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    Address by former Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at NFSC Conference

    Date published:14 August  2014
    Article category: Media



    Address by former Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe
    MISTRA Conference on Nation Formation and Social Cohesion
    Held at the Nelson Mandela Foundation
    On 14th August 2014

    Thank you very much, Programme Director, Ms Fébé Potgieter-Gqubule. Good morning, Abuswene Molweni.  Goeiemôre Molweni.  I’ve been asked to make a few remarks about the role of the State against the backdrop of this well researched thought on nation formation and social cohesion.

    Firstly I think it’s important for us to draw a distinction between State on one hand and government as the face of the State at a particular time, or time of office, because whilst government is the face of the State, government is not necessarily the State.  Governments come and go as and when we go through general elections, but the State is meant to be in place all the time.

    In simple terms we should strive to create a stable State, which would be able to take care of basic needs of communities, even when government is unstable, and there are examples.  In Belgium they went through four years without a national government, and I would want to explain why how we structure local government is important for the stability of the State.

    But having said that, because we have limited time, I’m really just using this issue; the important role that is to be played by the State towards nation formation can best be illustrated by – and if we also include in that the issue of cohesion, social cohesion, it simply demands that the Department of Arts & Culture for instance have to be structured differently from the other departments, but structures must serve a purpose.  If our strategic goal is to create a united democratic non-racial, sexist, prosperous South Africa, then our departments must be structured such that it enables them to make optimal contribution towards the attainment of the strategic goal, and one department that really comes to mind readily is the Department of Arts & Culture, that it can’t be expected to meet its role if it is simply structured the same way as any other department.

    What do I mean by this?  We will not be able to achieve social cohesion for as long as there’s no civic education to explain the important or essence of being a republic, a democracy, based on democratic constitution for as long as issues of pulling, gather towards, in a synergised fashion towards an end goal that is accepted and embraced by all.

    I’m sure if you were to ask South Africans whether what they prefer between divisions and unity, majority of them without exception will say they prefer unity.  But how such unity is created and achieved is a function of ongoing efforts, and I’m saying that because you see there are many fault lines, we are a republic and yet parallel to our evolution we are also having the house of traditional leaders and we are elevating those structures to the same level as the structures of democracy.

    Now this is a fault line.  It is a matter that if it is not handled sensitively can result in divisions and therefore defeat this important strategic goal of uniting all South Africans.  But of course left to its own parochial identities, ethnic identities and challenges of the disparities that were a legacy of a discriminatory system, it can also serve as the basis, as a foundation for divisions occasioned by ethnic chauvinism, can very easily slide into that, where we plead culture ill-defined because culture by definition is a historical phenomenon and its development is determined by a succession of socioeconomic formations.

    So if by culture we mean cultural performance, folklore and so on, then we are attaching very narrow meaning of culture, and I suspect that’s what has happened in the manner in which the Department of Arts & Culture is structured.  It’s not conceptualised in its broad understanding and therefore that instead of being led by a DG and a DDG it ought to have capacity to interact with, and guide the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education and Training.  The lead must come from, in terms of what needs to go into the content of education the lead must come from research conducted by Arts & Culture.

    The fact that we have in this day and age young men dying at initiation schools, and the manner in which we respond to that challenge, we respond as though that is a problem for the Department of Health.  But correctly speaking it is a challenge for Arts & Culture.  It is the Department of Arts & Culture which ought to be engaging with these communities, offline if you like, to help them understand that whereas the surgery was performed with the integument of a mealie kop or a spear or a penknife or a razor or a blade at the particular time, that the latest clamp approved by the World Health Organisation is part of our culture, that it is actually part of our culture, and I can’t see how the Department of Health can play that role.  It’s the Department of Arts & Culture which can contextualise in engaging with these communities, because without undermining the rights of passage to manhood and the attendant rituals, but the surgery part, which is what causes these deaths as well as dehydration because part of the ritual is that people are not given fluids and so they die as a consequence of the manner in which this is practiced.

    Now in KZN where the Zulus had done away with the practice of circumcision for more than 200 years, but once it became clear that circumcision, male circumcision reduces risk of infection with regards to HIV the Zulu monarch accepted this and reintroduced this practice.  But it is done through clinics.

