The Presidential Years

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If you recall, when we came into government, there was this issue of what we would do during the first hundred days. Amongst other things there would be free healthcare for children under six, and for pregnant woman; and free school feeding. One hundred days is very short and we had to see how we were going to implement these things. We had to meet with MECs and see what to do, but there were a few things that became very clear.

One, yes, we can open up the institutions but there just wasn’t enough infrastructure to make that possible. So we had to then have a discussion to say, okay, we can easily say everyone under six can now have this, which we did, but having been around the country to see what was available, it was clear that we would have to build the health infrastructure especially at the local level very quickly if we were going to make that meaningful.

Then there were issues of budget, but he was very clear that that had to happen. So we had to be given the budget to build clinics and we had to find a way of building them quickly. We got permission to work with the CSIR to design three types of clinic: small, medium and health centre, so that we could save money and also do it quickly. With standard plans you don’t have to have an architect drawing plans every time, and the decision would just be: what type of clinic of the three are we building at which place in which area and then it would be built. They also did the quantity surveying, so that we built them knowing exactly how much we needed.

We were able through his assistance as president to get the budget, because you know how difficult it is to get money out of government. But because he felt strongly about it we were able to get the money, use it very prudently, but also build very nice clinics that were the epitome of a new South Africa.

The second area where he demonstrated strong leadership was when it came to the school feeding. We had a problem because we felt that education had to deal with that, but the then minister of education said that he didn’t have the capacity or the money to do it. But as an ANC cadre I felt it would be very wrong for Madiba to announce something and it doesn’t get done. So we had again to rely on his leadership to get some money for it to be done in the first hundred days. We took it from the health side until education was ready, otherwise it would just be one of the things that Madiba announced and it didn’t happen. He was helpful in making sure that we were able to get the support that we needed to do it

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
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