State Of The Nation Address at the Opening of Parliament – 2000/02/04

4 February 2000

National Assembly Chamber
Madame Speaker and Deputy Speaker,
Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP,
Honourable Members of our National Legislature,
President of the Constitutional Court,
Chief Justice,
Heads of the Security Services,
Honourable Premiers,
Representatives of Local Government,
Distinguished guests:

At no other point of time have we ever been as well placed as we are today to take decisive forward steps, towards the creation of the humane and people-centred society for which the organisations that were unbanned ten years ago struggled for many decades.

It is now ten years since the people’s organisations were unbanned, the last political prisoners released and the exiles began the journey back to the land of their birth.

In the course of a mere decade, we ended the entrenched and pernicious system of apartheid white minority rule.

We have put in place a constitutionally governed and stable democratic system whose permanence has been underwritten by two successful general elections.

We have put behind us the practice inherent within our social order for three centuries and more, of the resolution of competing interests by resort to repression, violence and war.

We have turned an economy that was headed towards a catastrophic meltdown into one that is poised to advance in a way that will address the needs of all our people.

Where suffering and degradation were the only things that were certain in the lives of millions of our people, we have created the situation in which these millions are now better able to carry their pain, because hope has taken the place of despair.

Having ended our dark days as a pariah country, we can rightly say that, today, the nations of our common universe are confident that out of South Africa will emerge a thing of value that will contribute to the building of a more humane world.

Surely, Madame Speaker, we are entitled to make the claim that, as a people, both black and white, we did, in a mere decade, carry out a multi-faceted task whose accomplishment speaks highly of the capacity of our people and all humanity to achieve results which can only be described as good and noble.

I am therefore privileged to have this opportunity to extend heartfelt congratulations to all our people, regardless of race, colour and gender, for the extraordinary and sustained effort over the last ten years which has enabled the overwhelming majority among us to say – we are proud to be South African!

The good that has been done puts into very sharp relief everything that has still to be done, to extricate millions of our people from the conditions of poverty, racism, sexism and violations of their human dignity, from which too many of our people continue to suffer.

However, I am certain that we are all inspired to act with greater vigour and will indeed act with greater vigour, to achieve the fundamental transformation of our country, because at no point during its entire history has our country been in a better position to confront the challenges we face than it is today.

At no other point of time have we ever been as well placed as we are today to take decisive forward steps, towards the creation of the humane and people-centred society for which the organisations that were unbanned ten years ago struggled for many decades.

Last month, the Food and Allied Workers Union came across correspondence in the electronic mail of one of our companies. This correspondence originated from an engineer within this company, who has since been dismissed.

As the Honourable Members will recall, among other things, this engineer wrote:

” I would like to summarise what the Kaffirs have done to stuff up this country since they came into power…If a white buys a house, he pays transfer duties. If a kaffir buys a house it is free of duties because he was ‘previously disadvantaged’…More than 20% of the GDP is embezzled by the kaffir politicians and corrupt civil servants…The UIF and state pension funds have been embezzled…Our girlfriends/wives are in constant threat of being brutally raped by some AIDS infested Kaffir (or gang of Kaffirs)…Everyday someone you know is either robbed, assaulted, hijacked or murdered…Half these black bastards have bought their (drivers) licences from corrupt traffic cops…AND AND AND AND AND…All I am saying is that AIDS isn’t working fast enough!!!”

Our successes in the struggle to move our country from apartheid to democracy have led many in our country to reach the premature conclusion that racism in South Africa is dead.

This is despite the obvious and naked fact that to this day and unavoidably, the racial divisions, inequalities and prejudices of the past continue to characterise our society.

Some in our country are so determined to close their eyes to this reality that those who are forced to swallow the bitter fruit of racial inequality and arrogance are regularly rebuked for speaking out against the pain they continue to endure.

Such unadorned statements as those made by the company engineer serve a very important function in that they bring us face to face with the brutality of the racism that will continue to exist in our society unless all of us engage this monster consciously and systematically. After discussions between the Government and the Human Rights Commission, agreement has been reached that the Commission will, later this year, convene a National Congress against Racism.

We are convinced that this important initiative will help to move our country faster towards the realisation of the goal contained in our Constitution of the creation of a non-racial society, as well as impact positively on our continuing struggle for a non-sexist society.

During this year, the Government will therefore give all necessary support to the Human Rights Commission to ensure that it succeeds to engage all sectors of our society in the common effort further to intensify our offensive against racism and sexism.