    Now I’m using this merely as an example.  That’s one area that I think the department has got to be structured differently if we are to pursue this goal of uniting our people in a democratic society and therefore attaining social cohesion.

    But of course social cohesion is also a function of the satisfaction of basic needs of communities, what we take for granted in urban areas – access to potable water, sewer system, waterborne sewer system and, or you know, electricity and so on, where there are still communities in this country who still draw water from the same well or stream that is contaminated by effluent from industry and also they share the same water with animals.  We are part of the animal kingdom, I must confess, but you know what I mean.

    So this brings me to what I think is the second important role of the State – provide basic infrastructure, all communities, and if we do that with the aim of closing the gap between urban and rural in terms of access to basic infrastructure where that in itself will go a long way towards the attainment of social cohesion.

    Then of course there are certain things, certain aspects that need to be addressed.  I recall that in the days of apartheid the Broederbond had structured the urban areas into administration boards and they had in every township a local administration office staffed by local people recruited from local community to serve as front-desk clerks and in charge of banking all the revenue which was used for financing SABRA, and of course they also took charge of the sales of sorghum beer, they created these beer halls and used the revenue from the sales of sorghum beer to maintain the townships.

    But the point that I want to explain is that they would appoint an old Afrikaner farmer as the superintendent and the brief to such superintendent was that look, you have no understanding of what happens here; don’t even try to involve yourself in these matters.  If it is harvesting time bring your maize or peaches, whatever you would have harvested, on a bakkie and use the day to sell to this community.  Because there were systems, there were systems that worked and residents knew that if there’s any pipe that is blocked or you have a plumbing problem you go to that office, and once you’ve reported the defect somebody will go out from the works department to fix it.

    The problem today is that we have public representatives, councillors who are elected and instead of focussing their attention on spatial planning, budget allocation, community liaison and oversight over the administration they get involved in the administration.  So you have public representatives who are to decide on administrative issues.  Then you have in the administration someone who is a clerk; outside the working hours in the ANC branch that person is the chairperson of the branch and so he’s senior to the public representatives.  So it really doesn’t work.

    It creates all kinds of problems and so I think we’ve got to ensure that the municipalities are structured and the systems developed which can ensure that the administration is part of the State, it’s able to function effectively and efficiently all the time, because you see once you have a situation where residents encounter a burst sewer pipe and sewer flowing in the streets and all they have to do is to try and find, you know, create a bridge with bricks and stones and so on, and they wake up today, they go wherever they go, they come back and wake up tomorrow and it takes weeks before anything is done about it, we will forever have this deep sense of deprivation and therefore the undermining of law and order.

    Now you can’t have development, you can’t have stability if there’s no respect to the rule of law.  Society functions cohesively once the rule of law is upheld.  Now the Chair has indicated that I’ve been long-winded and all over the place, so I’m going to try to – so the point I’m making is practically that we’ve got to structure the Department of Arts & Culture differently to enable it to interact with the different sectors of our society, with the sole aim and purpose of attaining the requisite unity and to deepen the democracy that we are all trying to construct.

    Secondly we must attend to the gap.  We live in a country that consists of two nations, so to speak, not determined by skin colour but if you look at, I mean I used to – one of the benefits of being in government is that sometimes you are flown in a helicopter and whilst up there, once you see an area that is desolate, no trees, almost grey, you know that black folk live there.  Once you see lush green areas with irrigation systems and canals you know that white folk live there.  Now we must close that gap.

    State has got to deliberately invest in the provision of bulk basic infrastructure, and I don’t have to elaborate on this save to say that, you know, I went to a school in Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape, a well built face brick school, but there were no flushing toilets and so the teaching staff as well as the learners have literally to leave the school premises to go and relieve themselves outside the school premises.

    Now we can’t hope to achieve social cohesion for as long as we have those kinds of gaps, and the fact – and last point that I want to make is that the State has got to be deliberate in answering these priority needs and Arts & Culture can explain to everybody, engage with the broadest cross section of South African population to explain why it is important and in the interest of all of us that such a gap should be closed.

    So the point I’m making is that infrastructure is critical because freedom without a material base is meaningless.  Thank you very much.



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