Citizens need to play a role

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

By Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe

Next week, the President of the Republic of South Africa Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma will deliver the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) to the joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament. The address is an annual tradition where the Head of State reports on the status of the country and unveils government’s programme to move the country forward. It sets the tone for the next year.

The nation looks forward with keen interest to what their government has planned to continue to improve their lives. The nation further looks forward to being part of moving South Africa forward and actively participate in these programmes.

The President will deliver his speech on 12 February at 7pm and public can follow the live broadcast on television and radio. It is important we all familiarise ourselves with the content of his address, so we are able to play our part.

The annual tradition as we know it today started in 1994, when we ushered in our new democratic dispensation. This year also marks 21 years since the first joint sitting of Parliament in the new democratic South Africa. Addressing Parliament at the time, former President Nelson Mandela reminded Members of Parliament their duty was to ensure government by the people under the Constitution.

“The memory of a history of division and hate, injustice and suffering, inhumanity of person against person should inspire us to celebrate our own demonstration of the capacity of human beings to progress, to go forward, to improve, to do better,” Madiba said.

Those words are just a reminder that Parliament is sacred and is more than just a legislative function. It has the responsibility to unite the nation and heal the wounds of the past.

Looking back, it is without doubt our Parliament has succeeded in changing the country for the better. In 1996 it adopted the Constitution, repealed destructive apartheid laws, put in place legislation and introduced systems to safeguard our democracy. These transformative changes have led to the improvement of the lives of millions of our people.

Parliament now relies on us to build on this legacy.  Government has committed itself to addressing the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

As citizens we need to play our part and help government overcome the remaining challenges.  We have to come up with proposals to deal with many of the challenges facing our country and also hold government to account. This is what our Constitution requires of us.

We can only create a government that is more accountable by being involved in the affairs of our government and the country. We should show a keen interest in how government is run and engage in robust debate with decision-makers on issues that affect our communities.

 Above all, we should engage with our elected representatives to ensure that matters that affect our daily lives are placed on agenda for discussion in Parliament.

As we approach this milestone event, let us set time aside to listen and watch the President as he addresses the nation. Listening to and watching the President is something that was denied to many in the past; let us not take it for granted but give him our undivided attention.

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