Joint Sitting - 16 March 2010

                       TUESDAY, 16 MARCH 2010


Members of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces assembled in the Chamber of the National Assembly at 14:00.

The Speaker of the National Assembly took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayers or meditation.


The CHIEF WHIP OF THE MAJORITY PARTY: Hon Speaker, distinguished members of this House, I thought I would address you today on entrenching democracy and the culture of human and peoples’ rights, because this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the unprovoked and merciless massacre of defenceless young activists, children and elderly men and women in Sharpeville and in several other African townships, such as Soweto, Langa, Boipatong and Bisho, by the apartheid police force, under the instruction of the callous minority regime.

Their crime was to dare rise up against the brutal, repressive system of apartheid which had for many years, pre- and post- this fateful and dark moment in our history, sought to deprive, and succeeded in depriving, the majority of African and black people of their basic human rights and a decent living.

Former ANC president O R Tambo once observed that, and I quote:

Persistent contravention of human rights is a recipe for violent conflicts and war.

The people of Sharpeville, Soweto, Langa, Boipatong and Bisho had had enough, and waged a courageous war against the infamous system, in order to win freedom, democracy and peace.

Five decades since that tragic period that shocked the world and stripped naked the cruelty of apartheid for the whole world to see, we are sitting here today as a free people, with the capability and resources to determine and fulfil the kind of future that generations of our militant and brave martyrs dreamt about and fought for.

Today, as Parliament hosts this significant debate to talk about the human rights of the people of the democratic South Africa, we must pay tribute to the South African patriots who paid the supreme price, both inside and outside our borders, so that we can talk freely of this important subject, without any fear of arrest, torture or murder.

We must also salute the resilient strength and determination of the political formations under which these heroes and heroines of our struggle fought to bring about the constitutional democracy in which the rights of all people are respected and protected. I am referring here particularly to the militant and revolutionary organisations of the calibre of the ANC, the SACP, Cosatu, the United Democratic Front, the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania, and the Azanian People’s Organisation – organisations which, for many years, steered our country to the democratic dispensation it is today.

Parliament’s hosting of the debate on human rights – which takes place just a few days before we come together to celebrate Human Rights Day on 21 March, exactly 50 years since the brutal massacre of our people – necessitates that, as a nation united in our diversity, we shun that which threatens our hard-won freedoms and defend, with an uncompromising fierceness, the myriad freedoms that are the fruit of our liberation.

As we celebrate Human Rights Day, we must remind ourselves that the democratic breakthrough of 1994, and the human rights that we enjoy today, are not manna from heaven; they were borne out of the struggles of our people in which thousands lost their lives and limbs. The opening paragraph of our Constitution therefore correctly honours the freedom fighters who dedicated their lives to the struggle for the liberation of our country and people. Besides, it honours the victims of apartheid and colonialism and the workers who built the economy.

Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the opening paragraph enjoins the democratic state to develop the full potential of every human being, which is the essential element of the humanity of all.

Our Constitution recognises human rights – that is, individual, socioeconomic and peoples’ rights, respectively known as first-, second- and third-generation rights. The democratic breakthrough of 1994 restored our right to self-determination and individual rights, and created space for the realisation of our economic and people’s rights.

The overwhelming majority of our people elected the ANC, which campaigned on the platform of five priorities, which include: The creation of decent jobs; the provision of quality education and health care services; security of person and property; and food security.

The ANC realised and acknowledged that the recovery of the full humanity of all South Africans, both black and white, can only be achieved through the realisation of these socioeconomic rights, which are also found in our historical documents, such as the Africans’ Claims of 1943, the Women’s Charter of 1954 and the Freedom Charter of 1955.

The five priorities of the ANC-led government are designed for the realisation of our socioeconomic rights. In his state of the nation address, President Jacob Zuma outlined practical steps for the realisation of these rights, and left the details to the Ministers.

The service delivery protests that we witnessed recently are an indication that our people did not fight for individual – that is, political – rights only; they wanted to use the political space created by the achievement of political rights for the progressive realisation of their socioeconomic and peoples’ rights.

Notwithstanding these service delivery protests, there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of South Africans still support the ANC and will vote for it again in the 2011 local government elections. [Applause.]

The message that the residents are sending to us through these service delivery protests is that they want to see faster change. That is why the President of the Republic, hon Jacob Zuma, defined 2010 as the year of action, and called on us to work harder, faster and smarter, for the realisation of the five priorities of government. We are aware that some service delivery protests are caused by the nonperformance of public representatives and officials, by corrupt contractors who do not fulfil their contractual obligations, and by a lack of accountability on the part of some public representatives.

We want to assure all communities, especially the historically disadvantaged, that service delivery protests and damage to public and private property will not improve our quality of life. This Parliament is their appeal board against the local and provincial government public representatives and officials that are incompetent, corrupt or unaccountable. This Parliament is an activist appeal board that exists within communities in the form of Parliamentary Constituency Offices that operate as one-stop centres.

Our offices do not require the permission of members of the executive – whether at the national, provincial or local level – to do our oversight work. We cannot and will not ask for permission from the executive branch of government to carry out our oversight work. [Applause.]

Our jurisdiction extends to all parts of the country, rural and urban. We call on all communities who are facing challenges of service delivery, local development issues and a lack of accountability on the part of their public representatives, such as MPs, MPLs and councillors, to report to our one-stop centre parliamentary offices, rather than embark on destructive service delivery protests, which delay rather than speed up service delivery.

The ANC has committed itself to addressing the problems of incompetence, corruption, local development issues and the accountability or lack thereof of public representatives. It will do so by engaging communities through community-based constituency local forums and door-to-door work to establish the challenges facing our people, especially women, children and people living with disability.

Our oversight visit to Orange Farm, amongst others, revealed that the people are not against the ANC, but are against corruption, poor service delivery, laziness and lack of accountability on the part of some public representatives. [Applause.]

As we did in Khayelitsha, we shall not hesitate to request state agencies to investigate and take corrective measures where we suspect, on reasonable grounds, that poor service delivery resulted from corruption and nonfulfilment of contractual obligations.

In responding to the grievances of our people, the ANC will be guided by the wise words of our icon, Nelson Mandela, who told the US Congress on 26 June 1990 that, and I quote:

It should never be that the anger of the poor should be the finger of accusation pointed at all of us, because we failed to respond to the cries of the people for shelter, for dignity of the individual.

Kheabarangwe Nelson Mandela observed that the problem of the African in the twenty-first century is poverty when he said:

In this new century, millions of people in the world’s poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free.

The ANC has committed itself to engage and work with all communities to find lasting solutions to the challenges facing them. This activist Parliament is your tribunal, you the people. It is ready and able to listen to you and to hold the executive at all levels accountable for the delivery of adequate and affordable services. Do not despair.

In discharging this responsibility, we are always informed by the wisdom of Chief Albert Luthuli, who said:

If we truly respect fundamental human rights and noble divine concepts of man, the dignity of man and the worth of an individual, the brotherhood of man, we must come all out in defence of these values as they are being seriously threatened by evil forces in our land. We should remember that Providence has ordained it that a people who refuse to meet such a challenge deservingly suffer moral degeneration and degradation.

In our statement of 8 January 2010, we said that human development has both spiritual and material aspects and we committed ourselves to work with the National Interfaith Leaders Council to build cohesive, caring and sustainable communities. The religious sector in our land has undoubtedly identified their role in our developmental state. They have resolved to become not only advocacy, but also developmental, institutions.

The conference on moral regeneration for social development, co-hosted by the SABC, the National Interfaith Leaders Council and the Parliamentary Interfaith Council from 18 to 19 March 2010, bears testimony to this. The formal establishment of the Parliamentary Interfaith Council will enhance our collaboration with the religious sector in our quest to build a value- centred and value-driven society. It will awaken us to the critical contribution that cultural, religious and language groups can and do make to holistic – that is, spiritual and material – human development. Thus, the ANC will work together with religious and other sectors for holistic human development.

The 1969 ANC national conference held in Morogoro, Tanzania, noted that, and I quote: As far as languages are concerned, only Afrikaans and English have official status in the bodies of state such as Parliament or provincial councils, and in the courts, schools and the administration.

The culture of the African, Indian and Coloured people is barely tolerated. In fact everything is done to smash and obliterate the genuine cultural heritage of our people. If there is reference to culture by the oppressors it is for the purpose of using it as an instrument to maintain our people in backwardness and ignorance.

However, the ANC did not seek to reverse the situation and turn the tables, but went on to build a new South African nation in which equality reigns supreme and all its diverse cultures enjoy the same prominence and status in all facets of society.

The ANC’s response to the inhumane system of apartheid is encapsulated in our reconciliation policy and revolutionary morality described in the 2007 ANC strategy and tactics document, which says, and I quote:

The liberation struggle by oppressed communities developed moral values of human compassion and solidarity far beyond the narrow confines of its opposition to the apartheid social system. It represented something good, not just something better than apartheid. It asserted the humaneness of the human spirit, the search of societies at peace with and among themselves.

Our progressive approach demanded that our nation-building projects should be based on co-operation with cultural, religious and linguistic communities.

To that end our Constitution enshrines a Bill of Rights which, inter alia, provides that, and I quote:

Persons belonging to a cultural, religious or linguistic community may not be denied the right, with other members of the community, to enjoy their culture, practise their religion and use their language.

The ANC regards our cultural, religious and linguistic diversity as a strength, not a threat to national unity and social cohesion. That is why we frown upon any one or more groups that seek to impose their culture, religion or language on others. [Applause.] All cultural, religious and linguistic communities should work together to develop understanding and tolerance for one another. Such understanding and tolerance cannot be decreed. It can only be developed through a national dialogue on our diversity and the need for an overarching value system that transcends race, class and gender.

It is in this sense that the ANC supports President Zuma’s call for a national dialogue on a moral code. The desired code should be an integral part of our national efforts to build a united nonracial, nonsexist and prosperous South Africa in which the value of every citizen is based on our common humanity – on people’s rights.

