Thank you for granting us the opportunity to present the Presidency Budget Vote today. Our primary goal as government is to make South Africa a better place to live in for all, and in particular to improve the quality of life of the poor and the working class. Work continues in our quest to build a South Africa without poverty, inequality, unemployment or crime. We want a South Africa without despair, where each person young and old, has the hope of a better future.
Achieving a better life for our people includes ensuring the achievement of the country's vision with regard to safety and security. This vision states that people living in South Africa should feel safe at home, at school, at work and in the streets, and that they should live without fear. This freedom is currently being curtailed by the ongoing brutal attacks and killings of women and children in some parts of the country.
Some of the women are killed by people they trusted, their intimate partners. Violence against women has been declared a priority crime by the government. Nobody has the right to attack women. We urge women to report the perpetrators to the police. We also appeal to families to provide support to the survivors. Our country also faces other serious crimes against women and girls, namely human trafficking and forced prostitution. It is despicable that there are people who turn other human beings into commodities to make money.
This is a gross violation of human rights and is tantamount to modern day slavery. We appeal to the public to inform the police if they notice suspicious activity at any house or building. Government has enacted Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act which is aimed at affecting international agreements which include the Palermo Trafficking in Persons Protocol.
As we mark Child Protection Week, we also urge families to support their children when they report abuse by anyone, including family members. They should also be taught to identify abuse and inappropriate conduct by adults towards them. I visited Elsie's River here in Cape Town for the second time yesterday.
I had first visited the area two weeks ago to meet the family of three-year-old Courtney Pieters who was brutally killed earlier this month. The community reminded us that the solution to crime will not only come from policing. They asked for social workers to support families and basic services such as housing.
Indeed, strengthening households and families, reviving the social fabric of society and improving the living condition, are key to the prevention of crime. We need to unite as communities and all sectors, from business, traditional leaders, faith-based communities and others, to promote safer communities. United we shall defeat this scourge.
Honourable Speaker, a better life for our people means participation in economic activities that will give them dignity and freedom from want. People need jobs or entrepreneurial opportunities. The partnership between government and business remains key in the drive to re-ignite growth in this difficult climate. I would thus like to reiterate our commitment to the work done together with business on improving investor confidence in the country.
Our economy must remain competitive, not to merely prevent rating downgrades but for the good of the country. We also wish to reiterate that we remain committed to the expenditure ceiling in the 2017 budget and to stabilise debt levels. We also continue efforts of making our country attractive for investments. Government launched the InvestSA One-Stop Shop initiative early this year, bringing critical services needed to establish a business under one roof, such as visas, water or electricity licenses, tax requirements and so forth.
Honourable Speaker, there are some outstanding policy issues that we are also attending to. We have to finalise the broadband rollout, digital migration and spectrum allocation as a means to reignite economic growth. On energy security, the Ministers of Public Enterprises and Energy are working together to find an amicable solution to the Independent Power Producers impasse.
With regard to nuclear energy, we reiterate that the programme will be implemented at a pace and scale that the country can afford. We await Parliament to conclude processing the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill and bring it back to the President. I sent it back to Parliament due to some issues that I believed would not pass the Constitutional muster.
The Mining Charter will be gazetted in a few weeks' time. Through the Charter, Government seeks to radically transform the ownership of the South African mining assets by ensuring that black people meaningfully and effectively participate in the mining and minerals industries, while ensuring that the mining industry remains globally competitive.
The Mining Charter includes requirements on beneficiation and procurement. There is also a community development element to ensure that mine communities and major labour-sending communities optimally benefit from mining activities taking place in their areas. The Mining Charter proposals will also further empower mineworkers with requisite skills and enhanced job opportunities. Importantly, the government continues to provide support to state-owned companies, addressing governance and financial challenges. Support is being provided to the SAA, SABC and Eskom and other affected entities.
