SONA 2019 was filled with good intentions, but lackluster in terms of implementation. We’ve heard about Government’s desire to create millions of jobs in the past, of plans for economic growth and less red tape for businesses, but seen little concrete progress.
“It does not help to say what we want to do, but rather how we will do this,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA CEO.
While SONA might not be the place to offer detailed plans, OUTA would like to have heard the President inform the nation of a new focus and energy in Government’s implementation strategies with meaningful targets and timelines.
“The SONA aims at high-level aspirations which we support,” says OUTA Executive Director Heinrich Volmink. “The follow-up on policy detail needs to be carefully monitored.”
OUTA supports President Ramaphosa’s call for durable partnerships between Government, business, labour, communities and civil society. However, his call for civil society to continue to hold Government to account is hollow and disingenuous against the recent appointments of people like Mosebenzi Zwane, Bathabile Dlamini and Sfiso Buthelezi as chairs of parliamentary committees, the very same people that we have laid criminal charges against. These actions are a clear indication that Government doesn’t take the input of civil society seriously.
“This is a critical invitation for us as civil society, however we need to see less talk and more action from Government in engaging and listening to civil society,” says Volmink.
We welcome the clarity on the independence of the Reserve Bank, insulating it from short-term political agendas from policymakers outside Parliament.
OUTA is also encouraged by the promise that Eskom will not be left to collapse, but again Government is relying on a taxpayer bailout rather than addressing the state-owned entity’s internal problems. This is an enormous bailout – R230bn over 10 years – but we have yet to be convinced of the turnaround strategies of Eskom, SAA and others. We had hoped for more clarity on privatisation of non-essential Treasury-draining SOEs.
In dreaming with the President of a more prosperous South Africa, OUTA believes the following areas require meaningful and urgent intervention:
- Addressing with greater urgency the collapse of local government and working with civil society, business and communities to ensure sustainable governance, financial stability and service delivery through promotion of transparency and accountability.
- Implementing concrete, workable strategies to address the huge debts to Eskom by municipalities, and the issues of why these debts arose and how they will be controlled.
- Interventions for ring-fencing of ratepayers’ payments to delinquent municipalities, thereby ensuring that Eskom and water board creditors are addressed.
- Encouraging a government that has the appetite to hold officials and politicians to account in their personal capacities for corruption, wasteful expenditure and maladministration.
- Developing realistic plans to manage the collapsing SOEs, which are sinking our economy but rated barely a mention in SONA 2019.
- Providing active, practical and urgent support to businesses which have struggled against government bureaucracy and apathy, to recognise their value in getting our economy back on track. Here we expected to hear of concrete plans to implement fast payment and support for small businesses by all Government departments.
- Focusing on the Sector Education and Training Authorities, where far too much money is wasted, to ensure they deliver on their crucial mandate of skilling the youth.
- A coordinated high-level drive towards implementing a culture of ethical conduct and the eradication of corruption.
While OUTA endorses the good ideas and sentiment of SONA 2019, we are disappointed and unconvinced. SONA speeches have become repetitive rhetoric of feel good ideas with very little action to bring these to fruition.