Next year, at the request of the United Nations Human Rights Commission and High Commissioner Mary Robinson, our country will also host the International Conference against Racism.

We feel greatly honoured that the international community, in recognition of our commitment to the struggle for a non-racial world, should have chosen our country to host such an important international gathering, which will be the first of its kind.

The Honourable Members will have taken note of the deep concern expressed by various European governments at the growth of the extreme right wing in their part of the world.

In one of his plays, Arturo Ui, the outstanding German playwright and poet, Bertold Brecht, warns against the resurgence of fascism with the unforgettable words – the bitch is in heat again!

We are committed to act in unity with the rest of the world to confront this challenge and will therefore begin the work this year, together with and under the guidance of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights, to ensure that the international conference next year discharges its responsibilities to the peoples of the world.

Because we have never been better placed than we are today further to push back the frontiers of racism, we are convinced that our own National Congress against Racism will also succeed to discharge its responsibilities to our people.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Honourable Members for the work they did to approve on time, the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act and the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act.

We have assented to these and other pieces of legislation approved last month.

The Government will act to ensure the observance of these laws as part of our common national offensive against all forms of inequality and discrimination, including racial and gender inequality and discrimination as well as discrimination on the basis of disability.

The recently completed gender audit will help us to carry out this task as will the objectives set out in the Integrated Strategy on Disability.

Madame Speaker:

The elimination of poverty remains one of the central objectives of the government and the country. As we are all aware, this poverty is intimately related to the issues of racism and sexism which we have been discussing.

Its elimination is fundamental to the realisation of the goal of the restoration of the dignity of all our people.

Accordingly, this places high on our agenda the task of ensuring that all of us act together to achieve high and sustained rates of growth for our economy.

Once more, we would like to make the point that we have never been better positioned than we are today to achieve the progress we have to attain with regard to this important challenge.

Many major indicators point to the excellent work that has been done to place our country on a strong growth path. All indicators also signal that during this year, our economy will register much more vigorous growth than it did last year. Of great importance in this regard, indicating the resilience, the effective restructuring and therefore the improved international competitiveness of our economy, was the success we achieved in withstanding the effects of the East Asian economic crisis of the late 1990’s.

Let us now turn to some of the major indicators to which we have referred.

Whereas the Reuters December 1999 Survey resulted in the highest projected GDP growth rates of 3.5% and 3.7% for the years 2000 and 2001 respectively, the January Survey sharply raised these figures to 6.5% for both years.

We should also compare these figures to average GDP growth achieved in the period 1993-1998, which amounted to 2.7%.

In 1993 foreign direct investment amounted to R941 million as compared to just under R6.5 billion in 1998, with portfolio investment growing from R2.4 billion to R20.4 billion in the same period.

Whereas the level of inflation was 12.5% during the period 1990-1994, it had come down to 5.2.% for 1999 and is projected to come down further during this year to 5.0%.

At the height of the Asian crisis, the interest rate rose to 25.5% but is now currently down to 14.5%.

Whereas the foreign reserves stood at R32.6 billion in January 1999, as of day before yesterday they had reached R46.4 billion.

During the period 1990-1994, the budget deficit as a percentage of the GDP averaged out at 6.6%, but had been managed down to 2.9% during the period 1998-1999.

In the last few days, because of the sound management of our financial system, a major international rating agency ranked South Africa with regard to the potential level of non-performing loans in the same bracket with countries such as Austria, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Spain.

Similarly, the announcements again within the last few days concerning investments in the automobile and air transport sectors by major international corporations reflect the confidence of the international business community in our economy and our country.

These and other developments vindicate the statement made by Mr Julian Ogilvie Thompson, Chairperson of Anglo American PLC, when he spoke in Canada on the 1st of November last year.

Speaking at the CIBC Wood Grundy Annual Dinner he said:

“We believe that foreign investors who have been slow in placing direct investment as opposed to portfolio investment will increasingly share our assessment that South Africa is one of the most attractive emerging markets.”

Our Government fully shares this confidence, which was also communicated to us by all the business leaders with whom we had the privilege to interact at the World Economic Forum at Davos.

When we spoke at the opening of our second democratic parliament in June, we reported on steps that would be taken further to enhance the partnership between the public and private sectors with a view further to reinforce the growth and development of our economy.

The four working groups we announced have now been established. Three of these have already met.

The four working groups comprise:

Big business;

The trade union federations; Black business; and,

The agricultural sector.

Of these only the latter group has not yet convened, owing to time constraints.

