After his first 100 days in office, President Kgalema Motlanthe speaks to Ebrahim Harvey about the Congress of the People, the sacking of Vusi Pikoli and Zimbabwe.
The fact that I begin this interview with the current tragic conflict in the Middle East — the all-out and terribly destructive war Israel has waged on the Palestinians in Gaza — is a measure of its importance right now in the world. In the light of the growing worldwide condemnation — including in our country — of Israel’s brutal, ferocious and heavily destructive attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, I want to begin by asking you if it is not high time that South Africa takes tough and immediate action against them, such as various sanctions, breaking diplomatic ties and isolating them.
Our role and the role of other countries must always be to strive for peace, because the world consists of nations with different strengths — economically, politically and militarily. That is why, if you go back to the original mandate of the United Nations, you will realise that it was meant to give equal treatment and protection to even the smallest and weakest countries.
Now the current crisis in the Middle East is one that is really and truly a human tragedy in the sense that the underlying causes of the conflict pose a very reasonable demand for the people of Palestine to be allowed to determine their own destiny and to live in peace, harmony and dignity with their neighbours, the people of Israel. But, with the sheer savagery and brutality of the current attacks and retaliations, all of that is now lost. The killing of women, children and innocent people leaves all decent human beings with a deep sense of revulsion. But when we say that there must be peace in the Middle East it must be based on the acceptance that the Palestinians and the Israeli’s have a right to mutually exist. The first step towards peace is an urgent and mutual cessation of hostilities. However, as a country, we will only act through the mandate of the UN Security Council and not on our own.
So outrageous is the complicity and hypocrisy of the UN Security Council — whose primary aim is suppose to be the promotion of peace and security in the world — that even the head of the UN General Assembly, Miguel D’escoto, last week expressed dismay with its failure again to condemn the attacks in Gaza and to call on Israel to halt these and demanded urgently that it be ‘profoundly reformedâ€. What is your view of this matter?
I agree that the UN, and the UN Security Council in particular, is in need of urgent reform in order to become more representative of the world’s population. The problem is that if a country has powerful friends on the Security Council they can sometimes act with impunity. All you have to do is listen to the minister of foreign affairs or defence of Israel to know that you are dealing with people who believe they can cock a snook with impunity.
But do you agree that the dominant stranglehold, which the USA in particular enjoys on this council, must be dealt with?
Yes, because the veto powers enjoyed by some on this council in fact also promote
selfish and sectional interests, which is contrary to the collective and principled mandate of the UN.
Many in the media were unpleasantly surprised that you decided against the Frene Ginwala commission of inquiry finding: that despite some of his weaknesses and failings, Vusi Pikoli, former national director of public prosecutions (NDPP), was fit to hold office. They said that you deliberately blew out of proportion her concerns about Pikoli’s lack of appreciation for national security without giving concrete and serious enough examples to validate your assessment and without appreciating the reasons she provided for why he was indeed fit to hold office. What made you make this decision and how do you justify it?
Well, firstly, the NPA Act is a badly written piece of legislation; actually a cut and paste type of legislation because what it has done is to take the section, which deals with the conditions for the dismissal of judges, and incorporated that into the conditions for the national director of public prosecutions. The appointment of a national director of public prosecutions is done like the appointment of a Director General. So my take on it is that, if we are to have the dismissal side of the same standard as that which is applicable to judges, the appointment side must be the same so that all and sundry are treated equally.
You see, when judges are appointed to the Judicial Services Commission, which is really a representative body that does the interviews of the individuals, and at the end of a very rigorous process — if there is one vacancy — the president is presented with four names from which to select. Now the same NPA Act says that if the NDPP is suspended the president must establish an inquiry, which will gather facts and information to enable the president to make a decision as to whether the person is fit to hold office. But the problem is that the Act does not indicate how such an inquiry is to be conducted. So this was the first such experience and the chair of the inquiry had to establish her own procedures.
But the Act does not envisage the inquiry to make a recommendation. It simply envisages the inquiry make findings as to whether the person is fit and proper and then for the president, on the basis of such findings, to make a recommendation to parliament, meaning that not even the president has the power to finally decide the matter, which is good for democracy.
