President Zuma is set to deliver the 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA) before a joint sitting of Parliament in 48 hours’ time. The Democratic Alliance (DA) expects the President to once again use this opportunity to make a long list of promises and deliverables, which will not be heard of again after the speech is finished.
As his record has shown, President Zuma uses his annual SONA to make promises which are observed more in the breach than the observance.
In last year’s SONA, the President made several commitments across various sectors of our country, none of which have been fulfilled. These include:
Commitment: To empower SMMEs to accelerate their growth in order to create jobs. The National Development Plan states that 90% of all new jobs created by 2030 will be by SMMEs.
Update: This has simply not been achieved. SMMEs continue to struggle in an economic and labour environment not conducive to growth. StatsSA latest statistics on liquidations and insolvencies for December 2016 revealed that there was a year-on-year increase of 3.4% more liquidations. This indicates SMMEs require much more support. Moreover, the Department of Small Business Development is severely underfunded – according to the Minister herself, and requires a budget of at least R5 billion to fulfil its mandate. Consequently, our unemployment rate remains stagnant at 36%.
The Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) released for Quarter 3 2016 has revealed a staggering increase in the number of unemployed South Africans, rising from 8.88 million to 9.016 million, a quarter-on-quarter increase of 136 000 people. Since the third quarter last year, 712 000 South Africans have joined the ranks of the unemployed. President Zuma and the ANC have failed our economy, and failed young unemployed South Africans.
Commitment: Discussions are ongoing within government, led by the Department of Social Development and National Treasury, with regards to finalising the comprehensive social security policy.
Update: The social security policy is in a shambles. In early 2017, SASSA admitted it will seek an extension of the invalid contract with the current service provider Cash Paymaster Services to distribute 17 million social grants to poor South Africans. SASSA’s core task is to perform this function and the agency has been promising for years it will take over this function when the contract with CPS ends on April 1 this year. The Minister, despite repeated assurances that her department and SASSA will be ready to perform this task, has been absent from critical committee meetings aimed at providing clarity on this matter. There is an atmosphere of tension and anxiety about how grants will be paid. There is also still no clarity on how long the contract will be extended for and what this will cost South Africa.
State Owned Enterprises
Commitment: The recommendations of the Presidential Review Commission on SOE’s will be implemented.
Update: While the Presidential Review Commission made 31 recommendations – they remain as recommendations – unimplemented. The only notable development in this regard is the establishment of the Presidential SOE Coordinating Council (PSCC), which places the President at the helm of oversight of SOEs.
Commitment: Companies that are no longer relevant to the development agenda will be phased out.
Update: No SOEs have been phased out during the year 2016.
Commitment: State-owned enterprises (SOEs) must be “properly managed” and implement department-identified projects over defined periods of time under proper monitoring.
Update: no progress. Various AG reports show massive mismanagement & wasteful expenditure at most SOEs, resulting in billions in lost revenue. There exists no tangible indications of improved monitoring and evaluation systems.
Commitment: The establishment of Ketlaphela, a state-owned pharmaceutical company, which would supply antiretroviral drugs to government.
Update: This has not happened due to affordability. Ketlaphela was initially set up as a public-private partnership, however the private partner has since pulled out of the deal, leaving Ketlaphela without the means to implement its mandate.
Commitment: Government will fast-track the implementation of the first phase of broadband roll-out to connect more than 5 000 government facilities in eight district municipalities over a three-year period, funding of R740mn over 3-year period allocated.
Update: The SA Connect tender was cancelled by the State’s IT Agency in 2016, setting back this plan of connecting South Africans to the internet. According to Minister Cwele, phase one of the roll-out is yet to be implemented, meaning that this promise has yet to be delivered.
Commitment: Government will continue to assist farmers and also provide water-tank services to communities during the devastating drought we are currently facing.
Update: less than half of the R600 million allocated (R 260m) to the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) for drought relief had been spent by October 2016 despite severity of the drought. Farmers are still under huge financial stress, and food supplies are under threat.
South Africa should not expect much from this year’s SONA, therefore as the DA, tomorrow we will put forward coherent policy alternatives, which will work to ensure that those excluded from the economy and opportunities are included so that their lives are made better and South Africa can build a dynamic and flourishing economy. There will be a special focus on the ‘Lost Generation’, which is not in education, employment or training (NEET). This is a grouping of our society that has been abandoned by a directionless, uncaring and power-hungry ANC.