These working groups do not replace NEDLAC but provide the possibility for Government to interact with these various sectors on the steps we should take as a country to achieve economic growth and development and to remove all obstacles that might impede the realisation of this goal.

I am also pleased to announce that the International Investment Council has also been constituted, except for three or four confirmations we are still expecting, about which, unfortunately, I am not at liberty to give any further details.

The following constitute the membership of the Council:

Mr William Rhodes, Vice President of the Citigroup Inc. of the US;

Dr George Soros, Chairperson of Soros Fund Management;

Mr Frank Savage, Chairperson of Alliance Capital Management International of the US;

Mr Percy Barnevik, Chairperson of Investor AB of Sweden;

Mr Niall FitzGerald, Co-Chairperson of the British-Dutch Unilever;

Mr Minoru Makihara, Chairperson of Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan;

Mr Sam Jonah, CEO of Ashanti Goldfields of Ghana;

Dr Tony O’Reilly of the Independent Newspapers of Ireland;

Mr Ratan N. Tata, Group Chairperson of Tata of India;

Mr Hassan Marikan, President of Petronas of Malaysia;

Sir Robert Ross, Chairperson of the D-Group of the UK;

Mr Martin Kohlhausen, Chairperson of Commerzbank of Germany; and, Mr Jurgen Schrempp, CEO of Daimler-Chrysler.

We would like to take this opportunity sincerely to thank these eminent international business leaders for their readiness to serve on the International Investment Council and the firm and unwavering confidence in our economy and our country.

We look forward to working with them as the all-weather friends of our country and people that they are.

Madame Speaker and Honourable Members:

The Government is committed to the enhancement of the sound macro-economic framework which is fundamental to the accomplishment of our economic goals.

In this regard, we have already announced that we will be setting inflation targets as one of the measures to ensure this sound framework. I hereby confirm that we will proceed with this issue as we have indicated. The Honourable Minister of Finance will address this matter when he presents the budget in 19 days time.

Driven as we all are by the determination to ensure that our economy continues to expand and transform, I am confident that all our social partners will work with us to achieve the purposes which informed the decision to set inflation targets.

For some years now, we have maintained the position that we will work continuously towards the removal of the foreign exchange controls we inherited from the apartheid regime.

Accordingly, we have already removed all foreign exchange controls with regard to foreigners.

The remaining controls therefore relate only to South Africans. Again, the Minister of Finance will address this issue when he presents the budget on the 23rd of February.

Madame Speaker:

The Government is concerned about our low savings ratio and the negative impact this has on our rate of investment.

We have therefore constituted an inter-ministerial group to work on this important issue.

After the necessary interaction with our social partners, and later in the year, the Government will announce to parliament and the country the steps it proposes should be taken to address this matter.

Last June, when we presented the State of the Nation Address, we said that an area that had “attracted considerable comment is the labour market and its actual or perceived impact on investment and job creation.”

We went on to say that “The Government will continue to give priority to the issue of job creation. If perceptions or realities influence the process negatively, these must be addressed.”

Consistent with these observations, the Honourable Minister of Labour has led a review of the labour market legislative framework. This has included interaction with our social partners at NEDLAC.

As a result of this review, the Government has concluded that certain aspects of the legislative instruments aimed at giving effect to our labour market policies have led to unintended consequences.

For this reason, to ensure that we address simultaneously such issues as fair labour standards and the fostering of economic growth and job creation, amendments to certain provisions of the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Insolvency Act will be introduced this year.

The Minister of Labour will provide the details of the areas identified for legislative review.

The Government is also concerned to improve the level and effectiveness of investment by the Government itself. This includes capital expenditures directed at encouraging the growth of small, micro and medium enterprises.

We have therefore carried out a comprehensive review of Khula and Ntsika to ensure that they discharge their responsibility to give financial and other support to small and medium business.

This, coupled with other measures, should enable us to speed up the growth of this sector of our economy, with a positive impact on employment creation, among other things.

Work is also going on to address the issue of micro-lending especially as this relates to micro-lending for productive economic purposes. This is especially relevant to the issue of the alleviation and elimination of poverty which continues to afflict millions of our people in both rural and urban areas.

As part of the process of encouraging economic growth and development, we have also established the Local Economic Development Fund to support municipalities as they work to meet their mandate of stimulating economic development at the local level.

The Fund has already started to make its disbursements, thus helping to give hope and incomes to people who are unemployed in both urban and rural areas.

Improvements are also being effected with regard to our Public Works Community Programmes. These programmes will focus in particular on such infrastructure as rural roads, which are of critical importance to the success of our rural development strategy to which we will refer later.

