18 February 2015
Speech by ACDP President, Rev Kenneth Meshoe, MP
ACDP response to the 2015 State of the Nation Address
Honourable President, Deputy President and members.
What happened last Thursday in this House was extremely disappointing, shocking and painful, as we watched Parliament degenerate into chaos. Never before since the advent of democracy has the State of the Nation address been interrupted nor have we seen journalists hindered from executing their duties by the jamming of cell-phone signals to prevent reporting on what was happening in Parliament.
When the President finally took the podium, we expected him to strongly condemn the unacceptable and embarrassing developments he just witnessed. But he said nothing, and appeared to laugh everything off. At the very least we would have expected him to reassure the nation of his commitment to protecting media freedom.
Now that we know Presiding Officers were aware of the use of the jamming device in the building, we want to know why it was used, who installed it and on whose instruction?
I am joined by many in praying that our Parliament will never experience such a chaotic spectacle again and for this to happen, Members of Parliament must all make introspection and commit to building and not destabilising our nation. We must learn to respect each other, we may disagree but we are not enemies.
Madam Speaker, the nation remains extremely concerned that the ongoing load shedding by Eskom will in time lead to a total blackout. This is not just an energy challenge, we are facing a serious crisis. Eskom officials have repeatedly said we are going to have load shedding for the next three years, and experts have warned that if the national grid does collapse, it will take between two and three weeks to get running again. Three weeks without electricity, means three weeks without the most basic necessities such as clean drinking water, petrol, health care and many other things.
Honourable President, companies are losing business and are at the risk of having to retrench staff. We need solutions, we need successful businesses that provide opportunities for employment and for this, we need a secure and stable supply of electricity. Energy is the bedrock of the economy. Without reliable and sustainable energy, there can be no development, no economic growth, no job opportunities, and consequently, no poverty alleviation.
The ACDP proposes the following:
1) Maintenance at Eskom must be increased substantially, and highly skilled and experienced engineers must be brought in urgently to address the problems;
2) Government needs to open all sectors of the market to independent power producers and urgently put enabling legislation in place to facilitate this move to release the strangle-hold of the Eskom monopoly;
3) Government needs to invest, in strengthening transmission and distribution as even the procurement of independent power production is limited by the lack of transmission line capacity.
The ACDP is also very aware of the sensitivity around land and property ownership and that it is an issue weighing heavily on the hearts of our people. We do however caution against policy that will threaten food security and undermine foreign investment.
Looking broader than our own situation Madam Speaker, our hearts were broken recently by pictures of 21 Coptic Egyptian Christians killed in Libya. Every year approximately 100,000 Christians die for their religious beliefs, in countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Somalia and Egypt.
In the same week the Paris attacks on Charlie Hebdo left 17 people dead, Amnesty International reported on a massacre of over 2,000 people in Northern Nigeria by Islamic Jihadists. Most of the victims were children, women and elderly people. While the Jihadist terror attack on journalists in Paris made front page news worldwide, the tens-of-thousands of Christian victims of Islamic Jihad in Africa barely get any mention. In less than 5 years, over 1,000 churches have been destroyed in Northern Nigeria and over 16,000 Christians murdered by Boko Haram Islamic terrorists. The African Union has failed the people of Africa in their hour of desperation, they have failed to protect people’s lives and have failed to protect Freedom of Religion and Belief.
The ACDP calls on our President to speak out on these atrocities and to follow words with actions. Action will necessitate a review of the defence budget which is not adequate to ensuring we have the troops we need and the means to rotate them realistically. The ACDP welcomes an agreement that was reached at a conference of the African Union in Addis Ababa to set up a five nation regional task force to combat the Islamist terror army of Boko Haram which is tearing apart Nigeria and Cameroon and now targeting Chad. We also welcome the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s assurance that “the United Nations is ready to fully cooperate with the African Union.”