race may again become the great South African debate.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP