My greetings and respect to our visitors. I welcome you to our beautiful city Ethekwini.
This gathering of the 2nd Urbanisation Forum and 3rd Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation Forum takes place against the background of two important events in South Africa.
Firstly, we are approaching 20 Years of freedom. Whilst celebrating our freedom we must take stock of what we have done well and what we have not done well over these 20 years.
To give strategic effect to the objectives and goals set out in 1994, the South African Government identified a number of national priority areas in 2009. Some of these are:
1. Priority 1: Speeding up growth and transforming the economy to create decent work and sustainable livelihoods.
2. Priority 2: Massive programme to build economic and social infrastructure.
3. Priority 3: Comprehensive rural development strategy linked to land and agrarian reform and food security.
4. Strategic Priority 4: Strengthen the skills and human resource base through education.
5. Strategic Priority 5: Improve the health of all South Africans.
These priorities were not developed in isolation by Government. The priorities are directed to address the problems that our people are expressing. The Government did not formulate, and are not implementing these priorities in isolation. These priorities are based on what our people say there problems are. A Government must work to improve the quality of their citizen’s lives.
South Africa is in the process to build a society of non-racialism. The White Paper on Local Government tasked local government with being developmental. A core requirement for being developmental is that governance is an expression of government working with the people to address the needs of the people.
We are also celebrating a second critical important event in our life. The adoption of the Land Act of 1913. This Act rose out of a concern from captains of industry who persuaded the then Government to force Blacks off their land and to accept work in the mines and on the farms and plantations. After 1913 a number of laws were enacted to force people off their land and to accept work in the mines. During this period 63,000 Chinese contracted miners were brought in to work the mines of the Witwatersrand. In this period the first shipment of almost 2000 Indians also arrived in Durban and very soon this number grew 50,000 to work on the plantations of KwaZulu-Natal.
India and Russia were the influence to form resistance movements in South Africa. The October Revolution in Russia is a prime example of an influence on South Africa’s resistance movements. The establishment of the South African Communist Party, the Indian Congress of South Africa and the South African Native Congress are typical examples of movements that followed the examples set by Russia and India. As we gather here, we all share learning examples from each other. The following two days will further strengthen the historical bonds and experiences that we share.
Urbanisation is not ordained. Neither are its sources. Urbanisation also does not manifest due to the freedoms of people. It results from decisions that others make in terms of development and investments and not necessarily from the intuitive desire of the people. An urban policy cannot be developed nor implemented in isolation of arural policy. To do so is a mistake.
Colonialisation forces also deliberately created cities and towns where raw material were concentrated and not with the aim to develop rural areas. It is very important to recognize the base for urbanization. Urbanisation has huge problems such as environmental degradation and poverty. In South Africa our current spatial planning and the proposed Land Use Management Bill is based on a desire to find solutions to spatial historical injustices. India’s recognition of the rural access to modern systems provides interesting examples that needs further consideration.
South Africa is a macrocosm of Russia, India, Brazil and China. The spirit of cooperation that BRICS represent must be exploited. Our meeting here must create the opportunity for us to expand this cooperation.
From our different examples we must learn how to transform governance to create a better life for all. The agenda of the next two days is designed to the finding of solutions. Our deliberations must speak to those areas where there are the weakest skills base amongst us and not solely focus on how conditions of poverty were reversed. The focus must be on learning from ourselves. Learning from the examples from other countries. Recognise and acknowledge our interdependencies and interconnectedness. South Africa appreciate the relationship between ourselves.
We must insist that better use of research is made. Think Tanks must address the research gaps. Research must be objective and able to address problems. Evidence based approaches is needed.
We are celebrating your insights in their overall struggle against poverty and injustices. BRICS must be appreciated as the opportunity that it is to make a better world and a better country and Africa for us. I invite you to use the following two days to help us do just that.
The bond that we share is mutually reinforcing and presents us with a basis to have fruitful and rewarding discussions.