Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete,
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Ms Thandi Modise,
Deputy President David Mabuza in absentia,
Allow me to begin by wishing my wife, who is in the gallery, and all the women members of our Parliament here present here a happy Valentine’s Day.
Seeing that my reply to the State of the Nation Address is happening on Valentine’s Day I decided to bring some roses to Parliament to hand over a rose to my wife and every woman member of Parliament and the hard-working women who provide service to us here in Parliament and say a hearty happy Valentine’s Day.
To the women of South Africa, may your Valentine’s Day be crowned with love and happiness.
May it be filled with the care, respect and mutual recognition.
Let me to begin by extending my sincere gratitude to all the Honourable Members who participated in the debate over the last two days for engaging with the State of the Nation Address.
In many ways, this debate was a demonstration that, although we differ on many issues and often differ loudly, we share a common desire for a better South Africa.
Unfortunately, for many, it was also a lost opportunity.
This debate provides parties with a platform to engage meaningfully and sincerely with the State of the Nation Address, to outline their vision and explain how their policies can improve the lives of South Africans.
Instead of engaging seriously with the matters of national importance raised in SONA, several speakers used this as a platform for personal attacks, for vitriol, for pontification.
* At this point the president digressed to deal with the allegations levelled against him by Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota and EFF leader Julius Malema.
READ THAT STORY HERE: #RamaphosaResponds: How Cyril quashed sellout claims from Lekota, Malema
We sit here as the representatives of the people of this country, duly elected to advance their interests and to give expression to their will.
We have a responsibility in the months that remain in the term of this Parliament and this administration to do everything within our means to fulfil this mandate.
While many Honourable Members correctly described the many achievements of the past 25 years of democracy – and quantified many of the achievements of this administration – they also drew attention to the great difficulties we still confront as a country.
On both sides of the House, Members spoke about the conditions of poverty and hardship that many of our people still live under.
For although we have raised millions of people out of absolute poverty, built over 3 million houses, provided water and electricity, there are still more than 2 million families living in informal settlements, and nearly a third of children younger than 5 years who are stunted due to severe and long-term malnutrition.
We have created more than seven million additional jobs since the advent of democracy.
We however concede that this has not kept pace with the number of people entering the job market.
What this debate has made plain is that while we have made remarkable progress, we need to do much more.
But more than that, this debate has made it abundantly clear that we cannot continue at this rate.
That is why we are working hard across a number of fronts to change the pace and trajectory of our development so that we can build on the many achievements of the last quarter century.
That is why we are working every day to accelerate economic growth and make meaningful progress in finding work for the 9.7 million South Africans who are unemployed.
We applaud the great initiatives that several provinces and many municipalities are undertaking to stimulate economic growth and create jobs.
This includes the work being done by KwaZulu-Natal to support small and medium enterprises for young people, and the work being done in Gauteng through programmes like Tshepo 1 Million in providing pathways for youth into the economy.
What is clear from many of the statements in this House, from the comments by business leaders, unions and community organisations, from the views expressed by ordinary South Africans, is that there is a shared determination to move the country forward.
There is a shared determination to ensure that we do whatever is necessary to keep moving forward.
There is a shared determination to confront every challenge, no matter how intractable; to take bold decisions, no matter how difficult.
This year, we will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Grahamstown, where Xhosa forces under the leadership of Makhanda took on the might of the British invasion force.
We also commemorate the Battle of Isandlwana, which took place 140 years ago, where the soldiers of King Cetshwayo inflicted a crushing defeat on the British army.
These were acts of courage, acts of resistence, that will forever be remembered in the history of the struggle of our people.
These battles must serve as an inspiration as, once again, we must confront enormous challenges – this time as a united nation.
The challenges we face are many, are complex and are substantial, and we will require collective and concerted effort to overcome them.
If ever there was a time when South Africans need to work together, it is now.
The programme we outlined in the State of the Nation Address has at its core the needs and interests of the poor.
It is about creating work and business opportunities in the townships and rural areas where the poorest live.
We spoke last week about the industrial parks in townships and rural areas that are being revitalised as part of the effort to turn these into areas of economic activity.
This programme is about the reliable supply of clean water and sanitation to villages.
It is about the 2.6 million households that benefit from the indigent support system for water, it is about the one million additional households that have been provided with water in the last five years, and it is about the millions of South Africans who will benefit from the investment we are making in bulk water infrastructure, reticulation and boreholes.
