Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma today called on the media to provide space for the government to get its message out, even if media owners disagreed with the views expressed.
Addressing the National Assembly in a reply to his Budget Vote, Zuma pointed to an article in today’s Cape Times, where he said readers had not been given an opportunity to know fully what was said in the Presidency Budget Vote speeches in order to make up their own minds.
“The lead story ‘MPs launch attack on Zuma’ focuses on what the opposition said, without giving readers an opportunity to know what had been said in the first place.
“We trust that the media will find time to seriously conduct introspection and debate such issues internally, as they become defensive and claim press freedom violations when such matters are pointed out to them,” Zuma said.
On the Information Bill currently before Parliament, he said the government didn’t have any malice in drafting the bill.
“It is intended to help us establish the practice and principles of handling State information,” he said, adding that the issues would now be debated by MPs.
Turning to the issue of service delivery, Zuma said it was important to take into consideration the fact that the bulk of areas in South Africa had only begun receiving key services after 1994.
Added to this, cities during apartheid had not been designed to cater for all race groups, such that when influx controls were lifted, many people suffered from a shortage of infrastructure.
Directors-general, he said, had committed themselves to improving delivery of frontline services that deal with the public and cracking down on corruption.
“They will ensure the finalisation of 80% of public service disciplinary cases within 90 days of the initiation of the disciplinary process,” he added.
Directors-general would also improve feedback to the public on the National Anti-corruption Hotline cases – from 10% in 2010 to 100% by 2012, he said, adding that staff would also be trained in ethics.
Government was busy setting up more integrated settlements to include citizens from all races and income groups.
Zuma said he valued all political parties’ inputs to the National Planning Commission diagnostic report – which was released on Monday.
However, he pleaded with political parties not to use the findings of the diagnostic report to advance narrow political gains.
He called on all South Africans to contribute to solving the country’s challenges.
“We felt that the country needed a team of people that were not part of the bureaucracy,” said Zuma, who added that the commissioners have been tasked to take a dispassionate view on the country’s various challenges and how South Africa can become prosperous.
He said at the AU Heads of State Summit in Equatorial Guinea later this month, he would discuss with other African heads of state how to boost work in the North-South Corridor – which runs from Dar es Salaam to Durban, traversing Zambia.
The corridor is a key trade route in sub-Saharan Africa.
Development of the corridor is being championed by Zuma and is being assisted by the Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Planning, Trevor Manuel.
In his speech, Zuma also said he noted the concerns about the extension of the terms of office of the Chief Justice.
However, he pointed out that under the Judges’ Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act of 2001, the President is authorised to request the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Appeal to continue to perform active service from the date on which they are eligible to be discharged from active service, for a period determined by the President.
Zuma said any change or enhancement in the law could be dealt with under the Superior Courts Bill, that is currently before Parliament.
He called on others not to use the office as a political football, adding that since he assumed office, Chief Justice Judge Sandile Ngcobo had been praised by a wide selection of society and opposition parties.
“We urged all parties to respect the independence of the judiciary and the integrity and dignity of the office of the Chief Justice,” he said.
He saluted former President Nelson Mandela, who will celebrate his 93rd birthday on July 18, for his legacy of reconciliation, adding that he demonstrated the success of the government’s policy of reconciliation.
“Meaningful reconciliation should come from accepting people for who they truly are and not what you want them to be,” Zuma said, pointing out that the nation should love Madiba and accept him for what he stood for.
“We must join hands to celebrate the birthday of Madiba on 18 of July, fully understanding what he stood for.”
Zuma called on South Africans to each set aside at least 67 minutes of community service on the day.
He urged all parties, who claimed to follow the ethos of Madiba, to align themselves to the non-racial cause.
“As government, we remain steadfast in following our leader, Madiba, in doing what the Freedom Charter and Constitution call on us to do – to build a South Africa that belongs to all, black and white,” he said. – BuaNews