The point is that the terms of reference of the Frene Ginwala Commission were to establish if Pikoli was fit to hold office, but she makes a finding on the basis of the original letter of suspension, saying that the government did not make a strong enough case for his suspension. However, in the course of her own enquiry she comes to the view that, had the government based suspension on the issue of his understanding of the broader workings of the NDPP within the framework of the other elements of state and national security, she would have found those reasons to have been valid.
The other problem is that, while she makes a recommendation that he be restored to office on condition that he be sensitised to broader security requirements, she does not say who will do that, how and on what basis, and whether he will be willing to submit to those requirements.
The final point is that perhaps those who criticised my decision did not read the entire report but only the recommendations. If people read the whole report they will hopefully realise that my decision was justified. I therefore do not believe that I blew out of proportion the matter of national security.
You also stated that this decision was taken without undue influence from any quarter. Is that really the case? Did Luthuli House not in fact convey to you their wish to remove Pikoli from office, because after all it was he who decided to prosecute Jacob Zuma, president of the ANC, in 2005? Against that background some would say that it is naÃ¯ve to believe that Luthuli House did not just influence but probably determined your decision? Your response?
No, I find that quite an affront. The Act clearly states what the powers of the president are in such a matter. It is an affront for some in the media – both so-called analysts and legal minds — to conclude that my decision was politically inspired. Why don’t they say the same thing when the president appoints ministers or judges: that it was influenced by Luthuli House? Furthermore, they do not advance legal arguments as to why my decision is wrong. Instead they conveniently politicise my decision.
The media was also strongly critical of your rejection of numerous calls by many prominent and respected leaders for you to appoint a commission of inquiry into the arms deal, which has been plagued with stories of corruption from the outset. Why did you reject these calls, especially in the light of the detailed exposure by this paper at the end of 2008 about how allegations of arms deal ‘bribesâ€ were paid, according to evidence obtained from documents the Scorpions are in possession of?
The answer is very simple. This issue of the arms procurement was investigated by three agencies: the auditor general, the public protector and the NDPP. They submitted a report which stated that all the allegations of wrongdoing which came to their attention during their investigations will be followed up by the NDPP. That means this is ongoing work into all and any allegations into criminal activities related to the arms deal that have been reported. That is precisely why Shabier Shaik was prosecuted and why I think these combined efforts are sufficient.
Surely, the fact that there are existing efforts at investigating the arms deal is not the same as an independent judicial commission of inquiry, which in pursuing the truth, will exercise greater independence, reach and rigour. Not so?
Well, when former president FW De Klerk and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu requested me to appoint such a commission, I pointed out to them that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) — as recently as before parliament went into recess in December — went through this matter once again because there were suggestions that some of the material that was used by the three agencies was sanitised. They then called for submission from those who made such claims and had information but came to the conclusion that there was no need to refer the matter to the auditor general, which those making allegations wanted.
Furthermore, those advocating a judicial commission of inquiry wanted its work and findings to have been completed before the election, which is completely impossible and suggestive of wanting to link it to campaigning, because they said it is important for the facts to be known before then.
The decision on the NPA appeal against the Nicholson judgement will be delivered next week, on January 12. A hugely momentous decision, which will determine if Zuma will face charges and therefore affect the feasibility for his presidency of the country, will be taken as a result. As president of the country but also his deputy in the ANC, what are your thoughts a week before that fateful date and what will likely happen if the Nicholson judgement is overturned and Zuma goes to court?
Remember that when the ANC had its national conference in 2007, elected Zuma as its president and decided that he will be its presidential candidate in the 2009 elections, he was not facing any charges. The NPA decided three days after he was elected to charge him. So as far as the ANC is concerned, if the Nicholson judgement is overturned, whatever happens thereafter must run its course, even if he is charged. He remains the ANC’s contender for presidency of the country in this year’s elections.
Do you have no regrets at all about the ANC’s decision to abolish the Scorpions and do you deny that it was linked to the NPA case against president of the ANC Jacob Zuma?
The reality about the DSO was that you had a parallel national police force with authority to investigate, to arrest and to prosecute. On the other hand you had the South African Police Services. Once you have two such bodies, the reality in practice is that you will always run into operational problems and conflict and that’s what happened. The DSO also did not cover itself in glory by being seen to be acting in an impartial, fair and just manner.