The programmes we outlined in SONA is about teaching young children from the most deprived areas of our country to read at a level comparable not only to their compatriots, but also to their peers across the world.
We applaud the work being done by the Department of Basic Education to prioritise access to quality education.
We applaud the principals and teachers across the country who daily make it their responsibility to create a better future for our children.
We disagree fundamentally with those who say that teachers are the problem.
Teachers are the solution, and we must do everything within our means to value them, equip them and empower them.
Our programme is about protecting communities from gangsters.
It is about the work being done by the police, together with other departments and agencies, to establish anti-gang units that tackle such crime with all the means available to the state.
Our programme is about providing the social support that the most vulnerable in our society need to survive.
It is the successive governments of the African National Congress that have increased the number of social grants to around 17.5 million today.
We welcome the work done by the Department of Social Development in revamping the social grant payment system and the role that the Post Office, a state-owned entity, is playing in ensure effective delivery.
From special economic zones to the black industrialists programme, from investor roadshows to the ‘Buy SA’ campaign, all our efforts are measured by the impact they have on those in society who have least.
Our programmes must be measured, first and foremost, by the impact they have on our children.
Though they constitute a third of our population, though they hold within their hands the future of our nation, the voice of our children is seldom heard.
They cannot vote, they do not set policy, and are therefore too easily ignored.
Yet their interests must be placed at the forefront of our policies.
As the Hon Dlamini-Zuma noted, we are putting children first.
This means that we are focusing in a far more coordinated way on the first 1,000 days in a child’s life.
This is the time when the investment we make in adequate health care, positive socialisation, good nutrition, quality child care, a clean and safe environment, and structured early learning will have a profound impact on their chances in life.
We welcome the statement by the Honourable Godi that the APC stands ready to contribute to the implementation of our early childhood development.
Our programmes to improve maternal and child health, to make access to early childhood development universal, to provide grants and nutritional support to the very poor, are as important to the economic future of our country as anything we do in the area of investment, trade and skills development.
We are just as interested in the progress we are making in reducing infant mortality and malnutrition among under-fives as we are with the rate of GDP growth or levels of fixed investment.
These are the indicators that matter.
We must do more – and are doing more – to keep our children safe, to protect them from abuse and violence.
This means strengthening our approach to community policing to make the places where children live safer, and intensifying the work already underway to make our police, prosecutors and courts more responsive to the needs of children.
The needs of South Africa’s children – now and into the future – informs our efforts to build an education system capable of bringing out the best in our learners.
We must continue to prioritise our early reading comprehension programmes, not only in schools, but across society.
We will soon be launching a project that draws on the vast network of reading initiatives and resources we have in this country to turn South Africa into a reading nation.
As we noted in the State of the Nation Address, we have a responsibility, as a nation, to ensure that all South Africans are able equally and without exception to enjoy their inalienable rights to life, dignity and liberty.
We know and concede that with respect to the rights of people with disability, we have not achieved nearly enough.
We have made massive strides from the welfare approach before 1994 to an approach that seeks to enable all people with disability to access opportunities and achieve their potential.
We have put in place policies that give effect to the provisions of our Constitution and that are aligned to UN conventions and continental plans of action.
But as the Honourable Bhengu-Kombe reminded us in clear and certain terms we are still falling behind in implementation.
It is for this reason that we are insisting that the next Medium Term Strategic Framework, for 2020-2025, should mainstream disability across all government departments and programmes.
This should be accompanied by an integrated information system that is able to track performance against targets.
Every state organ should be reporting substantively on the inclusion of people with disability within their respective mandates.
We are working with renewed energy and commitment to ensure that people with disabilities are a part of a cohesive society.
We are working to ensure that they have equitable access to education, health services, employment, social security and all the opportunities that come with living in a democracy.
Next week, I will be chairing the Presidential Working Group on Persons with Disability to engage on these and other issues.
This is a valuable opportunity for dialogue between government and a section of society that for too long has not been able to fully realise the promise of our Constitution.
If we are a country that prioritises the interests of the poor and the vulnerable, then we need to act with greater urgency to respond to the effects of climate change and make our contribution to preventing it.
The rural poor are most affected by the droughts that have become more frequent and which last longer.
The urban poor are most affected by the impact this has on food prices and the availability of water.