Newly independent African countries were aware that the bills of rights imposed by the colonial masters sought to entrench white rights and privileges. Thus, soon after independence they developed the African concepts of the rule of law and human and peoples’ rights, which led to the adoption of, for instance, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

One of the main peoples’ rights is the right to a clean and healthy environment. Benjamin Franklin said, in this regard, that if we can create an environment where we feel good and care for each other, everything else falls into place. To this end … [Time expired.] I thank you, hon Speaker, for the opportunity. [Applause.]

The PREMIER OF THE WESTERN CAPE (Mrs H Zille): Thank you very much indeed, Speaker. It is a privilege for me to be participating in this debate to mark Human Rights Day, one of the most important commemorative days on our calendar.

I speak on behalf of those in this House who strive for the vision of an open-opportunity society for all. Those five words summarise centuries of political evolution and are captured in our Constitution, that historic compact that represents our country’s best hope for a rights-based democracy and a growing economy.

In the open-opportunity society the state has three equally important functions. The first is to protect people’s rights and freedoms. The second is to extend their opportunities. The third is to do those things for people that they cannot be expected to do for themselves.

This formula sounds simple, but it is in fact extremely difficult to achieve. And sometimes there is a tension between these three imperatives.

Now that we in the DA are a party of government, at local and provincial level, we must seek to get this balance right within the competencies of each specific sphere. This is how we make human rights real as we progress towards our goal.

Often we get it right. But sometimes we get it wrong, and when we do we must reflect on our actions and correct our course. For example, when we negotiate service delivery that encourages community involvement in development, there may be unintended consequences that infringe on people’s rights.

This happened recently in the saga of the toilets without walls. It is an episode that we greatly regret, and from which we have learnt. We now know that an agreement, even when it is negotiated with a community for the purpose of maximising service delivery and stretching the available budget

  • and even if it works for 95% of families who agree to build their own enclosures so that they can each get a toilet, rather than share one toilet among five families - may not work for everyone. In this case the plan ended up unintentionally affronting the human dignity and rights of the 5% who did not or could not contribute their share.

Our commitment to human rights enjoins us to learn from these events and to adapt. We have now reverted back to the national guidelines for upgrading unserviced informal settlements, which provides for one toilet for every five families, rather than one toilet per family, even if they agree to enclose them themselves. We cannot risk the unintended consequence of even a single person facing the indignity of having to relieve themselves in public.

This Sunday, 21 March, is Human Rights Day, previously known as Sharpeville Day. It is the fiftieth anniversary of a tragedy that became a turning point in the struggle for a democratic South Africa. On Sunday, we in the city and the province will unveil a memorial in Langa, commemorating the great march of 30 000 people in 1960, led by the then teenaged Philip Kgosana, to protest the pass laws. Philip Kgosana will be there. We will also remember Eulalie Stott, a member of the former Liberal Party and founder member of the Black Sash, who played such a pivotal role in preventing violence and bloodshed during that march, but who, sadly, died just before the commemoration she was so looking forward to.

The DA-led government of the city and the province will commemorate these great South Africans, because we recognise that many people from different perspectives played a role in creating the new South Africa. Such recognition is part of celebrating an open-opportunity society for all. We do not airbrush the contributions of others out of history to suit our own closed version of events. [Applause.] We heard the hon Chief Whip giving a list of people he said contributed to the struggle: Well, let me say, that was a closed list. It was a selective list. We include everybody who made contributions on our list. [Applause.]

This brings me to the “national democratic society”, the theme of today’s debate. This is supposedly the culmination of the ANC’s so-called national democratic revolution. These are seductive words – a classic example of what George Orwell called “doublethink”. This involves holding two contradictory ideas in one’s head at exactly the same time and believing in both of them. Doublethink involves distorting history and reality, and then denying that distortion to yourself so that you can believe your own propaganda – and we heard a very good example of that right here and now.

The ANC exemplifies doublethink. Our President, for example, urges people to take personal responsibility in the fight against HIV and Aids, while personally doing the opposite. He proclaims zero tolerance in the fight against corruption, and then fails to declare his assets. He proclaims allegiance to the Constitution, but destroys its independent institutions. He claims to champion the poor, but adopts empowerment policies that enrich only the small, politically connected elite.

That is doublethink. And doublethinking governments destroy people’s rights, limit their freedoms and undermine their opportunities – even as their leaders claim to promote the people’s interests. This is what happens in the closed, crony society for comrades only. It is the culmination of the doublethink inherent in the ANC’s national democratic revolution. It is the very opposite of the open-opportunity society for all.

Take Julius Malema propagating the nationalisation of the mines … [Interjections.] … even as he brokers lucrative private mining deals to enrich himself … [Applause.] … or his advice to the youth of South Africa. Only a year ago, Julius Malema said, and I quote:

You must never role-model a rich person who can’t explain how he got rich. In the ANC we must not have corrupt people as role models. Corruption means a simple thing: you can’t explain the big amount in your bank account. In less than a year, you have got everything. Yesterday you were down and out, but today you have everything, which shows in your fancy dress code.

The irony, of course, was lost on him, with his Breitling watch, his Armani jeans, his various multimillion-rand homes and his top-of-the-range vehicles. This contradiction was also lost on the hon the Chief Whip, Mr Motshekga, in his speech. [Interjections.]

The SPEAKER: Order! Hon members, allow the speaker to be heard.

The PREMIER OF THE WESTERN CAPE (Mrs H Zille): Thank you. [Interjections.]

The SPEAKER: What is your point of order, hon member?

Mr H P CHAUKE: Speaker, is it parliamentary for the Leader of the DA to be raising Julius Malema the whole year without rest? [Interjections.] Is it parliamentary?

The SPEAKER: Hon member, that is not a point of order. [Interjections.] Continue, hon member.

The PREMIER OF THE WESTERN CAPE (Mrs H Zille): That just shows you, Speaker, how much this doublethink contradiction is lost on the ANC, because we have just seen the hon Chief Whip, Mr Motshekga, assuring the voters of their oversight, their concern to end corruption, but then the party continues to protect Malema. How do you explain that? They call on the icon Nelson Mandela, but what did President Mandela do when Peter Mokaba sang “Kill the farmer, kill the boer”? President Mandela rebuked him, and told him it was against the project of nation-building, so stop calling on the icon Nelson Mandela and then abusing his memory and protecting Malema. [Applause.]

You see, this kind of contradiction is the inevitable outcome of the doublethink of the national democratic revolution. It inevitably leads to cronyism, to corruption and to the criminal state. It is a party professing to advance people’s rights even as it erodes them - and the Chief Whip says that the ANC is a party against corruption! That is doublethink to end all doublethink, because we see it as a party promoting and covering up corruption at all times. [Interjections.] And this is the great tragedy of the new South Africa that we need to focus on on Human Rights Day: this contradiction, this doublethink, of the ANC.

The best metaphor for South Africa today is George Orwell’s famous allegory, Animal Farm, which describes how a noble struggle is perverted, how it becomes a reflection of the very oppression it sought to change.

The hon Chief Whip talks about understanding and tolerance for other groups from this platform. When is he going to stand up and condemn, with his President, the song “Kill the farmer, kill the boer”? When is he going to stop that kind of contradiction?

There is still time to prevent a tragedy in South Africa. Let us be honest with ourselves and stop doublethink and doublespeak this Human Rights Day. The values of the open-opportunity society that were victorious in our Constitution are more vulnerable today than at any time in the past 16 years. That is partly because people won’t vote against the ANC, but we will teach them. They are learning their rights, and more and more are, which is why the DA is becoming a party of government and not just a party of opposition. [Interjections.] [Applause.]

Let us hold up a mirror, acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them and change course. That is the key to progress. Let us all, including the governing party, turn that key today. Thank you very much. [Applause.]

Rev H M DANDALA: Speaker and hon members, Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said that “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.

The erosion of the respect for a human rights culture in South Africa is a matter that all South Africans, regardless of political persuasion, must never be silent about. The growing and disturbing disregard for the human rights culture in our country cannot be the best way of honouring those heroes and heroines who died for our freedom in massacres, such as in Sharpeville in 1960 and KwaLanga in Uitenhage in 1985. Their commemoration should always be marked by the visible promotion of human rights by all South Africans. Yet, it is precisely here that we are falling every day.

One of the classic examples of this is the alarming slide of our policing, from being a community-friendly service to becoming a hostile force. Crime must be fought, but in the process we should never accept the compromise and sacrifice of even one innocent life. We must vehemently reject the shoot-to-kill policing philosophy. Since this call was made, innocent lives have been caught in the crossfire. South Africans should not accept this as unavoidable. The untimely deaths of Olga Kekana and Ibrahim Ganchi, caught in the crossfire of shoot-to-kill, are bad indicators of where we are going as a nation. They must haunt us; they must haunt our collective psyche.

Central to the erosion of a human rights culture in our country is the total debasing of Chapter 9 institutions. Cope believes that we need to strengthen the Chapter 9 institutions, by ensuring that those who head up these institutions are not deployees of any political party, but rather that they are selected in the same way that judges are selected. These institutions are the last line of defence for our hard-won Bill of Rights.

As often observed by civil rights organisations, it is not always in the interests of governments for the citizens to be informed. It is the task of government and civil society to keep the citizens conscious of what is at stake, if our human rights culture is not to be eroded. This assertion is underpinned by what Boutros Boutros-Ghali said back in 1992, that, and I quote:

… an essential element for protecting human rights is widespread knowledge amongst the population of what their rights are and how these can be defended.

A focused drive for heightened literacy among our people is a primary requirement for raising human rights consciousness.