On social grants payments, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) will be submitting the quarterly reports to the Constitutional Court as per its judgment. SASSA has also begun engagements with other organs of state, including the South African Post Office towards phasing out the services of the current service provider. The plan is to phase in the services of the new service provider by November this year. This will give the Agency enough time to ensure a seamless transition when the current contract comes to end in March 2018.
The Department of Social Development has also released the much awaited Discussion Paper on Social Security Reform proposals for public consultations. The InterMinisterial Committee on Comprehensive Social Security chaired by the President will continue to guide the processes.
Honourable Speaker, other important issues that we are attending to relate to the public discourse about what has been termed state capture. Let me place it on record that there is no opposition from either the Government or the Presidency, to the calls for a commission of inquiry into the said 'state capture'. We fully support an inquiry as it will help to uncover the facts and remove rumours about the extent of capture.
What has caused a delay is the manner in which the former Public Protector directed that the inquiry should be done, which infringes on the powers of the President of the Republic. If this is left unattended, it would cause problems even for future Heads of State as it sets a wrong precedent.
Legal advice obtained pointed at the fact that the remedial action on the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry undermines the doctrine of the separation of powers. There are various other issues that we have placed before court in our application for a review. We trust that this matter will be resolved as soon as possible.
In the State of the Nation Address we gave prominence to the imperative of radical socio-economic transformation.
Our interventions are aimed at facilitating ownership and management of enterprises and productive assets by black people, workers, cooperatives and other collective enterprises. The sovereign downgrade of South Africa rating to junk makes the process of transforming the economy of South Africa difficult yet necessary.
As we seek to radically transform the economy, we need to be mindful of the structural challenges as the South African economy continues to be driven by consumption, global demand for mineral commodities and a very narrow productive base with few large companies that control the entire value chain.
Another dimension is the financialization and the de-industrialisation of the economy which calls for the deliberate intervention by government to support the productive sectors of our economy paying particular attention to the labour intensive sectors.
Honourable Speaker, supporting SMEs has been identified as an area with large potential for employment creation and economic growth. Government is driving a programme to revitalize township and rural enterprises. Our National Informal Business Upliftment Strategy is making headway as it provides support to deserving informal businesses so that they graduate into formal small businesses.
Already, the National Gazelles programme, a pilot by the Department of Small Business Development has proved the potential of small businesses. Forty small businesses selected for specialised attention in 2015 survived a negative economy and even grew their turnovers. If we have one million small businesses, and each employs one or two people, we would have created over one million jobs.
This is how important investment into small business development is. In January of this year, the National Treasury gazetted new regulations in pursuit of Preferential Procurement by means of which 30% of public procurement will be made available to small businesses and cooperatives. This will provide a market for the small business sector.
Key support to small businesses must also include ensuring that they are not strangled by government regulations or red tape. We also reiterate that Government departments in all three spheres must also pay SMMEs on time, as directed when they submit legitimate invoices. These are some of the interventions that will make transformation a reality for our people.
We are pleased that the private sector supports our drive to boost SMMEs. We announced the establishment of a one billion rand SME fund following the meeting with the CEO Initiative in October last year. We also encourage the private sector, which has a larger procurement muscle, to also embrace broad-based black economic empowerment by actively buying from black-owned companies and supporting SMMEs.
Later this year, a rural and township economy summit will be held to among other things come up with critical ways to grow the indigenous entrepreneurs and ensure economic vibrancy in these areas where the majority of our people live. With regards to levelling the playing field, the Black Economic Empowerment Advisory Council advises the Presidency and government on broad-based black economic empowerment interventions. Progress is being made in fighting fronting through the BBBEE Commission, as such practices reverse the gains of transformation.
The application and implementation of BEE codes in all sectors and transformation charters and plans for sectors will be finalised and gazetted. Honourable Speaker, South Africa continues to enjoy respect because of the turnaround we have achieved since 2009 on the HIV and AIDS programme. The HIV and TB epidemics had killed many of our people before the new policy was adopted in 2009. We have scored a number of achievements since then. The number of people testing for HIV has increased phenomenally.