It is people who live in informal settlements who are most affected by the flooding that accompanies the increasingly extreme weather conditions.
We are all affected in different ways by the environmental changes taking place on land, in our oceans and in the air.
Unless we tackle climate change, we will not be able to meet our developmental objectives.
We have ratified the Paris Agreement to Combat Climate Change as part of the global effort to dramatically reduce the rate of global warming.
As part of our efforts to build a sustainable low carbon economy, we are taking steps to finalise the national Climate Change Bill, which will provide a regulatory framework for the management of climate change and its impacts.
We are making a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise green house gases through our Nationally Determined Contribution to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
South Africa is due to be the next coordinator of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, which is vital in ensuring that Africa remains united and speaks with one voice on the key climate change issues facing the Continent.
The progress we have made in responding to the various environmental challenges that confront our people is in no small measure thanks to the leadership and dedication of the late Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa.
She worked to ensure that the conservation of the environment became a catalyst to advance the objectives of the National Development Plan.
Taking our lead from her vision, we continue to encourage investment in cleaner energy through the renewable energy independent power producers programme.
Through the competitive bidding process, South Africa has benefited from rapid, global technology developments and price trends, buying clean energy at lower and lower rates with every bid cycle.
As a result, South Africa is now getting renewable energy at some of the lowest tariffs in the world.
Under the renewable energy, a total number of 112 projects have been procured and it is envisaged that these projects will create 114,266 job years over the construction and 20 year operations period.
A job year is equivalent to a full time employment opportunity for one person for one year.
We will work with all stakeholders to ensure that our gradual transition towards new forms of electricity generation creates jobs, develops new capabilities and does not negatively affect the livelihoods of communities.
On the 8th of March, we will be launching a landmark campaign to mobilise all South Africans to become environmentally conscious.
The Good Green Deeds programme is aimed at changing behaviour towards littering, towards illegal dumping, and towards waste in general.
It is part of our call and our commitment to clean South Africa, to make our cities, towns and rural areas places where it is safe and healthy for all to live.
Because of environmentally insensitive human action, the forces of nature conspired to set in motion the dramatic process of climate change.
It is by conscious human action that its effects can and will be mitigated and ultimately reversed.
Public employment programmes have contributed to enabling us to address the challenges of unemployment that many of our people face. Much as they do not provide permanent work they have provided meaningful work opportunities through the Expanded Public Works Programme.
The EPWP provides income relief and skills training to young unemployed South Africans.
Across a range of sectors, they are carrying out socially useful activities such as road maintenance, construction, land and water use management, waste management and community crime prevention.
It is with a great sense of pride that we were recently able to witness the teams of the EPWP funded Working on Fire programme battling the fires across the Cape mountain range.
These young men and women were exemplary in both their professionalism and the manner in which they were a reassuring presence to the afflicted communities.
The success of Working on Fire shows just what a positive impact the EPWP has had not just on job creation for our youth but on playing a vital role in this country’s development.
Since the start of the fifth administration the EPWP has led to the creation of 3.2 million work opportunities at a total of 225 sites across all nine provinces.
The EPWP places an emphasis on skills training to enable participants to find full time work once they exit the programme.
In the past financial year alone, 170 participants were trained as artisans and have qualified as auto electricians, boilermakers, diesel mechanics, fitters and turners, and motor mechanics.
Phase 3 of the EPWP will be completed in March this year and Phase 4 will commence in April.
Phase 4 will target the creation of 5 million work opportunities.
A collective and concerted effort by all South Africans to address our challenges means that no person, group or stakeholder can be left out.
There is a need to intensify consultation and engagement across society.
The views of all stakeholders must be heard and they must count.
Some have been dismissive of the summits we have convened over the last 12 months, but these summits have, without exception, provided platforms for the various social partners to identify problems and develop solutions.
They have, without exception, charted a way forward and established a firm foundation for collective action.
Summits by themselves are not enough.
Following these summits, we have embarked on action – action that is being monitored and measured and reported.
I will soon be convening Presidential working groups on labour, business, youth and the social sector respectively.
These provide an opportunity for structured engagement with these key sectors of society to address issues that are of concern to them and to broader society.
The unprecedented failure of Eskom’s generating capacity over the last few days underlines the severity of the challenges the company faces and the urgency of measures to address them.
For those who have doubted the extent of these challenges, this week’s load-shedding has provided a hugely damaging reality check.