Speaker, unless Parliament takes it upon itself to inform and educate the citizens about their human rights and also seeks to inculcate and promote the culture of rights with responsibility, communities will continue to burn down public facilities, drive out people with different sexual orientation or nationality from their localities, and prohibit meetings of people of different political persuasion. Cope believes that our activist Parliament must prioritise the intensification of public campaigns of education for a human rights consciousness. It is disturbing to hear more and more about some of our people being refused treatments such as dialysis from state hospitals because of poverty. The right to life is important for all our people. Let me again gratefully acknowledge hon Minister Motsoaledi’s response last week to my question in this regard. Cope wishes to urge the Minister to look at the need for interdepartmental responses to the crisis of the poor in this regard. Failure to do so will heighten the sense and perception that human rights are a preserve of the privileged and not all citizens.

While we honour the clinicians for the sterling service they render to the poorest of the poor in the public health institutions, it is disturbing that some cannot receive dialysis because they live in informal settlements, without basic services such as running water. Recently Busiswa Danxa, according to public reports, was refused treatment because of this reason. Whilst it may be beyond the means of the clinicians to do something about her social situation, it certainly is not beyond the means of the government.

It is at the level of each citizen that the sincerity of our Constitution is tested and the government’s commitment to human rights is expressed.

One of the fundamental tenets of human rights is free speech. The protection of this right means that we must tolerate the things said by others, even those that we absolutely deplore. On the other hand, we have to call for responsibility from the citizens. Words can destroy, as much as they can build. Cope, whilst acknowledging words that formed part of our struggle as part of our history, cautions that not all the words used to liberate us are of equal value for the building of our future. We need words that will help us affirm each other’s right to life and dignity. It is with this in mind that at this stage of our national development, we reject the usage of slogans such as “Kill the boer, Kill the farmer”.

History moves on. [Interjections.] Today is the day to find slogans that bind us together as a nation, slogans … [Applause.] … that propel us to a future of a shared destiny and a prosperity for all South Africans, built on the unshakeable foundation of human rights for all. [Time expired.] I thank you, Speaker. [Applause.]

Mr M B SKOSANA: Mr Speaker, hon members, in recognition of the indivisibility of the fundamental rights of peoples everywhere, I beg for your indulgence, as well as that of the House, to take you back to where the journey began.

We lived in an L-shaped corrugated-iron house, both well and spaciously built by my father, who worked as a deliverer and furniture polisher at a furnisher in Vereeniging. He did this with my grandfather, who was a commendable carpenter in our locality. Vukuzenzele, popularly known as Vuka, was a newly established extension of Sharpeville township. It was an area designated for black families who were forcefully removed from top locations where they held the title deeds for commercial enterprises and residential areas for white people.

Both my father and my grandfather, in my presence, frequently indulged in politics. I often observed consistent gatherings at the nearby blacksmith where my grandfather and the blacksmith, Mr Phakathi, would be reading and, at the same time, interpreting the daily political bulletins to their audience of coal merchants and vehicle owners, who had come to give their horses new shoes and their vehicles renewed sets of spring shock absorbers. The question that often triggered the excitement amongst them was, “Uthini uVerwoerd namhlanje?” [What is Verwoerd saying today?], followed by “Kodwa um-Afrika yena uthini?”, which means, “But the African is saying this.” The political discussion usually took the greatest part of the day.

This was one of the many formative occasions when I learned about Dr Verwoerd and his people, and that they were largely responsible for the laws that made the African people - men, women and children - suffer. I must say that at the age of 13, I was being initiated in the collective historical consciousness of African political thinking. The afternoon and night of 20 March 1960 revealed nothing suspicious for me. Moreover, at that tender age I could not clearly have imagined, let alone predicted, the political fortunes of a township about to be engulfed by human tragedy, characterised by dead and maimed people, tears, fears and rage.

The dark early hours of the morning of 21 March saw widespread calls through loudhailers and thousands of pamphlets in the streets urging the people of Sharpeville not to go to work on that day but to converge at the central police station to protest against the carrying of passes and, if need be, burn them in full glare of the authorities. Obviously, school teachers were not going to teach that day, so schoolchildren took that opportunity to give themselves a break from school.

Later that morning, some of us joined our old folk at the Sharpeville central police station. As the day progressed, the protesting crowd around the police station began to swell enormously in number and, with thumbs raised high, a resemblance of the shape of the African continent chanted loudly, “Africa Mayibuye”.

From where I stood, I could spot the occasional movement of the African negotiators in and out of the front of the police station, and every time they made appearances, they would raise their thumbs high, shouting “Africa”, and the crowd would echo, “Mayibuye”.

By that time, a heavily armed contingent of police was prowling inside the station yard and more were arriving in police trucks and Saracens. Meanwhile the attempts by the people’s negotiators, led by the late Nyakane Tsolo, whom I had the pleasure of meeting before he died, continued as previously, followed by the chant of ”Mayibuye”.

It was past the lunch hour when rumblings did the rounds that police officers wanted people to move away from the police station and gather at the nearby sportsfield, now known as George Thabe stadium, 2km away. The people made no movement in that direction and what happened next made me believe that had the people moved towards that sportsfield, many more people would have been killed.

First, there was the shattering sound of one shot, then silence. The chanting stopped abruptly and was immediately followed by rapid gunfire. Waves of protesters stampeded away from the fence and gates of the police station, as the firing became fierce. This time it sounded more like a combination of rifles and machine-gun fire. I could not see exactly what was happening behind me because, like everybody else, I was running away from the police station as fast as I could. The gunfire was both frightening and confusing, and there was an instant where I rushed through a gate into a yard, frantically looking for sanctuary, only to jump over the fence back into the street again, where droves of people were running away.

I remember vividly the image of a man running past me, his hand clutching his left shoulder, as if preventing his whole arm from falling off. The man had been shot. Frightened as I was, I heard him say, ironically … Ngiyitholile i-Afrika yami. [I have found my Africa.]

I have found my Africa. It did not take long to reach home, where I became more frightened when I did not see my father or grandfather. When the shooting stopped, it began to rain hard - perhaps God’s way of washing away the blood and tears of his fallen people behind me.

The SPEAKER: Hon member, I regret to inform you that your time has expired.

Mr M B SKOSANA: Can I just finish this? Can I conclude, Mr Speaker?

The SPEAKER: Yes, if it is going to be done in the next couple of seconds.


The SPEAKER: Go ahead.

Mr M B SKOSANA: My folks came back unharmed, but without the car, which was fetched later from the police station. It was later discovered that the bullet that went through the right mudguard of my father’s car shattered the hipbone of the woman who was standing next to it.

This also serves as a plea from my party, the IFP, to the President of the Republic, that the constant failure to deliver the basic rights timeously to the deserving majority is a reflection of the defective manner in which we have governed, and we need a radical reappraisal of this.

To neglect the plight of Sharpeville will be seen as the ultimate betrayal of the embodiment of the long struggle of the African people for true freedom and independence. The freedom struggle of the black people in South Africa marshalled ample cosmic companions …

The SPEAKER: Hon member, I thought you were concluding. [Laughter.] Thank you, hon member. [Applause.]


The commission finds that the police deliberately opened fire on an unarmed crowd that had gathered peacefully at Sharpeville on 21 March 1960 to protest against the pass laws.

The commission finds further that the South African Police failed to give the crowd an order to disperse before they began firing and that they continued to fire upon the fleeing crowd, resulting in hundreds of people being shot in the back. As a result of the excessive force used, 69 people were killed and more than 300 injured.

The commission finds further that the police failed to facilitate access to medical and/or other assistance to those who were wounded immediately after the march.

The commission finds that many of the participants in the march were apolitical, women and unarmed, and had attended the march because they were opposed to the pass laws. The commission finds, therefore, that many of the people fired upon and injured in the march were not politicised members of any political party, but merely persons opposed to carrying a pass.

The commission finds that many of those injured in the march were placed under police guard in hospital as if they were convicted criminals and, upon release from hospital, were detained for long periods in prison before being formally charged. In the majority of instances when persons so detained appeared in court, the charges were withdrawn.

The commission finds the former state and the Minister of Police directly responsible for the commission of gross human rights violations in that excessive force was unnecessarily used to stop a gathering of unarmed people. Police failed to give an order to disperse and/or adequate time to disperse, relied on live ammunition rather than alternative methods of crowd dispersal, and fired in a sustained manner into the back of the crowd, resulting in the death of 69 people and the injury of more than 300.

These were the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission regarding the Sharpeville massacre 50 years ago on 21 March 1960.

Today we commemorate this day as Human Rights Day. The world commemorates this day, by decision of the United Nations General Assembly, as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Sharpeville in many ways represents a painful reminder of where we come from, what we have achieved, but also how much yet remains to be done. Many lines of our history, both painful as well as hopeful, intersect at Sharpeville.

We are told that Sharpeville was named after John Lillie Sharpe who came to South Africa from Glasgow, Scotland, as secretary of Stewarts and Lloyds. Sharpe was elected to the Vereeniging Town Council in 1932 and held the position of mayor from 1934 to 1937.

The main reason for the establishment of Sharpeville was the relocation of people from “Top Location” to an area away from Vereeniging, because it was felt black people were too close to Vereeniging for comfort. Unfortunately, because the project was only intended to relocate residents of “Top Location”, and not to house additional people, it did not alleviate the housing shortage. What was planned as a five-year resettlement project, beginning in 1935, in fact took 20 years. In 1941, 16 000 people lived in “Top Location”. The building of houses only started in 1942.

A subeconomic housing scheme was used for Sharpeville. Water was free but 14 houses shared one tap and there were two bathing complexes in the township. By 1946 some of the houses had their own taps and bathrooms. The township was first called “Sharpe Native Township” but it changed to “Sharpeville” in the 1950s.

With the implementation of the apartheid government’s Group Areas Act, it was estimated that over 3,5 million South Africans were forcibly removed between 1960 and 1982. Of the “Top Location” residents, blacks were removed to Sharpeville, coloureds to Rust—ter—Vaal and Indians to Roshnee. Indians were the last ethnic group to leave “Top Location”, the last residents being removed to Roshnee in 1974.

In 2004, the people of “Top Location” were compensated for the loss of their properties and land, and an amount of R60 000 per house was paid to all former residents or dependants.