Our activities will also continue to focus on the important issue of the deracialisation of our economy, and therefore the encouragement of black economic empowerment.

The working group with black business will facilitate this process, including the consideration of the reports prepared by the Government and the Black Economic Empowerment Commission respectively.

At the same time, the Government will continue with its work to improve our infrastructure.

Of particular importance in this regard will be the activities of such state corporations as Transnet, Eskom, Telcom as well as the Roads Agency and the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Programme with regard to the expansion and the improvement of our transport, electricity and telecommunications infrastructures.

The programme for the restructuring of state assets is also being speeded up to address these objectives, to increase the levels of investment and further to modernise the economy.

During this year we will pay particular attention to the Transnet Group to continue the process of change represented by the acquisition of a valuable strategic partner by South African Airways last year.

Of especial importance will be our capacity to ensure that the cost structure of our transport network is consistent with the high and sustained growth rates we have to achieve.

Consistent with the decisions taken at the Job Summit, both the public and the private sectors have committed the necessary funds for the promotion of the tourism sector, commonly accepted as potentially one of our most important sectors with regard to job creation.

The work has therefore begun vigorously to promote the growth of this sector. We are certain this will produce the necessary beneficial results.

While we were at Davos, I received a letter from Professors Nicholas Conard and John Parkington of the Universities of Tubingen and Cape Town respectively.

They make the important observation that:

“The archaeological record of South Africa, including human fossils, artefacts and organic remains, has an international significance that extends far beyond the country’s borders…(Less well known) are the hominids that demonstrate the earliest signs of modern people and the treasure trove of rock art sites.”

While correctly pointing to the need to protect this heritage, to which we must surely respond, they also indicate the potential for job creation in the preservation and other activities at the various archaeological sites.

Needless to say, these can also be powerful tourist attractions, thus emphasising the importance raised by the two professors with regard to the challenge of looking after what we have inherited which is as old as the origins of humanity.

Madame Speaker and Honourable Members:

As we indicated would be done when we opened the new parliament last June, the Government has carried out extensive and intensive work to elaborate an Integrated and Sustainable Rural Development Programme.

The implementation of this Programme will begin this year. The strategic objective we will pursue will be to ensure that we achieve integrated and sustainable development in our rural areas outside of and in addition to the commercial farms by the Year 2010.

We chose to focus on these areas to reverse a century-old legacy of white minority rule, according to which millions of our people were confined in poverty stricken areas alternatively described as native reserves, bantustans and homelands.

The Honourable Deputy President and Leader of Government Business will provide the details on this matter.

Last June, I made specific reference to our commitment to deal with the relationship between poverty and crime. Accordingly, the Government has been working to address the multi-faceted crime and poverty challenges thrown up by the urban areas we identified.

Time will not allow us to detail the varied work that is being done in these areas. An opportunity will have to be found in future to present this detailed report.

At this stage, suffice it for me to say that these areas of high population density will be at the centre of our Urban Renewal Programme. This is particularly important in the light of the fact that, in reality, the urban areas contain the largest concentrations of poverty in our country.

Madame Speaker:

I would like to take this opportunity once more to emphasise the importance we attach to the strategic objective of building the partnership between the public and the private sectors.

We will therefore further intensify our links and cooperation with the private sector for the successful implementation of the various economic initiatives we have mentioned.

Similarly, we are very encouraged by the response of our people as a whole that we should transform ourselves into a nation at work.

Throughout the country, from the wine farms in the Western Cape to rural communities in the Northern Province, the people are responding to this call by taking the initiative to engage the challenge of productive economic activity.

The Government will work further to encourage its partnership with the people for development, which will help to lay to rest the false notion that the Government has the exclusive responsibility to create jobs and therefore that everybody should wait for the Government to create these jobs.

In this context we must warn very strongly that illegal and unjustified strikes such as the one recently experienced at Volkswagen in Uitenhage cannot be tolerated.

Jobs, a better life for our people in the context of a growing economy and our standing in the eyes of the investor community cannot be held hostage by elements pursuing selfish and anti-social purposes.

Accordingly, the Government has worked with the management at Volkswagen as well as NUMSA to ensure that the problem created by some irresponsible elements at this plant is resolved. The Government will not waver from this position.

In this context, I must also make this clear that the Government is determined to carry out the programme for the renewal of our minibus taxi fleet as well as the introduction of other measures to ensure that this sector provides a safe, dependable and disciplined service to the public.