There is a no single solution to the problems at Eskom – neither restructuring, nor refinancing, nor cost cutting, nor tariff increases, nor better plant maintenance on their own will have the necessary effect.
We need to pursue all of these measures and more, simultaneously, in a coordinated manner, and with purpose, to turn the utility around.
The decision we announced in SONA to establish three separate state-owned entities – for generation, transmission and distribution respectively – has received the most attention, but it is by no means the only or most significant measure that must be undertaken.
In his budget speech next week, the Minister of Finance will detail the measures that government will undertake to assist Eskom to stabilise its finances.
It represents a significant commitment at a time when public finances are severely constrained.
It must therefore be accompanied by – and must be dependent on – a credible, far-reaching turnaround plan that has both an immediate and a lasting impact.
The leadership of the utility has already taken steps to cut costs and improve efficiency.
But much more needs to be done and it needs to be done more quickly.
One of the tasks that are essential to ensuring secure electricity supply is a dedicated and detailed focus on maintenance.
Maintenance doesn’t grab headlines, nor does it strike most people as even vaguely interesting, but an effective comprehensive maintenance programme, properly funded and led by skilled personnel, is the one thing that stands between reliable electricity supply and darkness.
We welcome the measures being undertaken to urgently strengthen this capability.
The fundamental principle that must underpin our response to the Eskom crisis is that it must be inclusive and consultative.
We accept, as government, that we have not done enough to bring some of the key stakeholders, such as labour, on board and are determined to correct this.
As social partners, as stakeholders, as a country, we have a common interest in finding sustainable solutions to the crisis at Eskom.
We therefore have a collective responsibility, which extends beyond our immediate interests, to work together to fix Eskom.
None of us can abdicate our responsibility, nor can anyone be left out of the process.
Where we disagree, let’s engage.
Let us put the facts on the table, let us examine the evidence and let us find workable solutions.
Let us not give up on finding a solution and let us not give up on each other.
Let us reject the false narrative that the only way out is through bitter confrontation and conflict.
Our challenges will be not be resolved in the streets, but we will gather around the table to find workable solutions.
As government, we understand the fears of workers about job losses at Eskom and in associated industries.
We understand the concerns of lenders, investors and business owners.
We will address them, directly and honestly.
The next weeks and months will be difficult as we effect the changes that need to be made.
It is our responsibility to ensure that throughout this process, we take the greatest care to minimise the negative impact on the most vulnerable in our society – the township and rural resident, the worker, the emerging farmer, the small business owner.
In tackling this urgent and serious matter, let us be cautious of reckless claims and political posturing.
There are sound, valid and compelling reasons to separate Eskom into different entities.
It is not a path to privatisation, as the Hon Malema will have us believe.
Restructuring will reduce the risk of a massive Eskom, that at times has in its current form, been termed too big to fail, placing Government in a position where all its eggs are in one basket.
It will align Eskom with international electricity trends, where the vertically integrated electricity utilities have been broken up to enable better regulatory oversight through a single buyer model, increase competition in the generation and distribution space driving down the cost of electricity for the economies.
A good example of this transformation is the People Republic of China.
A unitary Eskom has proven to be difficult to lead.
It has gone through a number of board and executive leadership iterations without trending towards a sustainable operational path.
Ultimately the restructuring of Eskom is intended to ensure security of electricity of supply for the country, which is critical to building up the positive investor sentiment and confidence essential for the investment required to the sorely needed jobs.
Eskom in its current form has a number of challenges that need to be addressed as part of the whole of Government effort:
The unbundling of the business is starting to address the structural challenges.
Financially, the reference to cost cutting should be understood not to mean retrenchments.
The preferred strategy in reducing human resources costs will be to offer voluntary packages to staff.
We further need to look at the benefits and perks) received by Eskom staff including those offered through Eskom Finance Company (EFC) and we need to jointly ask ourselves whether it makes sense for Eskom to have this business unit and be offering to its staff below market rates finance packages, whose losses are ultimately underwritten by the State.
Eskom’s cost structure has anomalies that require urgent attention if the business is to be put on a sustainable path.
The cost of procurement of different categories of commodities – the premiums commanded by suppliers – such as primary energy resources, replacement components for the generation units – has raised concerns with teams assembled to assist.