They also introduced the practice of publicising the beginnings of an investigation and therefore subjecting the accused in public to all sorts of allegations – not yet tested in court – and thereby a virtual trial by media. I was in fact one of the first people to complain about the heavy-handed, reckless and aggressive conduct of the Scorpions, almost as if they were a law unto themselves. Look at the belligerent manner in which they conducted those raids on Zuma’s homes and offices. You hardly endear yourself to the public by such conduct. So I have no regrets about their dissolution and absorption
into the SAPS.
They even went so far as to announce to the media that Dr Zweli Mkhize and Phillip Powell in KwaZulu-Natal were going to be charged with gun-running activities. Thereafter they gave Powell amnesty and his passport and he went to England. Till today they have not retracted that damaging allegation to both men. At the Heffa Commission the judge criticised them for having divulged information that they wanted to charge Zarina Maharaj, but two years later no charges had been laid. Till today nothing has happened. How could they have made such damaging allegations against people in public and then just forget about it and not account for it?
You have also been heavily criticised for basically continuing with the ineffective stance of former president, Thabo Mbeki, on Zimbabwe. Leader of the Movement for Democratic Change Morgan Tsvangirai has stated this and repeatedly accused you – as he did Mbeki — of being biased in favour of President Robert Mugabe and not exerting enough pressure on him. What do you have to say about this and what significant difference have you brought to this ongoing, deepening and tragic crisis, which has cried out for resolution for so long?
Firstly, this is not a matter to be decided by any one leader but rather by the Southern African Development Community (SADEC), which South Africa presently chairs. But when you are the chair it does not mean that you have the power to take or push for decisions the parties to the conflict are not agreeable to or ready for. Our role can only be to facilitate the process of finding solutions to the Zimbabwean crisis.
Zimbabwe had elections in March 2008, which in fact went off quite well. Of all the various elections it is only the outcome of the presidential contest that has created the biggest problem. MPs, senators and local councillors have all been sworn in. When fair conditions for a run-off for presidential elections did not exist and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) did not participate in it SADEC facilitated a comprehensive agreement after intensive negotiations. Our role is to ensure that they implement that agreement.
On November 9 SADEC convened an extraordinary summit in Johannesburg and unanimously agreed that the parties should go back and amend the constitution in order to create the new position of prime minister. That amendment was gazetted on December 13 and it said that parliament can be convened for adoption of the amendment a week later. But the speaker of parliament is an MDC person whose party has taken a decision to convene parliament only on January 20. We wanted it to be done in the first week of 2009 because unnecessary delays don’t help the crisis. The sooner an inclusive government is formed the sooner there can be concerted efforts by all parties to deal with a massive humanitarian crisis. But at a meeting I had last week with Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC, he said he will try to get parliament to convene on January 14.
The other concern to many is that Tsvangirai has been out of the country for weeks. When he said he did not have a passport I called Mugabe and asked him to place a passport in a diplomatic bag and send it to him, which was done, but he is still out of the country.
About making progress towards a settlement in Zimbabwe, we are always driven by a sense of urgency, but the fact is that the parties there have sometimes had a lackadaisical attitude to these matters. Finally, my point is that whatever outstanding issues the MDC might have those can be dealt with after an inclusive government is formed. Besides, without such a government in place, efforts at dealing with the humanitarian crisis are hampered.
Many leading figures across our society were really hopeful when you became the president — though for a short term – that you would be different from Mbeki. But on all major issues you faced you have taken decisions which no doubt Mbeki would also have taken had he served out his term. I’m thinking of the Pikoli, arms deal and Zimbabwean matters. What do you have to say to this understandable disappointment many feel?
It is very unfortunate when people want me to conform to their own views and opinions and when I don’t they express disappointment. The other problem with some of these concerns is to detach me from organisation and environment and convince themselves that I can have independent policies of my own. These critics also do not have to take responsibility for decisions they advocate. They want their decisions to be taken through me and, if I think otherwise or the situation demands a different decision, I am either not a good president or a disappointment. So to them you are either their puppet or somebody else’s puppet. This is self-fulfilling and fallacious reasoning. It’s a kind of intellectual body out there which has the luxury to be cerebral but unaccountable. So I think we need to contextualise such disappointment. You cannot run a country in such a manner.
All of a sudden both the ANC and the newly formed breakaway, the Congress of the People (Cope), are singing the praises of the Freedom Charter. But surely this is equally hypocritical in the light of the indisputable fact that, in many respects, the ANC’s own policies have been either an outright betrayed of, emasculated or fallen far short of several provisions of the Charter. I can think of education, land redistribution, housing, control of the economy and so on. Your response?