Ageing minibuses which were designed as family vehicles cannot be allowed to roam our roads condemning paying passengers to risk their lives by travelling in mobile coffins.

As some of our provincial governments demonstrated when they closed down taxi ranks to deal with the continuing problem of taxi violence, and while we are ready to engage in genuine consultations, it is a mistake to think that the government can be intimidated into taking wrong decisions.

Here, we would also like to make the point that low tax morality has led to an increase in tax criminality. The Revenue Service will therefore introduce new measures which will result in tough action against noncompliant tax payers, who defraud the fiscus of millions of Rand through VAT and Customs fraud, tax evasion or not registering for tax at all.

Tax criminality feeds other forms of criminality and will not be tolerated.

Madame Speaker:

We are certain that the combination of the various economic initiatives and processes we have mentioned, including the continuing implementation of all the commitments made at the Job Summit, will take us further forward as we address the ever urgent questions of economic growth, development, job creation and poverty reduction.

In this regard, we must also mention our hope that the European Union will overcome the problems that have arisen within its ranks which have affected the unhindered implementation of the Trade and Development Agreement which was concluded between ourselves and the EU.

Similarly, we continue to work hard to conclude the matters relating largely to the issue of rules of origin, which have delayed the implementation of the SADC Trade Protocol.

We remain convinced that this Protocol will come into force during the first half of this year, signifying a critically important step forward towards the transformation of our region into a common economic area.

At the same time, we will continue purposefully and systematically to increase our economic relations with countries of the South for the mutual benefit, including Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, India, Malaysia and China.

As the Honourable Members are aware, all these matters are of great importance to the success of our economy and will therefore receive the necessary attention.

Also receiving similar attention is the problem represented by the fact that we have still not removed the bottlenecks which result in a slow disbursement of funds allocated for poverty relief.

The Government has determined that this is unacceptable, while recognising that it reflects the fact that we have not yet completed the work of the fundamental restructuring of our system of governance.

These poverty relief funds represent an important part of our social expenditure, which continues to be focussed on meeting the social needs of the most disadvantaged in our society.

The Government will continue to allocate significant resources to address these needs as best we can.

We will therefore continue with our programmes to address such matters as pensions and social welfare, housing, education and medical care.

At the same time, we are working towards the creation of an integrated social security system further to improve the quality of our social spending and to enhance its positive impact on those in our society who are most in need.

It is however also clear that we need to strike the proper balance between such expenditure and more directly economic expenditure by the public sector, to ensure that we address the challenges of growth and redistribution together. This is being attended to.

Later this year, at the beginning of July, our country will host the 13th International AIDS Conference. This will help further to focus our attention on this important challenge.

As we announced when we addressed the NCOP last year, the Honourable Minister of Health continues to address the complex questions which relate to the issue of AIDS.

What seems to be clear, as of now, is that in addition to the work that is being done and which must be intensified, regarding the sexual behaviour of our people and the use of condoms, all possible interventions will have to be made to deal with the challenges of poverty and malnutrition, a whole range of well known diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and others, as well as the development of the required vaccines.

It is necessary that we further strengthen our Partnerships Against AIDS to ensure that the anti-AIDS message reaches all our people. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish the National AIDS Council success in its work.

Madame Speaker:

Of great importance to our successful development is the matter of Human Resource Development. Both the Skills Levy and the Umsobomvu Fund will be used to help us to deal with this matter.

The Tirisano programme launched by the Honourable Minister of Education also constitutes an important plank in our offensive to ensure that we develop the necessary levels of education and training.

In particular, this year, we will pay special attention to the improvement of the quality of the management of our schools with the intention to ensure that we really reinculcate the culture of learning, teaching and discipline throughout our school system.

Two days ago I had the privilege to participate at the celebration of the success achieved by a group of Soweto high school students who obtained their matriculation exemptions.

What was remarkable about this group is that both their parents and their teachers had given them up because of their involvement in crime and other deviant behaviour.

Nevertheless two outstanding South Africans, Mrs Jacky Maarohanye, who participated in the Soweto Uprising of 1976 and Dr T. W. Kambule, an old and distinguished teacher and principal now aged 79, decided to act as parent and teacher to these young people.

Through the work of their Ithuteng Trust, we now have 1 500 Soweto youth who not only study hard but also carry out important voluntary community work, including educating their peers to turn against crime, rape and drug abuse.

We have to inspire all our schools to emulate the example of the Ithuteng Trust which can truly be described as an outstanding example of the South African miracle.

