This evening at Parliament in Cape Town, President Cyril Ramaphosa was presented with an opportunity to mark a divisive break from the past and charter a new way forward for our nation – a future of rapid economic growth, job creation, accelerated service delivery, quality education, and the eradication of corruption and crime.
The reality is that committing to a litany of “10-year goals” means very little to people who desperately need immediate change. The ANC has had 25 years to bring about change, and while the President is dreaming, the majority of South Africans are living a nightmare.
It is disappointing that the State of the Nation Address (SONA) was nothing more than an acknowledgement of the systemic problems the country faces – without announcing urgent and immediate reform measures that our nation and her people are crying out for. We need a plan for tomorrow.
While our economy remains in ICU, the President expects his recycled rhetoric, sprinkled with one or two minor changes, to lead to fundamental reform and take us on a path of rapid economic growth that creates a job in every home. This was not a SONA for the 10-million jobless South Africans,the majority of whom are young people.
The truth is, the President said very little about government’s actual plans. It was devoid of policy certainty that could steer our economy towards a path of growth and prosperity.
However, it is what he failed to say that is even more noteworthy. The SONA was silent on the introduction of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to secure cheaper and more sustainable electricity supply.
The SONA was silent on South African Airways (SAA) which continues to divert public money away from service delivery and towards a financial black hole. There was no mention of a plan to review the role of State-Owned Entities (SOEs), which remains one of the biggest threats to economic recovery and growth.
The SONA was silent on how government plans to reduce a bloated state and the public sector wage bill, which costs South Africans over R400 billion per year and is simply unsustainable in the medium and long term.
The SONA was silent on rural safety units and the localisation of police and crime intelligence. Putting a few more cops on the street will barely scratch the surface of our country’s endemic crime problem.
The SONA was silent on basic education reform where the interests of learners are placed ahead of the interests of SADTU. There was no mention of the implementation of teacher competency tests and principal performance agreements that SADTU has been blocking for half a decade.
Lastly, the SONA was largely silent on corruption – mentioning it only twice in a 6300-word speech. One of the greatest inhibitors of creating a capable state that can deliver on its objectives is corruption. The President is clearly unable to tackle corruption within his party and within government.
The DA’s fight going forward is for the 10 million unemployed South Africans – to put a job in every home and bring about real change that will build One South Africa for All.
Leader of the Democratic Alliance