All South Africans must take pride in the fact that this august house of our elected representatives is growing from strength to strength, each passing day.
I am particularly proud to stand here this afternoon in what is undoubtedly now a bastion of our democracy to receive the Atlas of the Results for the 2009 National and Provincial Elections.
Over the past 16 years we have indeed tread a long walk to democracy. And it is this very institution of Parliament that has overseen the strengthening of our democratic system.
It is this one, and only, Congress of the People that in no small way has been assisted by a number of institutions supporting democracy.
Our Independent Electoral Commission, the IEC, is one such organisation that has set the benchmark for electoral democracy not only in our country but also in the continent of Africa and worldwide.
From negotiating the murky waters of our groundbreaking first free and fair elections, the IEC has continued to search for new and innovative ways to ensure that our country’s citizens are at the forefront of the democratic process.
The production of the 2009 National and Provincial Elections Atlas of Results is one such measure that tracks the unfolding of this process throughout the country.
It is only just over 16 years since the advent of democracy in South Africa, and yet this country has made several and remarkable achievements. Time would not allow us to go through an exhaustive list of these achievements, suffice for me to attempt to take you back to the watershed year of 1994.
On 27 April 1994, now our National Freedom Day, this country held the most successful post-liberation elections in our modern history. The whole world waited with bated breath to see that these elections succeed.
South African citizens, black and white, young and old, all did not disappoint. They turned out peacefully and in numbers to elect their first ever democratic government.
Since then, South Africa has moved from strength to strength, consolidating and strengthening its democracy to ensure that the people of this country enjoy the benefits of their struggles. We have now held four successful National and Provincial elections in 1994, 1999, 2004 and 2009, and three Local Government or Municipal elections in 1995, 1999 and in 2006.
In 1996, a new Constitution was passed by this Parliament. This Constitution replaced the 1993 interim Constitution. One of the most important prescripts in our Constitution is embodied in Chapter 9 of this doctrine. This chapter paves the way for the establishment of institutions supporting electoral democracy in this country. Six of these institutions were established, one of which is the Independent Electoral Commission.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa further states that these institutions should be independent, impartial and most importantly, they should perform their functions without fear, favour or prejudice.
Since its establishment in 1996, the Electoral Commission has not only adhered to the principles of impartiality and independence as espoused in the Constitution but has also gone further to be the one of the most pioneering organisations in this country.
The successes and innovations of this institution have gained worldwide recognition from such institutions as the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the African Union.
I am referring here to the contribution the IEC made to the success of elections in other countries on the continent and elsewhere in the world including the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Comoros, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Nigeria and Tanzania.
We also appreciate the efforts that Dr Bam and her team are making towards the establishment and strengthening of democracy in countries such as Kenya, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
I understand that a team of technical experts of the Commission has just returned from the elections that were held in Tanzania on 31 October 2010. I am certain, Dr Bam, that your experts did the usual and excelled in that country.
In addition, the IEC receives delegations from developed countries such as Canada and Germany and from developing countries like Nepal, the Maldives, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Uganda, Ghana, Burundi, Rwanda, amongst others. The purpose of such visits is to share information but in particular to learn innovative systems that the IEC has developed in the management and delivery of an election.
Honourable Speaker, such achievements are hard to ignore and I would like to thank Dr Bam and members of her team for having been good ambassadors for the country.
Today we are gathered here to receive an Atlas of Results for the 2009 National and Provincial Elections. I have gone through this important publication, which is an impressive and detailed collation of information on the 2009 National and Provincial elections.
The purpose of the Atlas is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the 2009 elections and in some parts, it also provides data from the same elections held in 1999 and 2004. There are very few, if any other countries in the world that take transparency to this level.
It is in the interests of transparency and accountability that we have implemented recent changes to the National Executive of our country, as announced on Sunday 31st October 2010.
After examining the work of government over the past 17 months we realised a need to strengthen the leadership of government. The reshuffling of Cabinet and the appointment of a number of Deputy Ministers will ensure that our electoral mandate is achieved.
2014 will see a free and democratic government in power for 20 years. We cannot fail our fellow South Africans. Our people have every right to demand from this government service delivery that meets their needs. Our people have every right to demand from our Executive answers to why they still do not have water, electricity and good housing. Our people have every right to be answered.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are now preparing for the 2011 Municipal Elections. I am certain that as we continue with these preparations, political parties represented here today, including the governing African National Congress, will make use of this document not only to score points against each other but also to determine our people’s levels of participation in our democratic processes, with the aim of ascertaining that the spirit of 1994 is kept alive.
Let me once more take this opportunity to thank Dr Brigalia Bam and all our Electoral Commissioners for working hard to put South Africa in a pride of place among democratic nations of the world.
I am deeply honoured to receive this Atlas of Results for the 2009 National and Provincial Elections.
I thank you.