The other line of our history that runs through Sharpeville is the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging, commonly referred to as the Peace of Vereeniging, on 31 May 1902. This peace treaty ended the South African War between the Boer Republics and the British Empire. This treaty laid the foundation for the Union of South Africa, created on 31 May 1910. This is another milestone in our history, the centenary of which we mark this year.

I mention this because the creation of the Union of South Africa represented the legal constitutional basis for colonialism of a special type, or internal colonialism. It was the act of union that united and included whites as citizens and excluded Africans.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has remarked that, and I quote:

The Union Act of 1910 establishing the Union of South Africa finally disenfranchised our people from ever claiming a right to land or participation in the affairs of the government. Thus the birth of the ANC on 8 January 1912 was a direct reaction to these countless grievances and complaints. Pixley ka Isaka Seme summed it up this way: “We are one people. These divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes and of all our backwardness and ignorance today.”

He continued to state that, ”The white people of this country have formed what is known as the Union of South Africa, a union in which we have no voice in the making of laws and no part in their administration.” This was a call to unity of a new type on African soil. This was an anticolonial unity. This was the birth, not only of the ANC but of a new nation deep in the womb of a colonial setup. Right from the beginning the ANC was assigned to lead the creation of a new loyalty under changed conditions of struggle.

It is this struggle that we don’t need to be confused about because the facts of history are stubborn things. There is no doublethink; there is no doublespeak in the national democratic struggle. [Applause.] There is no contradiction in national democratic struggle; rather, national democratic struggle is meant to solve the contradictions of our painful history. [Applause.]

An open-opportunity society, on the other hand, if one looks at it, studies it, interrogates it carefully and looks at its application in the Western Cape, is designed to perpetuate those contradictions. [Applause.]

The commitment of the ANC to nonracialism has been written in the blood of our struggle. In 1960, when Sharpeville happened, the ANC did not turn around and call for indiscriminate violence and attacks against any national group. Neither did it do so in 1976, when our country was on fire. Neither did it do so in the mid-1980s, when we lived under a virtually continuous state of emergency and thousands of people were detained and killed. [Applause.] Neither did it do so in the early 90s, when untold state-sponsored violence was unleashed against our people. [Applause.] Never at one moment in that long and proud history of struggle did the ANC ever waver from its commitment to that principle. That principle has been … [Interjections.] Others, who today … [Interjections.]

The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr M B Skosana): Hon members, let’s give the member a hearing, please.

The DEPUTY MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Those who are today great peacetime heroes need only look at their history. It is not a consistent history. It is this struggle that led to a more hopeful line in our history, also passing through Sharpeville. It is here that former President Nelson Mandela signed the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 14 years ago, on 10 December 1996.

This Constitution represents the antithesis of everything that the Union of South Africa and the Sharpeville massacre represent. It bears testimony to the fact that the liberation struggle by the oppressed communities, even in the midst of bitter confrontation, developed moral values of human compassion and solidarity far beyond the narrow confines of its opposition to the apartheid system. It represented something good, not just something better than apartheid. It asserted the humanness of the human spirit and the search for societies at peace within and among themselves.

Unfortunately, there is a lot more that I would like to say, but the time is running out. [Interjections.] Therefore, I would like to read an extract from the poem “Die kind wat dood geskiet is deur soldate by Nyanga”, by Ingrid Jonker, which was quoted by former President Mandela during his first state of the nation address:

Die kind is nie dood nie nòg by Langa nòg by Nyanga nòg by Orlando nòg by Sharpeville nòg by die polisiestasie in Philippi waar hy lê met ʼn koeël deur sy kop

Die kind is die skaduwee van die soldate op wag met gewere sarasene en knuppels die kind is teenwoordig by alle vergaderings en wetgewings die kind loer deur die vensters van huise en in die harte van moeders die kind wat net wou speel in die son by Nyanga is orals die kind wat ʼn man geword het trek deur die ganse Afrika die kind wat ʼn reus geword het reis deur die hele wêreld

Sonder ʼn pas

Let us on this occasion, collectively, as the elected representatives of our people, rededicate ourselves to work together with everyone in our society to ensure that the Constitution, the child that we collectively gave birth to and collectively are responsible for nurturing, continues to grow into a giant that will live in Nyanga, Sharpeville, Philippi and all corners of our nation and continue to inspire people around the world. [Time expired.] I thank you. [Applause.]

Ms P DE LILLE: Chairperson, I’m sure all of us in this House agree that an event such as Sharpeville must never, ever happen again in our history. We believe that indeed we have made some progress in terms of the attainment of human rights for our people. However, most of this progress happened in the short period immediately after freedom in 1994.

Currently, the situation is very different in that our Constitution is under tremendous pressure. Enforcement, protection and observance of our Constitution must occur at all levels of government. It is not only the duty of our courts to ensure that South Africans enjoy their constitutional rights. As Parliament - we ourselves present here today - through our conduct and through the laws that we make, we must ensure that we protect human rights.

Section 8 of the Constitution says, and I quote:

The Bill of Rights … binds the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and all organs of state.

The courts are only the final arbiters in the enforcement of human rights. They only come in where there has been a lack of enforcement. Of all the arms of government, the executive arm has been the most ineffective when it comes to fulfilling human rights. A good example of the fallout from this inefficiency is the service delivery protests around our country. Parliament made the laws, such as the Municipal Structures Act, which the municipalities are failing to implement because of the lack of leadership from the executive.

The Grootboom case is another example. When the Constitutional Court made a ruling that the late Mrs Grootboom be provided with a house, the other arms of government failed her and she died in 2008 without a house. The other case worth mentioning is when the Constitutional Court ruled that antiretrovirals, ARVs, must be provided to HIV-positive people, it took years for the executive arm to implement that decision. If everyone in the executive did his or her job properly, we would not have had so many court cases. Also, we would have had more taxpayers’ money to spend on the poor.

Meanwhile, section 28 of the Constitution provides children with second- generation human rights, which means that government must provide. This right of our children has been very poorly observed by the executive. For example, a child has a right to basic education. But the reality is that many of our children are on the street.

The ID feels very strongly that since the courts are achieving more than the executive in our country, we should focus more resources on the courts by introducing the Indian model whereby any person can write a letter to the courts. Upon receipt of the letter, the courts will investigate and then make a ruling on that particular matter. This will tremendously help our poor people who don’t have access to the courts. This will also ensure that the courts become more proactive. Therefore the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development should be aware that we need more resources for our courts so that they may become more proactive and assist us with human rights abuses.

Regarding how far we have come since 1994, the ID will give this government five out of 10 for human rights – that’s all. [Time expired.] [Applause.]

Mr N M KGANYAGO: Mr Speaker and hon members, we are gathered here today to debate Human Rights Day. As always, we must commemorate the fateful events that took place in Sharpeville. But allow me to look at those events from the perspective of the here and now.

When we remember the crowds in Sharpeville fleeing before the police and their guns, we must also ask why we are confronted with similar images across our country daily. Why is it that in our hard-earned democracy legitimate protests must be met with excessive force by the police? Why is it that a young man at the side of the road can be arrested by marauding VIP police officers on trumped-up offences that don’t even exist in law? [Interjections.] What does it say about a human rights culture that such official thuggery can continue for 24 hours of unlawful arrest, including the extraction of a coerced apology as well as the ransacking of a private citizen’s home?

Perhaps most telling of all, why is this matter seemingly beyond official interrogation by Members of Parliament? Human rights and the freedoms that underpin our democratic society depend on a culture of tolerance and protection by the authorities and the ruling elite. When the authorities and the ruling elite find excuses and justifications for disrespecting or undermining those rights, then we are on a slippery slope towards tyranny. It is a sad reflection on the leaders, in whose name such gross misdeeds are committed, when they fail to condemn these transgressions.

In the broader context, we must remember that respect for human rights does not only impact on the rights of the individual, but plays a pivotal role in nation-building. We seem to be living at a time when some members of the ruling elite do not believe in nation-building and the reconciliation that allowed us to achieve a peaceful end to apartheid. The callous public insults and hate speech practised by some prominent individuals undermine nation-building and make a mockery of our efforts to build a human rights culture. It would do all of us good to recall that all human rights stem from the principles of respect and the inherent dignity of all people. It means that our conduct - especially when we are figures who command public platforms - must be respectful of other people, even our political opponents. I thank you. [Applause.]

The DEPUTY MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY AND FISHERIES: Mr Chairman, if one reads the Afrikaans and English newspapers of the past weeks, the Sowetan and the City Press, it is clear how our society has become polarised and how totally differently we view issues in South Africa. When I follow internet debates, I read white racism and black racism in the majority of the debates.

In probably his most famous quote, Nelson Mandela said at his trial:

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

The Bill of Rights in the Constitution - I quote section 7:

… enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

And then section 16 states that –

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression … [This] right … does not extend to … advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.

Sir, in 2003 the FF Plus laid a complaint with the Human Rights Commission about the singing of the song “Kill the Boer, Kill the Farmer”. The ANC argued that it was an innocent struggle song. The Human Rights Commission found that it was definitely hate speech and prohibited it. The context within which such a song is sung has to be taken into account, the commission found.

Mr Julius Malema comes from the Limpopo province. What is the context in Limpopo within which Mr Malema sings it? In the past month, close to Hoedspruit, Mr van Staden was shot dead while watching TV. Mr Booysen and his wife were stoned to death near Mokopane. Mr Cammaerts, a Belgian citizen, had his throat slit in Lephalale; nothing was stolen. Mr Paul Dunne from Tzaneen and Mr Ron Smit from Bela-Bela were shot to death.

Three farm murders took place this past weekend. Mr Danie Nortje was shot in the back through his bedroom window, while his curtains were drawn. Nothing was stolen. The previous weekend two farmers were murdered in cold blood. These murders come directly after Mr Julius Malema - on his birthday and at a meeting at the University of Johannesburg – sang the song “Shoot the Boere, they are all rapists”. The ANC says it is an innocent struggle song.

