Addis Ababa - South Africa remains committed to accelerating socio-economic development to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication, President Kgalema Motlanthe told African leaders on Saturday.
Presenting South Africa's National Programme of Action Report during the 10th Summit of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), President Motlanthe informed the summit that government had undertaken a 15 year review of performance.
The review found that the number of people living in poverty had been significantly reduced but inequality had increased.
The report, covering the period between November 2007 and December 2008, reflects on the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations of the ARPM Country Report.
During this period, South Africa focused on the implementation of 24 Apex Priority projects aimed at dealing with poverty, crime, national planning and land reform.
South Africa concluded the peer review process in July 2007, in Accra, Ghana and at the time the committee noted the good progress and the development of good governance practices to democratise the country and reverse the apartheid legacy of underdevelopment and inequality.
Regarding the challenges that were identified then government incorporated the review in Government's Programme of Action.
Tabling his report, the President said in August 2008, government launched the War on Poverty Campaign as one leg of a broader anti-poverty strategy.
"Government has successfully mainstreamed its anti-poverty initiatives into the planning and implementation of its programmes and the budgeting process. The aim of these initiatives is to more effectively reach the poor."
The Social Security Assistance Programme remains the most significant pillar of government's anti-poverty strategy.
Cash transfers in the form of Old Age Pensions, Disability, Child Support and Foster Care Grants and Grant in Aid, intended for care services for the aged, orphans and terminally ill, have made a positive impact on the lives of poor South Africans.
On the country's health system, President Motlanthe said the fight against HIV and AIDS remained a key priority as evidenced by the elaborate and pragmatic plan to combat HIV and AIDS. "The funds spent by the public sector to combat HIV and AIDS and mitigate its impact have increased from R5.317 billion in 2006 to R5.768 billion in 2007."
He announced that government's expenditure on education had grown from R30 billion in 1994/95 to over R101 billion in the 2007/2008 financial year. "Access to education has improved in all sectors, with most growth seen in the school sector itself.
"South Africa has attained the goal of universal primary education, and an increasing number of children (around 60 percent) remain in school for the full 12 years. Access has also been strengthened by the declaration of no-fee schools in poorer communities where parents cannot afford school fees," said the President,
He added that during 2008, 40 percent of both primary and secondary schools were declared no-fee schools."
During the current reporting period, approximately 5.2 million hectares of land has been redistributed to land reform beneficiaries under the different land redistribution programmes. This includes 857 645 hectares of state land.
Calling land distribution central to the country's anti-poverty strategy, President Motlanthe recognized that more needed to be done and as a result the Provision of Land and Assistance Amendment Act, 2008 (Act No. 58 of 2008) was enacted.
"This will ensure sustainable use of land where government will be able to buy land and movable property such as agricultural equipment, tractors and shares in related business."
Regarding the economy, the president was "confident that our policies and interventions will demonstrate the required flexibility to address this prolonged economic downturn and reduce the negative impact on our economy. "
South Africa boosts of sound macro-economic policies that have ensured that over the past 15 years, the economy has grown at an unprecedented rate.
Owing to these appropriate macro-economic policies and a strong banking and financial sector, South Africa has been cushioned from the global financial shock resulting in what has been called the deepest crisis since the Great Depression of 1929.
Mr Motlanthe said the APRM, a self-monitoring mechanism for member states of the AU to voluntarily undergo review across various sectors, epitomised a truly African solution to the challenges of governance and development.
The APRM encourages participating member states to align their policies and practices and ensure these conform to agreed political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards. The process also seeks to ensure that mutually agreed socio-economic development objectives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) are achieved.
The mechanism also ensures accountability of leaders and the deepening of trust and cooperation among governments and countries.
The current summit focuses on the general review of review programmes already engaged in countries reviewed by peers with an eye to sharing information and best practices likely to be duplicated on a wider scale in African countries.