No, you see the ANC took a decision in 2002 that the Freedom Charter will remain the political programme of the ANC for ten years, meaning up to 2012. That is why since then every year’s January 8 statement reaffirms such commitment. We have in no way consciously taken any decision which departs from the Charter. But obviously financial constraints we face and which have adversely affected implementation of the Charter is an entirely different matter. But nowhere is there any deliberate decision to depart from the Charter.
In the previous interview you dismissed a possible breakaway from the ANC becoming a force to be reckoned with – especially so soon. What do you have to say today about Cope and their chances of beating the ANC at this year’s polls or in the 2014 elections?
It’s not the policy or practice of the ANC to spend much time on other political parties which exist or are the product of a breakaway. In fact, when Cope was formed and many paid so much attention to it, that was actually a deviation from ANC policy or practice. The ANC’s main focus must be on what it needs to do and whether or not it remains an organisation that represents the interests and aspirations of people.
About Cope presenting a major challenge at the polls this year, I am not particularly worried. I’m confident that we will triumph over them but we have never taken support for granted. In each election since 1994 we worked very hard on the ground.
We do not see Cope as an enemy of the ANC. In fact when I saw the leader of Cope, Mosiuoa Lekota, at Helen Suzman’s funeral, we hugged and exchanged New Year’s greetings. Now that they exist we cannot have an attitude towards them that is different from any other party we compete with and we will find ways of working with them where we can and where necessary.
Do you agree that the ANC created Cope and that, with hindsight, some big mistakes were made such as the premature, misguided and un-strategic recall of Mbeki, without which I doubt that either Cope would have been born or would have gathered significant support in a very short space of time?
Well, the fact is that we have to take responsibility for the consequences of the decisions we make, as the national executive committee of the ANC, whether correct or not and whether I agreed or not with any decision. So it’s not for me, in an interview, to say whether we made mistakes or not or are regretful of any decision. It is an organisational matter.
Has the date for the 2009 elections been decided and do you deny the allegation by Cope that the early date of March 25 was mentioned in order to give them less time to effectively campaign after their recent launch?
The date for any election is announced by the president but only after consultation with the Independent Electoral Commission. I still have to meet with them to finalise the date. But it is ludicrous to suggest that I can set a date that is deliberately meant to disadvantage any party, especially one without a track record. In fact I don’t know where that date came from. It seems groundless speculation. In any case, even from the date that an election date is announced, we cannot have the actual election unless 60-65 days have elapsed.
Some in the ANC alliance have said that they believe that Mbeki is, if not the covert driving force behind Cope, certainly sympathetic to it and have urged him to come clear once and for all. All the black leaders of Cope were close to Mbeki, especially Lekota and Shilowa. Is that not a reasonable sentiment for them to have and should Mbeki not indeed come clear on where he stands?
No. Look at it this way: how much clearer can it be about where a leading member of an
organisation stands in relation to any other party, including Cope, than the fact that he is still a member of the ANC, despite all the media speculation. In fact those who question his loyalty to the ANC must ask themselves what gives them the right to question the bona fides of Mbeki. Nobody has that right. Its sounds more like a bit of witch-hunting.
I think the ANC’s decision to contest the legal validity of the name, the Congress of the People, was unwise, misguided and in fact downright silly, petty and indeed arrogant and that they therefore deserve to lose the case. Your thoughts?
My own view is that people adopt names because they are inspired by something. As far as I am concerned they can call themselves whatever they wish to. They can call themselves Bambatha, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo or whatever and it will not confuse anybody about the name of the ANC on election day.
When you addressed the congress of the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedua) last year you spoke much about the importance of social justice. But is this not contradicted by the policies of the ruling ANC, such as cost recovery and the commercialisation for basic services?
The problem is that you are conflating what local municipalities do in an endeavour to manage limited resources and deliver services to communities with ANC policy. Some people – like consultants — can go to a municipality and convince them that some policy decision from elsewhere in the world will work here, not realising that our situation may be very different. It is only when they run into difficulties with decisions they have taken and implemented that they realise the need to review the situation. That is why consultants have had a field day in South Africa and why we need to become much more careful about how policy decisions municipalities take may affect the lives of people when services are delivered. But the ANC stands strongly for social justice.