In 2009 government had conducted less than two million tests. Last year, more than 14 million people took the tests enabling them to know their status so that they can obtain treatment. South Africa has the largest HIV treatment programme in the world with more than 3.8 million people in the public sector on treatment. The reduction of the number of babies born with HIV has also been dramatic.
By 2004, a total of seventy thousand newborn babies were born HIV positive per annum. Due to our very successful Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission Programme, the figure has dramatically dropped to below six thousand. This government has saved the lives of our people and has ensured a better life for those living with HIV. According to Statistics SA, life expectancy is now 62.4 years, up from 55 years in 2002.
We congratulate all South Africans on this remarkable achievement by our country. The Deputy President leads our efforts in the fight against HIV and AIDS as Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council.
Honourable Speaker, we continue to find innovative and new ways of implementing government programmes. In 2014 we launched Operation Phakisa Big Fast Results Methodology, aimed at ensuring faster implementation. Labour, business, government, academia and other sectors come together to develop implementation plans for government programmes. We have applied this methodology to the ocean economy, health through producing ideal clinics, information and communication technologies in schools as well as agriculture and land reform, with very good results.
Minister Radebe is the coordinator of the Phakisa methodology, working with the relevant sector ministers. He will report on the projects involved. Honourable Speaker, we begin National Youth Month tomorrow. The government is doing a lot of work already in supporting youth development. The Committee of Deputy Ministers in the Presidential Working Group on Youth continues to monitor the implementation of youth development programmes. Progress has been made in many sectors.
Last year I reported that the Department of Water and Sanitation is training thousands of young people as artisans through the War on Leaks Programme. More than 10,000 young people have been recruited thus far and are being trained as water agents, electricians, plumbers, machinists and in other fields.
These are young people who were unemployed and with no money for further education. I am encouraged that 55 percent of these trainees are females and six percent are people with disabilities. This is a government at work, empowering our youth. Government also supports entrepreneurship for the youth. The National Youth Development Agency is directing more resources towards young aspirant entrepreneurs.
More than eight hundred new enterprises will be created and a further 18,000 young people will receive the necessary support in order to succeed as entrepreneurs. Through the Department of Human Settlements, over five hundred host employers in the Real Estate Sector will absorb over 8,000 unemployed youth and graduates to take up opportunities in real estate.
Through the Department of Health and civil society organisations, the DREAMS Campaign will help grow girls and young women that are determined, resilient, empowered, AIDS-free mentored, and safe. Our National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) Programme is the biggest youth development programme of government, run by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. To date, the Programme has recruited about 19,000 young people. The programme targets rural, unemployed young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who are in possession of a Grade 12 qualification.
A number of young people, on leaving the NARYSEC Programme, start their own businesses, some find employment while others study further.
Honourable Speaker, Government spends the highest share of its budget on young people through education and skills development. Government is doing as much as possible to support children of the poor and the working class to obtain higher education. Government paid the fee increase capped at 8 percent for all qualifying registered students with a gross combined family income up R600 000 per annum for the 2017 academic year.
This is a grant which covers the increases for tuition fees and official accommodation, and will not have to be repaid by qualifying students. Government also made arrangements through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to pay the registration fees for all NSFAS funded students as an upfront payment to universities and TVET colleges in January each year. Therefore, NSFAS qualifying students did not pay any registration or upfront fees in 2017.
I established the Heher Commission on Higher Education Funding after protests by students in favour of free higher education. The commission will present its report at the end of June. We look forward to joining young people at the National Youth Day Commemoration in Ventersdorp in the North West province.
Honourable Speaker, The Presidency actively supports our musicians and other performing artists. The Presidential Task Team on Creative Industries, chaired by the Deputy Minister in the Presidency has been hard at work to find solutions for some of the long-standing challenges that the creative sectors face. They have championed the process of bringing two important bills to parliament that will bring about welcome change for practitioners in the industry.
