President Jacob Zuma arrived to ululations and hands clapping at a fully packed National Assembly chamber when he made his first public appearance at Parliament on Tuesday after a two week rest period as a result of illness to deliver his State of the Nation Address( SONA).
In the interim of his speech in February, the President talked about government’s achievements of the past year and looked to the future by presenting a programme for the coming year, called the Programme of Action. The PoA sets out government’s plans to address various key government programmes but there hasn't been any direction of promises or plans and many believe the speech he made on Tuesday is exactly the same as the one he gave back in February which had no concrete promises.
This year president Zuma focused on economic growth, rebuilding local government, the unrest in the mining industry, energy and incentives for the youth. He announced that the theme for this year’s International Mandela Day which is on the 18th next month was to clean South Africa.
Zuma mentioned the growth of African trade with neighbouring countries and those further norths are becoming important trading partners for South Africa."We are encouraged that South African investments in the continent increased from R5.5 billion in 2002, to R32.3bn in 2013 and our exports into the continent are also increasing each year, having been at 28.5 percent, up from 22.6 percent in 2002 ", said Zuma.
He also said that government will target the agricultural sector to create a million jobs in the next 16 years by providing comprehensive support to smallholder farmers through speeding up land reform and providing technical, infrastructural, and financial support.
He touched on energy by saying we need to respond decisively to the country's energy constraints, in order to create a conducive environment for growth by developing a sustainable energy mix that comprises coal, solar, wind, hydro, gas, and nuclear energy
“South Africa needs drastic intervention to jump-start the economy and overcome poverty, unemployment, and inequality”. He added, “to end this, a national minimum wage to reduce income inequalities that persist in the country’s 20 years into democracy was being considered”.
According to Jacob Zuma, government is expected to continue focusing on various infrastructure projects that will ultimately change the living conditions of South African citizens and boost economic growth. He also stated that, government has invested approximately one trillion rand in new infrastructure to provide water, energy, transport, sanitation, schools and clinics and internet connections to SA citizens.
Some believe the president has adequately detailed the main areas of focus for the next five years but Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema who was dressed in a red overall and red beret for the occasion disagrees and says African National Congress members were clapping for mediocrity during President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Adress and that there is nothing exciting except a blowing of hot air and a repetition of the things that we have heard before.On the other hand Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said President Jacob Zuma was responding too late to some of the country's problems that the DA had called for.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said the President seemed "muted" during his speech and some positives which came out of Zuma's address were infrastructure and corruption, nevertheless he didn’t mention how about he’s going to prevent a repeat of the five-month platinum mining sector strike.Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said, “Zuma did not go far enough in his address on industrialisation, from a Cosatu perspective we can never achieve the fundamental change we need in South Africa until we recognise that most of our wounds come from the fact that we inherited a growth path from the apartheid era"
Promises have been repeatedly made in SONAs before but Zuma’s government never kept them, speeches needn't be “CONCRETE OR DECISIVE”, actions are; despite all that, the African National Congress had high praises for President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation address and said it provided decisive actions to speed up economic growth and practically takes forward the commitments made in the ANC manifesto.
Nonetheless the president did highlight some of the important aspects that will move SA forward in his speech such as of improving the economy that will create sustainable jobs but is this a chant of a number of promises the president has made before that lack substance?. Why didn't he include how South Africa has done in the past 20 years in ANC hands? Where are the 6 million job opportunities they promised? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.