Mr Malema was nine years old when Mr Mandela was released. What does he know of teargas, of Casspirs, and about the struggle? [Interjections.] He sings this song in the context of 2010 in Limpopo, where suddenly every week farmers are being murdered, murdered by young people who also know very little about the struggle. They hear the song in today’s context.

Robert F Kennedy once said, and I quote:

What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.

I ask myself what Mr Mandela would have said about this. I say, Malema is an ill-disciplined, rude and conflict-seeking juvenile. Not only is he an embarrassment to the ANC and to all of us in South Africa, but he is mocking each one of you sitting here and all of us. What does the ANC do? Why don’t they act? Are they afraid of him? Please have the guts to call him to order for the benefit of all of us in South Africa. I thank you. [Applause.]

Mr S N SWART: Chairperson, the ACDP believes that it is appropriate that we reflect today on how far we have come as a nation, from the tragedy of Sharpeville to those momentous events leading to the release of former President Nelson Mandela 20 years ago and to negotiations culminating in peaceful elections and a new Constitution.

Let us remember the words of the interim Constitution that stated that it provided, and I quote:

… a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice, and a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence and development opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of colour, race, class, belief or sex.

It is crucial to remember that it was a solemn pact that was agreed upon, recorded in the constitutional principles which formed the basis of the new Constitution. We need to remind ourselves of this and to uphold that solemn pact.

We are very aware that the main thrust of the Bill of Rights relates to first-generation rights, civil and political rights, the right to life, the right to vote, to a fair trial and to freedom of speech. Much has been achieved in this regard. South Africa also included second- and third-generation rights, socioeconomic rights, as enforceable human rights. These rights include the right to adequate housing, health care, food, social security and education. Disadvantaged and vulnerable groups are intended to be the main beneficiaries of these rights. Generally, these are people who are most affected by poverty and experience a number of barriers that block access to resources, opportunities and services in society.

By including these rights, South Africans said that no person should be without the basic necessities of life. Regrettably, hon members, there is a wide gap between the caring values of these socioeconomic rights and the reality of grinding poverty in South Africa.

The prospect for ending poverty depends critically on two factors: firstly, the rate of economic growth, provided it is undertaken in a shared and sustainable way, and secondly, the level of resources devoted to poverty programmes and the quality of such programmes.

Economic development encompasses the reduction or elimination of poverty, inequality and unemployment within the context of a growing economy. Economic growth is dependent upon education, skills development, productivity and entrepreneurship, access to capital and markets.

As we live in a global village, it is also dependent upon investor sentiment, which is particularly jittery with regard to emergent markets. Irresponsible calls to nationalise mines and productive farms do not do our cause any good, to say nothing about songs such as “Kill the Farmer, kill the Boer”.

Whilst we may have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, we still have a long way to go before the full realisation of socioeconomic rights is achieved. One need only look at the widespread service delivery protests to understand that the very fabric of our constitutional dispensation is under threat, as promises are unfulfilled in the eyes of the poor and the marginalised. Therein lies the challenge for each of us as we prepare to celebrate this Human Rights Day. I thank you. [Applause.]

Mr K S MUBU: Chairperson, when we attained a democratic dispensation in 1994 South Africa was praised as one of the last hopes for respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Our Constitution has been lauded as one of the best in the world because of these important principles. When our foreign policy was crafted, it was deliberately designed to reflect these fundamental principles. However, questions are now being raised as to whether we still stand by those important principles.

This is exemplified in our perceived support for some of the most brutal regimes, not only in Africa, but also in other parts of the world. Our failure to loudly condemn human rights abuses in Myanmar, Zimbabwe and China are but a few examples that question our commitment to the rule of law.

Here at home we have witnessed, in the past few weeks, a serious departure from that principle. We have noted the dangerous expression of hate speech from the ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema. [Interjections.] He has called for the extermination of a section of our population, something tantamount to calling for murder, racial cleansing and genocide against a certain group within our population.

I want to remind this House that history has shown repeatedly that hate speech has always been a prelude to very serious human rights abuses in the world. The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 was the result of hate preached against one ethnic group by another. Last week we witnessed in Nigeria the killing of Christians by Muslims, which was preceded by the preaching of hate by one religious group against another. [Interjections.]

The CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: Order, hon members!

Mr K S MUBU: The most disturbing factor is that since Malema made these dangerous remarks the senior leadership of the ANC has been stonily silent and has not admonished him for his statements. In my view this goes to show that the ANC wholeheartedly supports and agrees with Malema that whites must be eliminated in this country. [Interjections.]

What message does this send to the outside world when we are about to host one of the most important events, the Fifa World Cup? Are we saying that we will welcome whites from outside this country when we want to kill our own whites? [Interjections.]

President Zuma is on record as endorsing Malema as a leader with excellent leadership qualities. God help us if that day ever comes. If anything, Malema is exhibiting qualities of an Idi Amin or a Robert Mugabe in the making.

Malema’s views on racial harmony in this country go directly against this year’s theme, which says, “From oppression to a human-rights-centred national democratic society”. Instead he is calling for the perpetuation of the polarisation of the races in this country. This is doublespeak. I thank you. [Applause.]

Mrs N RASMENI: Hon Chairperson of the NCOP and distinguished guests, ever since its founding in 1912, the ANC has dedicated itself to the historic mission of uniting our people in the struggle for the liberation of the oppressed black majority in general, and of Africans in particular. South African revolutionaries have been fighting, generation after generation, to fulfil this vision. Countless patriots sacrificed their lives, inspired by this ideal. Today, ANC members continue on this mission.

Apartheid deprived our people of ownership and control of wealth in such a manner that our communities were deliberately impoverished and turned into reservoirs of cheap labour. For the ANC, fundamental to the transformation of the economy is the need to eradicate apartheid production relations and to bring about a more equitable ownership and distribution of wealth and income. The most pressing challenges we face are those of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

To address these challenges and underdevelopment, we have placed the creation of decent work at the centre of our efforts, and all government policies and programmes are meant to speak to this goal. Within the context of scarce resources, we have put in place programmes to absorb the unemployed through the use of labour-intensive programmes, linked to infrastructure expansion and to meeting social needs.

The Bill of Rights we have today enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom. The Bill says clearly that the state must respect, protect, promote and fulfil these rights, which include the right to life, equality, property, human dignity, freedom of religion and opinion; freedom of assembly, association and expression; political and citizenship rights; the right to a safe and healthy environment; and socioeconomic rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, in Article 22, that everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to the realisation of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his or her dignity and the free development of his or her personality. Article 23 states that everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, and to just and favourable conditions of work and remuneration that ensure him and his family an existence worthy of human dignity. In terms of Articles 25 and 26, everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care.

Our Constitution, and the Bill of Rights specifically, give expression to socioeconomic rights. Central to this is the ANC’s programme on decent work and job creation, which has helped to shape the character of the New Economic Growth Path, so as to ensure growth and development.

The January 8th statement of the ANC outlines how to pursue sustained economic development based on an inclusive growth path. In this regard, the 2009 ANC Manifesto commits to ensuring that state-led industrial policy leads to the transformation of the economy. It further states that a state- led industrial policy programme will direct public and private investment to support decent work outcomes. This programme will target labour- intensive production sectors and encourage activities that have high employment effects.

The policy levers of the New Growth Path include: reducing youth unemployment, including targeted wage subsidies aimed at lowering the costs and risks of hiring inexperienced workseekers; supporting labour-intensive industries through industrial policy interventions, skills development, infrastructure investment and public employment programmes, including the rural development strategy; and improving the performance and effectiveness of the state, especially the provision of quality education and training at all levels. Decent work is one of the foundations of human rights, and the fight against poverty and inequality and its promotion is the cornerstone of all our efforts.

Again, the Bill of Rights speaks specifically to everyone having access to health care services. As part of its responsibility under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the ANC government has historically progressively implemented programmes to achieve these rights. Historically, the restructuring of health functions to the point of delivery was introduced so as to ensure the most effective form of service delivery of health services.

Over the past 15 years, the ANC has embarked on a programme to transform the health care system, and it has been able to change the health paradigm significantly. Let me mention a few of the issues this programme has succeeded in addressing: redressing the harmful effects of apartheid health care services; encouraging and developing comprehensive health care practices; respect for human rights and accountability to the users of health facilities and the public at large; and reducing the burden and risk of disease affecting the health of all South Africans.

Consistent with what is contained in the National Health Plan of 1994, the ANC made the following commitments in its 2009 Election Manifesto: To introduce the National Health Insurance System, which will be phased in over the next years; and to improve the quality standards for both the public and the private sectors. The ANC acknowledges the fact that there have been many achievements in the health care system. It is also conscious of the amount of work that still needs to be done to ensure quality health care for all South Africans and to achieve better health results true to the spirit of equality in health care provision.

Turning to the rural areas: People living in rural areas continue to face the harshest conditions of poverty, lack of access to land and to basic services. The ANC is committed to a comprehensive and clear rural development strategy that is linked to land and agrarian reform, to the improvement of the conditions of farm workers and farm dwellers, and that builds the potential for sustainable rural livelihoods. With this in mind, government has introduced various measures to enhance household- and community-based food production, primarily for consumption, but also to generate income from the sale of surplus food.

Education is a means of promoting good citizenship, as well as preparing our people for the needs of a modern economy and a democratic society. Building on the achievements in education, the ANC government aims to ensure the progressive realisation of universal schooling, improving quality education and eliminating disparities. Some of the achievements that I can mention are that there were 8 million learners, approximately 19 933 of whom participated in the no-fee schools, and 130 000 students who were assisted through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. The future plans for advancing education include: broadening access to post-secondary school and improving higher education; distributing enough workbooks to all Grade R to Grade 6 learners, accompanied by teacher manuals; and expanding access to quality early-childhood opportunities, especially for poor communities.