The Intellectual Property Bill and the Performers Protection Amendment Bill are now before Parliament and the public hearings on these Bills have begun. Lack of ownership of intellectual property affects many writers, producers, performers and content creators. The new legislation will give creative practitioners the right to own their work and to profit from it. The task team of Deputy Ministers is also working closely with agencies of the Department of Arts and Culture and the Department of Trade and Industry to create better systems for the funding of Film and Theatre productions in the country.
Compatriots, let me take this opportunity to congratulate the creators and cast of the film Kalushi which was released in South African cinemas in the month of March. This film symbolises the coming of age of South African cinema where quality films directed and performed by South Africans tell an epic South African story.
Honourable Members, one of the key features of our democracy is cooperative governance. The embodiment of cooperative governance at the national level is the President's Coordinating Council in which the President meets with the Premiers and the South African Local Government Association. The PCC worked on a lot of projects last year including monitoring the implementation of the Back to Basics programme on the revitalization of municipalities, the management of migration and service delivery interventions through the Presidential Hotline.
The Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission also brings together the leadership of the three spheres of government, to discuss the seamless delivery of infrastructure programmes across the country. Several projects are being rolled out including the building of dams, schools, roads, hospitals, training colleges and the three universities. We launched the Trans Africa locomotive in April and the People's Train in Tshwane earlier this month. The People's Train boasts both comfort and safety for rail passengers.
The infrastructure programme improves the quality of life and contributes to economic growth and job creation. The Presidency also interacts with constitutional bodies such as the National House of Traditional Leaders and Chapter 9 Institutions to discuss matters affecting their portfolios and to provide support. We also work with various stakeholders through Presidential Working Groups in which we meet business, youth formations, women's groups, religious leaders, black professionals and non-governmental organisations.
The National Orders Advisory Council plays a critical role in assisting us to identify distinguished men and women who receive the highest honours from their country, the National Orders. We take the country's human development needs forward through the Human Resource Development Council which is chaired by the Deputy President. We wish to acknowledge and thank all these sectors, councils and working groups. We appreciate their ongoing support.
Compatriots, we celebrated Africa Day on the 25th of May, marking the 54th anniversary of the OAU/AU. In marking Africa month we also celebrated the legacy of President OR Tambo, the country's foremost diplomat who opened the continent and the world to South Africa through his tireless work to bring about freedom. In his memory, South Africa continues to contribute to shaping the agenda of African renewal and the implementation of Agenda 2063.
We participate in the special efforts of ensuring the silencing of the guns and ending pockets of conflict by 2020 so that everyone can live in peace. We continue to support sister nations such as South Sudan, Lesotho, Central African Republic, DRC, Mali and others to find solutions. We also continue to stand with the people of Western Sahara as they struggle for self-determination so that we can conclude the decolonization of Africa.
We support the quest for regional integration through building the necessary infrastructure to connect capitals, harmonise trade regimes and grow the means of production. South Africa values her membership of strategic forums such as the G20, BRICS, IBSA and the Indian Ocean Rim Association. They add immense value to South Africa as we pursue the national interest.
South Africa will assume the chair of SADC in August and that of the Indian Ocean Rim Association later in the year. We shall do our best in serving these two regions to advance sustainable growth and development. We shall continue our advocacy for a reformed system of global governance, including the reform of the United Nations Security Council and the Strengthening of the United Nations.
Compatriots, one of the highlights of Africa Month has been the appointment of Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus as the new Director-General of the World Health Organization, the first African to hold this position. We also congratulate Justice Mandisa Maya on being appointed as the first female President of the Supreme Court of Appeal in our country. We wish them all of the best in their new responsibilities.
Honourable Speaker, allow me to remind smokers that today is the World No Tobacco Day. They should kick the habit to ensure healthier lifestyles. Madam Speaker, let me take this opportunity to thank the Deputy President, the Ministers in the Presidency and the Deputy Minister for their support. I also appreciate the contribution and hard work of the Director-General, the Chief Operations Officer, the Presidency Audit Committee, advisors, senior management, and all staff in the Presidency.
It is my privilege, Honourable Speaker, to commend Budget Vote 1 to the House.