Madame Speaker:

When we addressed parliament at the end of June last year, we made a commitment to step up the fight against crime. This we have done and will continue further to intensify our offensive.

Among other things, this involves the restructuring and revamping of our entire criminal justice system. This work is also proceeding apace and includes the improvement of our capacity effectively to deal with the crimes of rape and the abuse of women, children and the disabled.

Similarly, we will not relax our efforts to root out corruption in our society, with special focus on the public sector.

The Honourable Ministers heading the criminal justice system, including the Ministers of Home Affairs and Defence, will have occasion to report on the important work they are doing severally and collectively within the context of our National Crime Prevention Strategy.

We are still faced with the task of completing the process of the restructuring of the machinery of government. Among the objectives we are pursuing are:

  • the raising of the skills levels within the public sector and retaining professional personnel;
  • improving management, financial accountability and service delivery;
  • combating corruption and the abuse of public resources;
  • enhancing the motivation of all public sector workers to serve the people of our country; and,
  • increasing the proportion of public funds spent on investment.

Additional steps will therefore be taken this year to ensure the right-sizing of our public service.

Madame Speaker:

This year we will be holding our second local government elections. We are confident that once again, we will all work together to ensure that these elections are held in conditions of peace and peaceful political competition and that they are free and fair.

We will appeal once more to members of the public service and our population at large to volunteer their services to assist the Independent Electoral Commission to carry out its tasks as effectively as it accomplished the task of organising and conducting the general election.

I am also convinced that we will also succeed to remove the misconceptions that have arisen with regard to the local government Demarcation process.

This relates in particular to issues relating to communal areas and the constitutionally guaranteed place and role of the traditional leaders and institutions of government.

Once again, I would like to assure our traditional leaders, whose representatives around our country I will see during the coming weeks, that the demarcation process bears no relationship whatsoever to, and has no negative impact on, their role and powers.

Accordingly, we will still rely on them to continue to mobilise the people they represent to participate in the processes of the further entrenchment of democracy and the enhancement of development in the rural areas.

Madame Speaker and Honourable Members:

When we spoke from this podium at the Millennium Debate last year, we urged that we should use this year to prepare for the launch of the African Century.

Specifically, we said that:

“we should devote the Year 2000 that is upon us, to do everything that needs to be done to ensure that by its end, we see our entire Continent at the ready to join in a powerful movement of the peoples of Africa for the realisation of Africa’s century.”

The Government is committed to this goal and will do everything it can to ensure that it is realised. We also call on all our people in their various formations to respond to our call.

The Government pledges its full support both to Nelson Mandela and Sir Ketumile Masire of Botswana as they work with the governments and people of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to bring peace and democracy to these sister African countries.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate our Honourable Minister of Trade and Industry for the work he has done in the last three years as President of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, an important international post he will relinquish next month.

Many around the world, including our own people, will continue to rely on the Honourable Minister of Trade and Industry to defend the interests of the poor of the world within the forthcoming World Trade Organisation negotiations.

We will ourselves continue to do our best to discharge our responsibilities as current chairperson of both the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth.

As much as the rest of the world stood with us as we fought to end the system of apartheid, which struggle brought about the announcements that were made from this rostrum as the apartheid parliament opened 10 years ago, so do we have an obligation ourselves to contribute to the construction of a better world for all humanity.

From this, we cannot walk away.

We should aim to make a meaningful contribution in this regard because with regard to all the important objectives we have to pursue, at no point during our entire history have we ever been as well placed as we are to meet the challenges that confront us. Our national soccer team, Bafana Bafana, is in West Africa participating in the African Cup of Nations tournament. We wish them well in their campaign, convinced that once more they will return with the Africa Cup.

At the same time, it is clear that fairness and the development of soccer, this most popular world sport, demand that, for the first time in the Year 2006, the Soccer World Cup competition should take place in Africa.

For these purposes, there can be no better venue than the land of human hope, that has all the necessary facilities, which our country is. One among us, who sits on the back benches of the majority party, has composed a “Freedom Lament and Song”.

In his lament, he says of the men and women that constitute humanity that:

” they are of spirit which is like the wind

mind them when you touch them when you hurt them when you kill them when you are unkind to them when you are cruel to them

mind them

they will live in you and you in them like a story which does not end…”

It is out of these noble feelings that our own new world will be born, whose sighting, perhaps at a distance, has inspired the spirit of hope which reigns so confidently in all corners of our beautiful land.

His name is Mongane Wally Serote, MP.

I thank you for your attention.

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