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Parliament, Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma sought on Thursday to reassure South Africans of the country's future and at the same time urged national unity and patriotism.
“As we move to the 20th anniversary of freedom, there should emerge a common thread of patriotism that binds us,” he told the National Assembly.
“We should put South Africa first. All of us have a patriotic duty and responsibility to build and promote our country. Rhetoric and grandstanding is a luxury the country cannot afford.”
Zuma was responding to issues raised during debate in the House earlier this week on his state-of-the-nation speech a week ago.
He said the National Development Plan (NDP) provided a perfect vehicle for united action precisely because it had the support of South Africans across the political and cultural spectrums.
Leaders in every avenue should be ready to rise above sectional interests, and with greater maturity pull together to take the country forward.
“When we go abroad we should speak from the same script, saying that South Africa is open for business and South Africa is the best destination for any investor who is serious about returns on their investment.
“We believe it is possible to do so if we decide to put the country first and act in the national interest.
“We can disagree on as many issues as we want to, but we have to find issues where we put South Africa and our people first,” Zuma said.
“The economy is our biggest focal point, especially at this time of the global economic recession and slow economic growth, as outlined in (the address).
“As we strive to boost the competitiveness of our economy in a gloomy economic climate, we are encouraged by some recent reports.”
He said a recent Grant Thornton report had stated that South Africa had maintained its position as a major leading African economy.
Every government department or entity would, from this year, have to factor elements of the NDP into their plans.
“But more effectively and comprehensively, we have begun developing a draft medium-term strategic framework for 2014 to 2019 as the first five-year building block of the national development plan.”
Cross-cutting strategies such as the new growth path, the industrial policy action plan, the departmental strategic plans, annual performance plans, municipal integrated development plans, and every other government plan would fall under the umbrella of the NDP.
The framework would be precise and clear in identifying indicators and targets to be achieved in the period 2014 to 2019.
The first draft of the 2014 to 2019 NDP aligned framework should be ready for a thorough discussion at the July Cabinet Lekgotla.
“This can then be refined so that it can be submitted to Cabinet for approval as soon as possible after the 2014 elections.
“We look forward to a new way of doing things and a new culture so that by 2030, we can say that we have arrived at the South Africa we all envisaged in 1994,” Zuma said.
The right to life and the right to safety and security of women and children were paramount.
Zuma welcomed the significant decrease in overall serious crime, and said the “shocking, barbaric, and inhuman” cases of rape which had recently taken place had to be condemned in the strongest terms.
“We have directed the police to show no mercy to perpetrators of these crimes.”
However, there were aspects of these crimes which went beyond the criminal justice system.
Zuma agreed with MPs that legislation alone would not be sufficient to liberate women from the yoke of male domination, and it was necessary to work on attitudes in public and private lives.
“We also need to look at how we can promote values that define human beings such as respect for human life, respect for the next person and their property, and basic ubuntu and other values that cement the social fabric of society.
“As we head towards the 20th anniversary of our freedom, we need to look into this matter seriously as leaders,” he said.
While not yet ideal, the state's efficiency was steadily improving.
The government had put in place a number of initiatives since 2009 to improve the functioning of the state.
The performance monitoring and evaluation department's monitoring of management practices was starting to bear fruit in a number of areas.
The responsiveness of departments to cases referred to them from Chapter Nine institutions and from the national anti-corruption hotline had also improved.
As had been pointed out by the responsible minister, training public servants, including managers, would be prioritised to further improve the capacity of the state.
“This should also bring in much-needed skills and reduce the money we pay to consultants which the auditor general and many honourable members here, have raised alarm about.
“It is also an undertaking made in the national development plan that the culture and orientation of the public service will change for the better.
“”We still have a long way to go, but we have made a start,” Zuma said. - Sapa