You told me that you were happy when the Johannesburg High Court ruled last year that prepaid water meters were illegal and unconstitutional. In the light of this and the fact that you are aware that my doctoral thesis has conclusively shown the serious effects of these meters upon poor households, are you prepared to publicly affirm your support for the banning of prepaid water meters in poor black townships?
My attitude to this question is clear. The issue of prepaid water meters should really be tested in the affluent sections of our society, rather than start them in poor communities.
The other thing is that when you introduce these new technologies you need to be careful about how it can affect people, especially with something as essential as water. You see, I hear many ordinary people say that even under apartheid their water was not cut because they did not pay. So these are problem that we need to attend to.
One of the biggest failures of Mbeki was his dismissive attitude towards social movements which were critical of his government’s neo-liberal policies. But they have been championing the very cause of social justice that you advocated when you addressed Fedusa. Do you not think, therefore, that it is high time government has a more open, progressive, constructive and engaging approach towards movements which indeed ‘talk truth to powerâ€?
But I am also not sure if those movements saw value in interacting more with government directly about their concerns, which I would encourage. You see, the presidency has many meetings with various stakeholders on an ongoing basis and perhaps these movements must engage more with government. It may also be a problem for them to just take a critical stance, go on marches, make statements to the media and so on, without trying to address their concerns with government. But I certainly think that their views are important to consider and that there must be room for them.
Is a significant decline in the budgets of departments peripheral to social transformation and social justice — such as defence — not necessary, especially against the backdrop of the infamous and wasteful arms deal, in order to be able to better finance new essential infrastructure, deliver increased free basic services, such as water and electricity, and build a developmental state?
Yes, moving forward the weighting of budgetary allocations must take those factors into account. We are in fact already moving in that direction if you see the increased budgets for education and health, for example, recently. But more should be done where possible for all those areas identified as developmental priorities.
Are you not concerned that we may have the lowest voter turnout at the 2009 polls since 1994 due to the ugly public divisions we seen in the ANC and a generalised sense of disillusionment and apathy among the populace some surveys have reported in the media?
No. I in fact think that we will have a significantly improved turnout this year because I think there is more interest and excitement this time due to greater and more varied electoral contestation than there was in the past. There will – even in the ANC – be far less complacency this year. Before, we were more confident of victory. Now we need to work harder than in the past when many in the ANC assumed victory was automatic, so dominant were we. But it’s also helpful because it gives other smaller parties and voters a sense that they may have a greater chance this year than in previous elections, which is positive for our democracy. All in all I think this will be the most interesting and exciting election since 1994 because we will see less complacency, over-confidence and despondency.
I argue that black economic empowerment — even its broad-based version — has not only failed to make a significant difference to the lives of the poor black majority but that it is still the major source of elitism, cronyism and corruption in both the economy and the state. There is much empirical evidence to validate this claim. Do you agree?
Well, the biggest challenge facing BEE is access to capital to finance businesses. When you disaggregate many of the big BEE deals you will find it is largely debt-funded. In fact many do not realise that, because BEE lacks access to finance, its biggest beneficiaries have ironically been the white-dominated banking sector which were relied on to finance various deals. It is this vulnerability which battered many BEE deals and in some cases they collapsed under the impact of the present financial crisis.
For me the best model of BEE is what we did at the National Union of Mineworkers, when we took R3-million out of the reserves of the union to form the Mineworker’s Investment Company. This directly empowered our members and their dependents through bursaries and various other developmental initiatives and they were better able to control it.
We need a fundamental review of BEE in which civil society critics must also be involved. What black business and government tend to conveniently do is invite people to reviews who are not known to be strong critics, which is a serious problem. Agree?
Yes, absolutely. You see, for the black masses BEE must mean free and compulsory education and where no school or community is without water, sanitation and electricity, because without that you cannot talk seriously about development and have well-rounded human beings. For me education and skills acquisition is the key to BEE and dealing with poverty and unemployment.
I argue that the root of much cronyism and corruption is the ANC’s cadre deployment committee, which deploys members to both government and business. This has also led to a collapse of the distinction between the party and state and between the party and business, which a healthy and vigorous democracy substantively requires. Agree?
