Address by President Jacob Zuma to the National Press Club

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mr Yusuf Abramjee,
Members of the National Press Club,

Thank you for inviting us to interact with you.

We would like to give you just a few highlights of the work we have been doing over the past two and half months, and some of the issues we are busy with.

We are generally pleased with the situation in the country. We have put the political tensions of the recent past behind us. Our democracy is as vibrant as ever. The political climate remains stable. All political parties are working well together in and outside Parliament. 

Our democratic institutions are strong and intact and perform their duties well. Our Parliament has decided to be activist in its operations. As the Executive, we welcome that as it will keep us on our toes. 

We are in agreement as citizens that the courts are the highest arbiters in our land. As government, we will always defend the independence of the judiciary vigorously. 

We have reaffirmed our belief in the independence of the media and respect the right of journalists to work unhindered. We endeavour on our side to be as accessible as we can be to the media and we will continue to do so. 

Basically, the centre is holding. We are all united in working to build a united, stable, prosperous and non-sexist society where all feel included, black and white.

We are also united in celebrating that which makes us feel proud to be South Africans, be it our national symbols, our sports teams or most importantly, our icon President Nelson Mandela, who continues to receive our undivided love and respect.

We must be united in respecting the elders of our nation, such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, whom I met yesterday at the Union Buildings. He offered wise counsel on some critical matters in the country.

We decided that it was important for us to work together for the good of the country.

We are also united as South Africans in responding to the challenges we face, for example the impact of the global economic crisis. 

As you are aware, Government, labour, community and business, making up the Framework Group on the crisis, are working together well to alleviate the impact. 

Among other things, we have dedicated R2.4 billion to be placed in a National Jobs Fund to finance a training layoff scheme as one alternative to retrenchment for workers and companies affected by the recession. This will be launched in September.

We must be united in working to improve service delivery and to improve the living conditions of the poorest of the poor.

The concerns raised by communities that are protesting revolve around: 
 Tensions between the political and administrative sections of municipalities. 
 Ward committees that are not fully functional, resulting in poor communication with communities.
 Financial mismanagement and allegations of fraud and corruption.
 Poor planning, maintenance and management of infrastructure, resulting in poor service delivery. 

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has sent task teams to all provinces to attend to these matters. The protests indicate to us that we were correct to create the planning and performance monitoring and evaluation capacity in the Presidency. This has been clearly lacking.

I visited Balfour Township in Siyathemba in Mpumalanga on Tuesday. I then gained a real understanding of the anger and frustration, having seen that they have no school, no clinic and lack many other services, including identity documents.

I have directed the relevant Ministers to prioritise the affected areas. Let me reiterate that we will always be a government of the people, by the people and for the people. I will always make time to visit communities as I did during the election campaign. I have no intentions of relying solely on reports from departments.

I will be meeting with Premiers and Mayors next week and these are some of the issues that we will discuss.

We made a pledge during the State of the Nation address to be an interactive, responsive and effective government. The finalisation of the framework to improve service delivery in frontline offices will be tabled before Cabinet for final endorsement by December 2009. Government Departments offering frontline services include Home Affairs, Education, Health, Social Development, SA Police Service and many others. The framework will be people-centred and will include measures such as the wearing of name-tags, effective signage and queue management systems. 

During the election campaign and in the State of the Nation address, I made an undertaking that we would establish a Presidential Hotline and a public liaison service in the Presidency to enable members of the public to raise their concerns directly. 

The State Information Technology Agency will have the call centre up and running by the 1st of September. Posts for public liaison and call centre staff were advertised in the media last week. 

The GCIS, working with the Presidency, has established a national Public Liaison Forum as directed in the State of the Nation Address. 

The forum comprises staff from all 34 national government departments and the nine offices of Premiers, and will ensure that all public enquiries are attended to expeditiously. 

In the State of the Nation address we made an undertaking to give serious attention to combating crime. We have prioritised the filling in of vacant posts within the criminal justice system. We recently announced the appointment of a new National Police Commissioner. 

We recognise the important role that crime intelligence plays in policing. Commissioner Richard Mdluli has been appointed as the new SAPS Head of Crime Intelligence. He will be supported by an increase in personnel and greater operational capacity.

The position of National Director of Public Prosecutions is a critical component of the weaponry we use in the fight against crime. Appointing the National Director of Public Prosecutions will go a long way in bringing stability in the fight against crime and the work of the criminal justice cluster. We have prioritised the filling of this position.

The Constitutional Court has become one of the most popular courts in our country. South Africans use it to test the Constitution and protect their rights. 

I have decided to nominate Justice Sandile Ngcobo as the next Chief Justice since Chief Justice Pius Langa is due to retire. I have requested advice from the Judicial Services Commission and leaders of political parties represented in the National Assembly in this regard. 

Chief Justice Langa has served this nation exceptionally well, with dignity and distinction. Meanwhile, Justice Ngcobo's credentials speak for themselves. 

A graduate of the universities of Zululand, Natal, Georgetown Law Centre and Harvard, he will bring a wealth of experience to the task of heading the highest court in the land.

In his distinguished legal career, he has served as a Judge in the Industrial Court, the Western Cape High Court, Labour Appeal Court and the Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He has also served as Acting Judge President of the Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court. 

He has also taught law at the University of Natal, Durban on a part-time basis, and has held visiting professorships at Columbia University Law School and Harvard Law School in the United States.

The Judicial Service Commission recently held interviews and made recommendations for the appointment of new judges to the Supreme Court of Appeal, and some of the High Courts in our country. 

I will be announcing these judges soon. We believe that a well-resourced judiciary will greatly enhance our fight against crime.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have done well since the elections, working together as South Africans. 

We thank all for the support and for making this administration settle in. 

We will continue to strengthen the administration and to ensure that our systems are geared for faster service delivery.

I thank you.

For more information please contact Mr Vincent Magwenya on 072 715 0024