Operationally, Eskom’s plant age is on average above 37 years old and Eskom has seen some of the engineers that had been trained to maintain these legacy systems exit the business due to, in some instances underhanded leadership intervention to appoint pliable individuals.
Some of these experienced technical professionals have been traced to other parts of the world and responding to the Thuma Mina call have indicated their willingness to come back home.
In the immediate term, we need to intervene aggressively to put the load shedding behind us.
The teams assembled by the Presidency, Minister of Public Enterprises, and the Eskom Board need to prioritise the building up of adequate electricity generation safety margin to ensure the national grid is restored to state of robustness able of withstand the demands that will be placed on it by new industrial capacity enticed through the 2018 Investment Conference.
We all need to agree on the roadmap with concrete actions in the short, immediate and long term to achieve an end state of an electricity secure country.
While restructuring Eskom won’t solve the immediate electricity supply crisis, it will position the company to more effectively meet the country’s energy needs into the future.
It will improve the benchmarking of performance, increase transparency, decentralise management and allow better oversight of Eskom’s different functions.
It will simplify the management of what has become a complex and unwieldy organisation.
It will enable funders to better assess risk and opportunity, and open space for new investment in the generation capacity we urgently need.
Separating Eskom’s divisions into separate units will allow each entity to source funding on its own merits.
This is important because it allows the transmission and distribution operations to deal with their future roles in the power sector independently and, most importantly, identify and deal with their own urgent needs.
Ultimately the restructuring of Eskom is intended to ensure security of electricity of supply for the country, which is critical for investment, growth and jobs.
I have constituted a Special Cabinet Committee on Eskom which will be led by the Deputy President consisting Minister of Public Enterprises, Energy, Finance, Transport, Intelligence and Police to be seized with the matter of Eskom on a daily basis and provide me with reports daily on what actions need to be taken to secure energy supply.
Fellow South Africans,
We are at a moment in our history where we need to make difficult choices.
Public finances are constrained, our capacity to borrow is extremely limited.
It is therefore necessary for us to prioritise, to make trade-offs.
We need at this time to direct our resources to those programmes that have the greatest impact on poverty alleviation, job creation and economic growth.
We need, as several Honourable Members have said, to trim the fat, to reduce expenditure that is not essential to realise our priorities, to cut down on wastage and uncontrolled spending.
Simply put, we need to be efficient in our use of financial resources.
We are committed to getting value for our money through better systems, improved productivity and consequences for non-performance.
The Public Audit Amendment Act significantly empowers the Auditor-General to act more directly against those who squander and misappropriate public funds.
We will have already started work to ensure that the outcomes of investigations by the Special Investigating Unit are more rigorously and speedily acted upon.
Progress requires social solidarity.
Those who have benefited from the injustices of the past have a crucial role to play in ensuring they are redressed.
Those who have had the opportunity to accumulate assets, gain skills, and acquire or inherit networks have both a responsibility and a vested interest in using these capabilities to improve the lives of the poor.
Companies that hold cash reserves have a powerful incentive – and an increasingly beneficial environment – to invest in productive activity that creates jobs and thereby expands local demand and promotes social stability.
We have a system of taxation that is premised on the principle of social solidarity – those who earn more should contribute proportionately more to the public purse.
As is evident over the last year, we are committed to strengthen this critical instrument for redistribution and are taking firm measures to reduce the potential for abuse – either through corruption or tax evasion.
The National Health Insurance is an important area where social solidarity can be most effective.
Because of the dual nature of health care provision in South Africa, with huge disparities between private and public expenditure, and huge differences in health access, there is a strong social and economic argument for a more equitable distribution of health spending.
It is for this reason that we have consulted widely with all relevant stakeholders, and we are now on track to finalise the National Health Insurance Bill for submission to parliament.
It is premised on the morally compelling belief that access or lack thereof to quality healthcare service must not be determined by one’s socio-economic status.
Once fully implemented, the NHI will bring to life the spirit of human solidarity where – through the principle of cross-subsidisation – the young subsidise the old, the healthy subsidise the sick, and the rich subsidise the poor.
Given the urgency with which we must attend to the challenges in our healthcare system, we convened the first Presidential Health Summit in October last year and brought together key stakeholders from a wide range of constituencies in the sector.
We emerged from the Summit with very sound immediate, short term and medium term solutions to improve the effectiveness of the health system.
We had the opportunity – two days ago – to launch the report of the Summit which contains and elaborates on these solutions.