There is clearly a need to strike balance between the strategic objective of uniting all of our people — which requires us to tap all the available talents and skills we have — and the deployment of ANC members who we can rely on and who are familiar with our policies to government posts or in the economy.
You spoke last year of the need for a ‘scientific reviewâ€ of affirmative action policies – which like BEE has benefited only a small minority — but I do not see much progress in this regard. Is the government treating this matter seriously and, if so, where is the evidence?
We are, but these things take time. No doubt our skills deficits are so evident that we cannot only rely on affirmative action policies and quotas. We need to combine giving access to opportunities – both in skills training and appointments – to black people who have been discriminated against earlier and others who were not but who have the necessary skills and talents. It’s a delicate balance that only experience can best teach us how to manage.
I argue that such a review is necessary to reviewing the relationship between the ANC and the government in order to avoid the trend of the Mbeki years, when the ANC-government conflation was stark. The ANC clearly does not have within its ranks all the requisite skills, qualifications and experience to govern effectively — much more evident after the resignation of ministers and other members and the breakaway launch of Cope — and will need to secure these, where necessary, from outside its ranks. Can we expect changes in this regard after the 2009 elections?
You see, the key strategic goal of the ANC of uniting all our people has direct implications for this important question. The question is therefore whether we understand both the real meaning of this goal and its implications for staffing and appointments. If we can have what happens, for example, in the Judicial Services Commission, it would be good. That is an open process and the people serving there come from all kinds of backgrounds and they are able through that process to appoint the best available talent.
In the judiciary, for example, we cannot say we are transforming it by appointing people to the bench who have less experience in practice than is required to make professional
and complex judgements. In fact, this is part of the problem I have with the NPA Act in terms of an appointment of a NDPP. You see, I could appointment you – if you were an advocate – right now, without requiring any other process and I think that is a serious weakness.
Yesterday I met yesterday with old football players. I was saying to them that the fact that Bafana Bafana, with a population of 47-million people, struggles to beat Botswana, with a population of 2-million, shows that we are not searching for talent across the length and breadth of the country, but confining ourselves to a narrow core. That approach I believe should apply to all other areas of life.
In November 2008 you were the only representative of Africa at the G20 meeting in Washington to discuss the global financial crisis. Given your own history as a critic of unfettered capitalism why did you not effectively use the opportunity to criticise the extensive damage done to the world economy by neo-liberal financial liberalisation and call for effective re-regulation of finance capital globally?
I did not need to say much there. Those points were made by the presidents of several
Third World countries, especially Brazil. In fact President Bush himself said that the crisis is so grave that we need to re-examine the financial system. There was also agreement that speculative capital poses a major problem for economies and that US farming subsidies, for example, was unfair and a major problem for world trade and poorer economies.
How can the ANC have a big focus on health after Polokwane and in this year’s elections but fail to realise the centrality of adequate access to water, sanitation and electricity in poor communities to it? Nowhere over the years – including in the Polokwane resolutions — has the ANC paid sufficient attention to services, which in fact lie at the heart of health, especially water and sanitation. Demanding payments for adequate services from communities which are too poor to pay for basic health needs is the real problem. How do you explain this striking policy omission?
Well, you are right that this could be an omission we need to take note of, but there is no doubt that health and education will be our priorities from this year onwards. There is also no doubt that water is indeed life and that without it we cannot perform basic daily tasks. So we will look into this important matter.
It is a serious indictment of our educational system that only 20% of matriculants achieved a pass that enables them to go to university, which will only worsen and compound the already existing serious skills deficits in the economy and society. What is your view of this major problem?
Yes, it is a problem that will aggravate our educational and skills deficits. But the current economic crisis will also have difficult consequences for job seekers who do not go to university. However, we need urgently to prioritise investigating the reasons for this poor result. Part of our focus on education must therefore involve such an investigation. From what I can see unequal access to resources between schools and the quality of teaching
require urgent attention. We therefore need to support and help schools in poor areas more.
What message would you like to convey to South Africans for what is likely to be another challenging and difficult new year?
I would like to use this opportunity to express my hope that the tough economic and political challenges which lie ahead this year will be met with resilience and determination to overcome. Hope is critical to shaping the future. I am confident that in the run up to and especially after the elections we will be better equipped to overcome the battles against poverty and unemployment and grow South Africa into a country we can all be proud of here and across the world.