Our human settlements are not just about building houses. We are committed to transforming our cities and towns, improving the quality of life of our people, and building stronger, better planned and sustainable communities with easier access to work and social amenities, including sports and recreational facilities. In this regard, the Housing Development Agency has been established to assist provinces and municipalities with the acquisition of appropriate land for human settlement development.

Our social security system, such as the provision of social grants, is aimed at empowering our people to take active part in the social and economic life of our country, and at enhancing their dignity. We are all in agreement that the right to human dignity becomes more meaningful with the effective provision of services to our people, designed to continuously improve the quality of their lives.

The ANC is committed to transforming the state in a manner that benefits our people. We expect those who are in charge of the public sector to do more to speed up effective service to the people. To be a public sector official means service to the people and a caring attitude in dealing with citizens. Effective and efficient service to the people is dependent upon the commitment, strength and competence of public servants, who are charged with the conversion of state developmental goals into coherent programmes.

It is for this reason that the new ANC administration is placing particular emphasis on the need to strengthen public institutions, to reinforce a culture of service and to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of all state officials. The ANC is committed to a culture of service and will manage the economy in a manner that ensures that South Africa continues to grow. The ANC-led government’s medium-term strategy goals therefore give effect to the Constitution and consolidate efforts at enhancing human rights by targeting and strengthening investment and job creation; reducing poverty and supporting vulnerable groups, education and skills development; creating sustainable communities; and enhancing service delivery.

In his acceptance speech at the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony in 1993, the then president of the ANC, Comrade Nelson Mandela, spoke of human dignity, oppression and repression, liberty, human rights, poverty and freedom from want, and of common human decency. He spoke of those who suffered in the name of all humanity when they sacrificed everything for liberty, peace, human dignity and human fulfilment. He also spoke of the great masses who had turned their backs on the grave insult to human dignity which described some as masters and others as servants.

He said that this must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights, a world freed from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance, and that we must devote our lives to demonstrate, in practice, that the normal condition for human existence is democracy, justice, peace, nonracism, nonsexism, prosperity for everybody, a healthy environment, and equality and solidarity among the peoples.

Lastly, clearly there is still a lot more that needs to be done. The ANC remains part of the progressive forces for change, working internationally to promote transformation. [Time expired.] Thank you very much. Ndiyabulela. [I thank you.] [Applause.]

Ms M N MATLADI: Hon Chairperson, it is fitting that as we discuss Human Rights Day, we look at the history of human rights. It is sad, and almost a shame, to note that it always takes a catastrophe for the people of the world to realise that they need to change how they treat themselves and their fellow human beings.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights proclamation was in 1948, a few years after the Second World War, which caused tremendous and irreparable damage and loss of human life and shook the whole planet. The rest of the world started commemorating World Human Rights Day in 1950, with us – South Africa – and many other countries as exceptions.

Coming back home, the events of 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville are events we could label as evil, except that they were the actions of humans against humans. These are events which we should keep on talking about, lest we forget.

In 2001, the government marked 21 March by unveiling the Sharpeville Human Rights Memorial on the site outside the police station where 69 black men, women and children were shot, most of them in the back, for not carrying a dompas.

Today we speak of human rights, sometimes as if they fell from the sky, yet history testifies that blood was shed, not only in our country but everywhere in the world, before people could appreciate that they had human rights and that they had a responsibility to ensure the protection of these rights.

Today it is of critical importance that we not only commemorate Human Rights Day and just reflect on the past, but that we should also stand at a place where we critically evaluate how much ground we have covered in ensuring that all our people know and understand that they have human rights. Beyond knowledge and understanding, are our people able to enforce these rights when they are being violated, particularly by authorities? Do they have meaningful access to these rights?

South Africa made great and remarkable strides with the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution. It is comprehensive and laudable. It starts by saying that the Bill of Rights is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom. Do we all experience these? Are we really equal or are some of us more equal than others? What has the state done to respect, protect, promote and fulfil our rights, as it is required by the Constitution to do?

It is important also to look at the provisions of section 36 of the Constitution, which states that the rights contained in the Bill of Rights may be limited in terms of law where such limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic state.

Much as South Africa has been applauded for the comprehensive Bill of Rights, the masses continue to experience limitations of these rights. Such limitations are not reasonable, fair or justifiable, and include unemployment, poverty, violence against women, and lack of or poor service delivery. Thank you very much. [Time expired.]

Mr G G MOKGORO: Deputy Speaker, Chair, Deputy Chair of the NCOP, and Ministers, I am privileged to take part in this very important debate that commemorates the lives of our compatriots and narrates our nation’s inspirational and profound journey to a free, democratic South Africa. As a veteran of the struggle for the liberation of our people, I feel even more honoured to narrate the journey that our nation travelled with conviction to see the liberation of our people from the shackles of apartheid and the brutality of its forces.

I was told that I would take part in this debate to pay tribute and homage to the outstanding compatriots of our people who performed selfless acts of bravery for the liberation of our people on the brink of giant thoughts and faulty memories. I am reminded of the journey travelled to a free, nonracial, nonsexist and democratic South Africa.

Allow me to borrow the words of wisdom of a 19th century USA poet, Walt Whitman, who wrote the poem, A child said, What is the grass?, and I quote:

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women, And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

He then answered himself by saying:

They are alive and well somewhere; The smallest sprouts show there is really no death …

There is really no death for those who showed signs of bravery. Perhaps today I have no choice but to translate, in the context of our current realities, the hints about our dead young men and women of Sharpeville, Langa and Nyanga, and the hints about old men and mothers and the offspring taken out of their laps.

Hon Speaker, we hold this important debate to pay tribute to the martyrs of our freedom who, 50 years ago, were brutally massacred and murdered on 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville, Langa, Nyanga and Vanderbijlpark. It was on this day that the apartheid regime ordered its forces to shoot and kill compatriots of our nation who were peacefully marching to protest against the apartheid laws. By the end of 21 March 1960, 69 black people were killed and over 300 women, men and children were injured in Sharpeville, Langa, Nyanga and Vanderbijlpark.

The savage massacre of African patriots at Sharpeville, Langa, Nyanga and Vanderbijlpark on 21 March 1960 is of paramount significance in the struggle against apartheid. It was a tragic day which unquestionably marked a turning point in the struggle for the liberation of our country. Over the years, this day became a source of inspiration and a platform for mobilising our people in schools, at workplaces and in the very same communities that were ravaged by apartheid neglect. This day carries a formidable memory that rejuvenates the spirit of our people to rise and fight for their freedom. Consequently, it was this day that highlighted our plight, as we waged a concerted fight against apartheid which drew the attention and solidarity of the international community.

In 1973, the General Assembly of the United Nations took one of the most profound decisions and declared apartheid a crime against humanity. Similarly, the global community intensified their support for our quest for a democratic South Africa through sanctions and the withdrawal of their diplomatic and business ties with South Africa.

This day, which has since been enacted as South Africa’s Human Rights Day, is also used to highlight South Africa’s quest to dismantle a divisive past that was characterised by human rights violation and abuse. It is also used to highlight South Africa’s Bill of Rights, contained in the Freedom Charter, as a formidable commitment to a South Africa that values the rights of all its citizens, regardless of race, gender and geographic location. This day also celebrates the launch of the SA Human Rights Commission - one of the premier institutions for the protection of human rights - on 21 March 1996, 35 years after the fatal events of 21 March 1960.

It is this selfless act of bravery of the people of Sharpeville, Langa, Nyanga and Vanderbijlpark that enriched the doctrine of human rights in the ANC. This great liberation movement of our people has a history of gallant struggle and selfless sacrifice that led to the banishment and maiming of its leaders. It is through this quest for a democratic South Africa that today our nation is united in a common journey towards prosperity.

Hon Deputy Speaker, as a veteran of the ANC, with 61 years of unbroken service to the ANC … [Applause.] … I have lived to pay testimony to and narrate the stories of the courage of people in the fight against apartheid. I live to narrate the story of a liberation movement that has demonstrated its profound commitment to building a peaceful, nonracial and nonsexist democratic South Africa.

When we took up the fight against apartheid, we understood that the darkness was only momentary and that the sun would return to bathe the earth with light. Such was our optimism that we were inspired to take to the streets and face the might of apartheid and its armed forces with only one conviction.

In 1955, our nation took the fight against apartheid further when we adopted the Freedom Charter. The adoption of the Freedom Charter was a milestone that articulated our vision for South Africa. It is this important document that clearly articulated our fight for human rights and the dignity of all our people when we said: “All shall enjoy equal human rights.”

During the 1950s, the ANC and women structures fought intense struggles against the pass laws and other discriminatory laws. The Anti-Apartheid Campaign of 1952 clearly demonstrated the plight of those who were denied rights, particularly the black people. The adoption of the Freedom Charter produced a concrete programme for economic and political liberation. By this time, both men and women were united in a common struggle for the right to vote, equality before the law and human dignity. Building on the Freedom Charter, the negotiation approach of the ANC reflected the necessity for reference to all rights contained in the charter. During 1989, the ANC presented a document called “Constitutional Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa”.

In 1991, the ANC adopted the Constitutional Principles for a Democratic South Africa on the eve of the April constitutional negotiations. The Constitutional Principles for a Democratic South Africa reflected the will of the majority of the people by guaranteeing our people’s fundamental human rights, which are clearly ascribed in the Bill of Rights.

The ANC guidelines further articulated that the courts should have a primary role in ensuring that the Bill of Rights is operative, and created the Constitutional Court that enjoys the support of the people and serves all South Africans in an independent and accountable manner. It further articulated that the Human Rights Commission should ensure that human rights violations are investigated. This process led to the 1993 Interim Constitution and resulted in the 1996 Constitution.

We are indeed proud of our Constitution, which is the supreme law of the Republic and seeks to protect the human rights of our people. It is a profound framework that guides our people in building a democratic South Africa and that says: “Never shall we go back to our terrible divided past.” The Constitution guarantees human rights for all, including human dignity; the right to privacy; the right to freedom of expression and association; the right to vote; regular multiparty elections or democracy; the right to a fair trial; and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law; and an independent judiciary.