The report also provides more information on the practical steps we are taking to deal with – among other things – the health workforce, supply chain management, medical products, equipment and machinery, infrastructure planning as well as leadership and governance.
Solidarity needs to extend beyond our borders.
Those who have been freed from the chains of oppression, those who live in conditions of liberty and democracy, have a responsibility to those who still struggle against occupation, discrimination and repression.
Our support for the struggle of the Palestinian people is not merely a product of history – it is a refusal to accept that a people should be continually denied the right of self-determination in violation of international law.
Next month, we will be hosting a SADC solidarity conference in support of the struggle of the Saharawi people against the colonial occupation of their territory.
We do so because we believe in the inalienable rights of all people to freedom and dignity, and because we are convinced that unless all people are freed from the chains of oppression, the world will never know peace, stability or inclusive prosperity.
This is the last debate on the State of the Nation Address in the term of the 5th democratic Parliament.
In just under three months from now, South Africans will exercise the cherished right to vote that they won 25 years ago.
We should expect that parties will campaign vigorously and loudly.
As in any healthy democracy, we should expect a fierce contestation between parties, between different perspectives and divergent presentations of reality.
However, no matter how robust the campaigning, we need to avoid utterances or actions that divide South Africans.
As political parties and as leaders, we must desist from statements that demean or insult or offend other races, other languages, other religions or other groups.
We agree with the Hon Buthelezi when he says that: “Never before have we seen such a deluge of racial slurs and divisive talk from leaders in our nation.”
We share a responsibility to unite the country.
No matter how much and how enthusiastically we disagree ahead of the election, we equally share a responsibility to accept the popular mandate of the South African people.
We equally share a responsibility to work together to build a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it.
In these difficult and trying times, we share a responsibility to work together for the people of this country.
For ordinary families, who struggle to make ends meet and to come up with ways to stretch their rands just that little bit further for homes, for school fees, and to put food on the table.
For the men and women who perform the services that keep this country going – our teachers, our policemen, our nurses and doctors – who get up every morning and go to work to serve their communities.
For the young men and women of this country who have not yet found employment, but who still go out, CVs in hand, knocking on doors, making calls and sending emails.
For the students, who have to take on extra jobs to finance their studies, and return home late and exhausted, but remain committed to finishing their education.
It is upon these people that the future of this country depends.
To them, the people of South Africa, we say: it is your hopes and your expectations that we carry with us.
We have felt your frustration, and we have heeded your calls for real change.
We are determined to rectify the mistakes of the past, improve the conditions of the present, and work with you, side by side, to make this, our South Africa, a land of prosperity for all.
A land in which the noble values of our Constitution and our Bill of Rights are the canvas upon which we chart a new and glorious future – not just for ourselves, but for those yet to come.
We will not fail you.
We gather here as the representatives of the people of this country, duly elected to advance their interests and to give expression to their will.
As we conclude this debate, we should reflect on our individual and collective contributions to building a new, better society.
As we conclude this debate, we would do well to reflect on the words of the Nigerian author, Ben Okri, in his poem on a New Dream for Politics.
They say there is only one way for politics.
That it looks with hard eyes at the hard world
And shapes it with a ruler’s edge,
Measuring what is possible against
Acclaim, support, and votes.
They say there is only one way to dream
For the people, to give them not what they need
But food for their fears.
We measure the deeds of politicians
By their time in power.
But in ancient times they had another way.
They measured greatness by the gold
Of contentment, by the enduring arts,
The laughter at the hearths,
The length of silence when the bards
Told of what was done by those who
Had the courage to make their lands
Happy, away from war, spreading justice
And fostering health,
The most precious of the arts
But we live in times that have lost
This tough art of dreaming
The best for its people,
Or so we are told by cynics
And doomsayers who see the end
Of time in blood-red moons.
Always when least expected an unexpected
Figure rises when dreams here have
Become like ashes. But when the light
Is woken in our hearts after the long
Sleep, they wonder if it is a fable.
Can we still seek the lost angels
Of our better natures?
Can we still wish and will
For poverty’s death and a newer way
To undo war, and find peace in the labyrinth
Of the Middle East, and prosperity
In Africa as the true way
To end the feared tide of immigration?
We dream of a new politics
That will renew the world
Under their weary suspicious gaze.
There’s always a new way,
A better way that’s not been tried before.
I thank you.