There is no doubt that the adoption of the Constitution represents a decisive break with the repressive past that divided our nation’s shared future. Indeed, our Constitution remains a useful instrument to guide our quest to dismantle the pillars of apartheid and build a better life for all our people.

We are indeed proud that since the beginning of the political transformation in the early 1990s, our government has made concerted efforts to build a South Africa that respects and values the rights of its citizens. We have moved decisively to dismantle all apartheid legislation that sought to divide our people on the basis of their race, gender, social status and location. We have decisively moved to redress the social imbalances that were created by apartheid.

We are aware that we have a long way to go and that some of our people are still battling with some of the most inhuman conditions. We are aware that some of our people still face poverty, have no access to services, and have no employment. But, steadily, the dark clouds of despair are lifting, giving way to our season of hope. Our country, which for centuries has bled from a thousand wounds, is progressing towards its healing. We are a nation at work to build a better life for all our people.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Your time is up, hon member.

Mr G G MOKGORO: Thank you, Speaker. Let me just finish this last paragraph. [Interjections.] We are indeed proud that the ANC remains a bold beacon of hope and an instrument for the continued liberation of our people from the trappings of poverty, unemployment, poor health and underdevelopment. Thank you, Speaker. [Applause.]

Mr R B BHOOLA: Deputy Speaker, the MF strongly condemns the incidents that led to the Sharpeville massacre.

After a long period of subjugation, we can boast of having an excellent human rights chapter. The Bill of Rights contained in the Constitution is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. Our Constitution further provides for the establishment of the SA Human Rights Commission. But the question we can ask is: Is it really worth the paper it is written on? Have individuals easy and free access to the equality court, to our magistrates’ courts and our high court?

We have fair administrative justice in respect of our human rights. We have legislation dealing with administrative justice and what we have to fight against is arrogance, people drunk with power, corruption and tenderpreneurship. These are the things in respect of which the citizens are questioning whether the jettisoning of apartheid was replaced with another form of apartheid.

What are we doing in the name of black economic empowerment? What are we doing in the name of affirmative action? The shame of Msunduzi, of Ithala Bank, of KZN Growth Fund cling to the face of the ruling party like mud that doesn’t fall away. Are we fair to the ordinary citizens of our country? Do human rights mean people in power enriching themselves? Apartheid is gone, but what you are creating amongst the broad masses is not caste apartheid - which the whites had - but class apartheid.

There is a beautiful Zulu proverb that says, “Umuntu umuntu ngabantu”, meaning those who are in power should not forget that they have been elevated by ordinary citizens. It is therefore absolutely imperative to promote respect for human rights. Poverty does not see face or race, and it attacks almost anyone who comes in front of it.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that we must not lose hope in humanity. Humanity is an ocean, and if a few dirty drops fall in the ocean, it doesn’t mean that the entire ocean is dirty. It is high time the ruling party returned to the values and principles of its founding fathers and the values and principles of the great icon, Madiba. I thank you. [Applause.]

Mr O DE BEER: Deputy Speaker, Cope and all our citizens have a right to be proud of what we have achieved as South Africans. Behind us is a period of ugly oppression. Now, thankfully, at this very moment in time we live in a time of guaranteed human rights.

However, the question I need to pose is whether these rights are indeed guaranteed.

Sal Chumani Maxwele saamstem dat die President se veiligheidsamptenare menseregte in ag neem? Sal Suid-Afrikaners gemaklik rus in die wete dat die polisie besig is om die apartheidsera se militêre rangstelsel terug te bring? En nog belangriker: Wat van die nuwe “skiet om dood te skiet” houding van die regering? Ironies genoeg het Popcru vandag ’n optog gehou teen die feit dat die rangstelsel ingestel word. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraph follows.)

[Will Chumani Maxwele agree that the President’s security officials take human rights into consideration? Will South Africans rest at peace in the knowledge that the police are bringing back the military rank system of the apartheid era? And even more importantly: What about the Government’s new “shoot-to-kill” attitude? Ironically, Popcru held a protest march today against the introduction of the rank system.]

Anyone who has read George Orwell’s book Animal Farm will know how the gains of democracy are reserved. Sixteen years ago all the gates were thrown open, and we were free. Now, little by little, a few gates are being closed here and there. The Chief Whip of the Majority Party in the National Assembly, for instance, tried to stop committees from summoning Ministers to their meetings. In the National Assembly, a member is asked to withdraw a statement, not because it is unparliamentary, but because it is critical of the President. Thankfully the caucus of the ruling party opened the gate again.

Sommige amptenare wat korrupsie teengestaan het in Mpumalanga is òf doodgemaak òf gedreig. In die Noordwes word beweer dat die regering departementele kontrakte weggee aan maatskappye wat nie hul belastingnakomingsertifikate verskaf nie. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraph follows.)

[Some officials who opposed corruption in Mpumalanga have been either killed or threatened. In the Northwest it is claimed that the government gives departmental contracts to companies that fail to submit tax clearance certificates.]

Somehow, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Thousands of Reconstruction and Development Programme houses are going to be demolished, because they were so badly built. This will see billions of rands going down the drain. What South Africa needs is a democracy with legs. Our present state of democracy has people lying on their backs. Our present state of democracy can find R5 million to take Parliament to the People for four days but not for enough beds in hospitals.

Baie van ons in hierdie Huis was saam in die stryd vir vryheid. Dit is nou die tyd om terug te kyk en weer eens beginsels voor ons persoonlike winste te sit. Soweto, Sharpeville, Orange Farm en baie ander plekke in Suid- Afrika skree duidelik vir ons dat hierdie demokrasie nie werk nie. Ons skuld dit aan hulle en hulle nageslagte om te kyk wat fout is in ons regering. Ons moet terselfdertyd nie terugkeer na die ou apartheidmaniere nie. Die verlede moet nie swaarder weeg as die toekoms nie. Baie dankie. [Applous.] (Translation of Afrikaans paragraph follows.)

[Many of us in this House were together in the struggle for freedom. Now is the time to look back and once again put principles above personal gain. Soweto, Sharpeville, Orange Farm and many other places in South Africa shout it from the rooftops that this democracy is not working. We owe it to them and their descendants to look at what is wrong in our government. At the same time we must not return to the old apartheid ways. The past should not count for more than the future. Thank you. [Applause.]]

Mr A T FRITZ: Madam Deputy Speaker, today marks the historic occasion in 1960, when 69 people were killed in Sharpeville, protesting against carrying the dreadful dompas. It was this document that made the life of every black African man and woman a living hell. It was also the most graphic illustration of one group’s oppression over another on racial grounds. Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, we witnessed many more occasions where people revolted against a system of brutal oppression and paid with their lives for the liberation of all.

Today, we are in a free South Africa, where every citizen has the right to vote and choose who their government will be. [Interjections.] We have a South Africa with a Constitution that guarantees every citizen the right to equality, the right to life, the right to dignity, the right to freedom and security of person, as well as many other rights.

Sadly, we have seen how many of these rights have not been diligently defended by the very government that is supposed to protect them. In the criminal justice system, we have a Police Service that claims to be tough on crime and in the process arrests suspects on the basis of reasonable suspicion or belief that they have committed an offence. In most cases, the reasonableness criteria are not adhered to, and it later transpires that there has been no prima facie evidence justifying the subsequent conviction in a court of law. This is disgusting, Madam Deputy Speaker. [Interjections.] This means that innocent citizens are being jailed wrongfully, in a direct contravention of the Constitution and their right not to be deprived of freedom without just cause.

The Constitution provides that the object of the Police Service is to prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure inhabitants of the Republic and their property, and to uphold and enforce the law. Yet, for the 2008-09 financial year, the number of murders reported to police was 18 148. For that year, the police had a 27% detection rate and a conviction rate for murder as low as 14%. This is indicative of poor quality investigations and upholding of the law.

The total case intake by the Independent Complaints Directorate for death in police custody or as a result of police action, for the same period, was 915 people, almost worse than what happened in the apartheid years, which translates to a 15% increase annually. [Interjections.] What happened to the human rights of South Africans?

The Correctional Services Act requires that prisoners must be detained under conditions of human dignity. Overcrowding in many of our correctional centres makes this impossible. Some centres have occupancy levels of over 200%. In 2008-09 the Department of Correctional Services told us that they had incurred legal liabilities of almost R1 billion, as a result of bodily injury and assault. This amount constitutes 74% of the total legal claims against the department. This clearly illustrates that the department fails to ensure safe custody of inmates. How many houses could we have built with that money?

We owe it to the legacy of the people who died at Sharpeville; we owe it to the legacy of people such as Helen Joseph, Helen Suzman, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Lillian Ngoyi, Aunty Lizzie Abrahams, Ray Alexander, and many more. We owe it to their legacy to defend the Constitution, to protect the rights of all, especially the vulnerable and the poor. The problem with the ANC is that they have become more bourgeois than the bourgeoisie. That is the problem. [Applause.]

Unless we do that, we will be judged by history, and not your version of history, Madam Deputy Speaker, the history with many versions, that we have violated the legacy of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. What we cannot allow is that our beautiful country takes the road of economic destruction, political shambles and social disintegration. Let us not go down the road of Zimbabwe. This we owe to our children. Thank you. [Applause.]

The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Madam Deputy Speaker, it is important to begin by informing the hon members sitting to the left that it is nonsensical to seek to portray the history of an organisation of 98 years of age, a movement represented by people who led a noble struggle for the freedom of the people of our country, as represented by a young man who is not even 35 years old. That can never erase the history of our noble struggle and the contribution of our movement to the achievement of the freedom. [Applause.]

It is our struggle that has led to us having the opportunity to denigrate our movement in this House today, nothing else. The contribution came from this movement. Those who seek to extol this young man are clearly persons who are devoid of any vision, any ideal, any new notion, any idea of where our country must go. [Applause.] Their consistent attachment to this young man merely illustrates their inability to offer a new and fresh vision to South Africa. [Applause.]

Madam Deputy Speaker, the contributions of several of the hon members who have spoken here today have merely exhibited their inability to rise to the occasion and debate the key challenges of transforming our country.

For example, you would believe, if you listened to the hon leader of the DA, who is fortunate to be in this Joint Sitting because of the Constitution we adopted, allowing for the Houses to sit as they do … [Applause.] Had you listened to that hon member carefully, you would believe that the DA, the party she leads, has not made any changes to officials in the Public Service in the province or the city. You would believe that if you listened to her. If you had listened to her very carefully and believed each word, you would believe that the health system run by the DA is so effective that there isn’t a measles outbreak in this very province. [Interjections.]

You would believe, if you had listened to her very carefully, that in this very province we do not have a TB profile of such proportions that it is among the worst in this country. [Interjections.]

If you had listened to her with a notion to believe her, you would have believed that her condemnation of negative sexual conduct stretches equally to DA MECs, and does not become a private matter where they are affected. [Interjections.] [Applause.]

You would have believed, had you listened carefully, that doublespeak and doublethink do not include rejection of freedom songs but acceptance of De La Rey. [Applause.]

The assertions in this debate have gone even wilder. Hon member Mubu of the DA claims that the ANC wants to kill whites. I find this quite an incredible assertion. Hon members, shame on you for not standing up to protest that racist statement! There is no such intention. It is the leadership of this organisation that stood up and pushed our people back when Comrade Chris Hani was murdered. No other leaders! [Applause.]

Hon members, shame on you for something further: You allowed the hon De Lille to stand here, in a representative House of elected members, elected by the people exercising their democratic right in terms of our Constitution, and get away with saying that judges must run our country! Shocking! [Laughter.]

Ms P DE LILLE: No, no, you must listen. Point of order, Chairperson. [Interjections.]

The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: And I am hopeful, hon member …

Ms P DE LILLE: On a point of order: I did not say that! [Interjections.] Don’t think I am the leader of the DA that you can come and insult here! I didn’t say that! [Interjections.]


The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Of course, we all know what the judges said about hon De Lille and the victims of Aids who were not dealt with very well. The courts made a statement about that. So we will say no. [Interjections.]

Ms P DE LILLE: I accepted the judgment! Not like you! You don’t implement that now. [Interjections.]

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, hon member!

The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: We also, hon members, despite members of the executive having spoken in this House and clearly indicating that this idea of shoot-to-kill is a figment of the imagination of the media, allow constant repetition in the House of this statement. This is not a policy position of the ANC. [Applause.]

Now, we also have an unfortunate situation. [Interjections.]

The CHIEF WHIP OF THE OPPOSITION: Madam Deputy Speaker, can I ask a question?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon Pandor, I think there is a point of order. Is that a point of order?

The CHIEF WHIP OF THE OPPOSITION: No, I am rising to ask if the hon Minister will take a question.

The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: He should have asked his leader a question. Since he didn’t, I will not agree.

The CHIEF WHIP OF THE OPPOSITION: I am asking if you will take a question.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, hon member. Sit down, please.

The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: I agree with the hon Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries that indeed our country must express its concern and pain at the murders that we see in South Africa. We have repeated this several times in this House. But it is concern over all who are murdered in our country and not a portion of our society. All murders must be objected to and spoken against by hon members. [Applause.]

We have done something that is excellent, Madam Deputy Speaker, as the members of this House, by agreeing that indeed we should stand up and debate this matter of the rights that our people must enjoy in our country as the outcome of a constitutional democracy.

Given the centrality of human rights to the exercise of freedom, it is absolutely necessary for Parliament to dedicate time to reviewing our progress.

The Human Rights Commission, as we all know and as the hon Dandala hinted, has not been able to execute fully its mandate of promoting awareness and full knowledge of the rights each person should have access to.Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that the Human Rights Commission has done commendable work in a context that is constantly challenging.

Madam Deputy Speaker, despite many difficult obstacles, our post-apartheid democracy has made positive progress in advancing the rights and status of women in South Africa. The five key priorities of the government promise increased opportunity for even more significant advances to be made.

In the area of education, girls have equal access to boys in school and are performing at improved levels in many subjects. And many more children are in school in South Africa than in India, in percentage terms, than the reference made by the hon member. [Applause.] In higher education women are more than 50% of the student body, and while we all want to see more of them in scarce disciplines, we are proud of their progress.

Health is a sector in which women have received support from government since the advent of democracy. The historic announcement by President Mandela of access to free health services for pregnant women was a significant endorsement of the progressive ambitions of the Freedom Charter. The blight of the HIV and Aids pandemic has eroded some of our advances and women are bearing an oppressive burden in this regard. Infant mortality and women’s mortality during childbirth are also challenges that we must give more attention to. The ten-point health plan announced by President Zuma in his first state of the nation address is a direct response to these and other health needs that confront women.

In the political sphere and other public institutions, our democracy has achieved worldwide praise for our notable advances. Our cabinet and legislatures are among the top ten most representative parliaments of the world.

Our desire as the ANC is to advance the achievement of a national democratic society. This implies that all the facets that constitute such a society must be securely in place, and that all the components that make it up must receive attention. The concept “national” draws us all in - race, gender, ethnicity, class, disability, sexual orientation and political affiliation.

We are all potential beneficiaries and guardians of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution. Each one of us must advance the rights of all – it is not only the duty of the ANC – each Member of Parliament, each party, every leader has a duty to advance a human-rights culture in South Africa.

One of our more intractable tasks in this regard is that of ensuring that all women, whatever their status and location, enjoy full access to the rights enshrined in our Constitution.

This task makes our priority of rural development immensely important for women. Millions of women in rural communities bear the brunt of poverty and oppression that draws its roots from a patriarchal interpretation of culture and tradition. We as Parliament need to uphold the right to culture, while firmly indicating that the right to culture and other traditional norms and mores have a companion called equality that must be respected. [Applause.]

The evidence of continuing gender inequality in the public and private sectors, in the domestic spaces we occupy, and in some of our key institutions of governance clearly indicates that a great deal more has to be done in South Africa to ensure that women practically feel safe and respected as equal citizens of our country.

Our Parliament, our legislatures, our municipalities, our courts must protect and empower women.

Much more needs to be done to ensure that the socialisation of males and of females inculcates respect for the human dignity of all.

Violence against women, rape, murder and other physical, verbal and psychological evils that women experience daily mean that we as Members of Parliament should strive to ensure that government’s priority of a safer, caring society includes a concerted focus on women’s safety and protection.

Our Constitution contains these protections already. We have to make them a lived reality through the laws we pass and the programmes and budgets we approve.

In fact, it is probably in the Public Service that we continue to see progressive change for women. The social sphere of our homes, our recreation places and our social clubs needs increased attention to ensure that women and girls do benefit from democracy. The private sector in our country also needs to be monitored and to do much more. [Applause.]

Any society that advocates radical democratic transformation, as we do in the ANC, takes on the important duty of ensuring increased human security for all who live in that society.

We have done a great deal in South Africa, but the pain of disappearing children, sexual abuse of babies and limited protection by our courts offend against these principles. All of these point to the need to devote much more attention to the equality of girls and women in our society. [Applause.] Men’s organisations and others who have taken on these challenges should be supported and congratulated. [Applause.]

We in government must focus our programmes more effectively and directly on this task of equality and empowerment. The existence of a new Ministry and department does not absolve the government in its entirety of the responsibility to ensure equality.

The record of the past 16 years suggests that with focus and effective strategising we can build on the advances we have made. Many of the members who spoke here today have acknowledged this in their contributions. The hon R M Rasmeni has pointed out the opportunities afforded by the comprehensive rural development strategy. There is the opportunity available through Kha Ri Gude, our literacy programme, and ensuring, as Rev Dandala called for, increased access to literacy for women. Clearly much is being done and of course, with the ANC in the saddle, clearly advancing the human rights of all the people of our country, much more will be done. [Applause.]

Hon members, the reason that our people continue to have faith in this organisation is because it is the organisation that brought to the fore the possibility that these rights should be available, not to a group, not to a gender, but to all people. [Applause.] It was the ANC.

When the ANC spoke of the right to vote, it never categorised classes, ownership of property, professional status or any category it would exclude. Unlike many organisations that spoke at the time, the ANC advocated the view that the right to the franchise was one that belonged to all adult persons … [Applause.] … and we continue to hold that belief.

When many argued against socioeconomic rights and their inclusion in the Constitution, it was the ANC that asserted that these must and will be present and will be acted upon. Very few societies of our economic status and ability are doing what this government is doing, in terms of the houses we have provided, the access to health care and the access to education.

Be honest, be against us, certainly fight with us, but fight on the platform of acknowledgement of the truth and facts. [Applause.] The facts are: Change has come. Change has happened. Our people not only see it, not only feel it, but they experience it as well.

As hon members on this side of this House have said, clearly much more must be done. We have never said we have done it all as yet. We’ve always said that there is a record, there are achievements and there is progress, but the challenges, given the imprint of apartheid, remain great. They can never be solved in the time we have had. But solved they will be; addressed they will be.

We will not turn away our attention from addressing the needs of the people of our country and ensuring the implementation of the principles we have advocated in the Constitution, particularly in the vision contained in the preamble at the beginning of our Constitution, of a society that has waged a struggle, that has come through it as one, that recognises that diversity is strength, that unity in diversity is a strength, a society that will ensure that all our people enjoy human rights and feel secure and protected, a society that empowers all our people by ensuring that those opportunities that were denied are increasingly available to them. I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. [Applause.]

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I would like to take this opportunity to recognise and thank, hon Peter van Loan, Minister of International Trade of Canada, and the delegation in the gallery. [Applause.]

Let me also thank, in the same spirit, community members in the gallery. Thank you very much for sharing with us our very, very vibrant Human Rights Day debate. [Applause.]

Debate concluded.

The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly adjourned the Joint Sitting at 16:17.