By Hon Mntomuhle B Khawula, Ifp
The events and activities in the country which preceded the SoNA cannot be ignored. Some ill-conceived decisions taken by government during this period had a huge impact and directly contributed to the chaos of the day. Coupled with this were numerous poor decisions taken by the Presiding Officers during the address which also impacted the flow and direction of the day’s events and chaos.
Some of the statements that the President made during SoNA are to be welcomed. The President spoke, inter alia, about:
1. The slow growth of the economy
2. The slow pace of economic transformation
3. The slow pace of land reform.
Though belated the IFP appreciates the financial attention given to the call for free education.
That being said, the 2017 SoNA was fraught with inconsistences and ambiguities. This is not surprising as it has become an established tradition in the ruling party that whatever is addressed by the President does not usually translate into that which ends up taking place on the ground. Whilst the President laments the failure of the economy to transform and empower the black majority during the past 22 years; he says nothing about the fact that the ANC government has also failed in this task, as it has been the government in power over the last 22 years.
In his speech, the President who has been in power for the past 8 years, complains about very slow pace of transformation in the work place. He laments the slow pace of land reform. He complains about the 500-billion-rand state budget spent on goods and services and the 900 billion rand spent on infrastructure per annum, which does not lift up and empower small enterprises, particularly our rural and township enterprises. One missing statement in your complaints Mr President, the elephant in the room,- is that it is your government, your political organisation, and yourself who have principally failed to provide the changes you so lyrically lament about.
The President’s comments about economic concentration which has helped enrich a mere handful of black people. What the President forgets to point out is that, that economic concentration, and the handful of fortunate ones, only happen to be a few connected, relatives, and friends of those who are in power in the country.
Whilst EPWP is a necessary relief measure under the strenuous economic circumstances, government cannot but boast about EPWP as some decent work for the youth of our country. Also, the EPWP targets that are provided are neither realistic nor attainable.
A state of the nation should give the citizens of the country some hope. Some hope that things can still change for the better. The unemployed millions need hope that jobs will be created. The working masses need hope that salaries will improve and that the inequality gap will be gradually reduced. Business needs hope that investments will sustain and improve production. Students and parents need hope for quality and free education. Farmers and communities need hope of drought relief measures. Sadly, Mr President very little of this has been genuinely provided in your speech. This year’s address was a mere reflection of the one before it which has not worked, nor have any of its predecessors.
Whilst the IFP acknowledges the quantity strides the country has taken in social security and education, the issue of quality education remains a concern. Quality education still evades the poor communities whilst remaining a luxury available to those who can afford to send their children to quality schools. It was a blow to quality education when the education department reduced the Maths pass mark to 20% for grades 7-9. Like the Hon Prince Buthelezi stated yesterday, education is the key to total liberation. A feel-good syndrome intended at improving the image of government at the expense of compromising the future of our children is wholly unacceptable.
What the President needs to urgently attend to in order to avoid financial downgrades by the rating agencies which will achieve economic growth and market stabilities and create employment, is to create harmony in government, and harmony in government agencies and the SOE’s. Coupled with this is intensified war on corruption, ending wasteful and fruitless expenditure. This is what the country urgently requires.
As part of their programme for 2017, Hon Deputy President, our leaders need to prioritise the engagements of restoring the decorum of Parliament and by so doing, restore trust, honour and hope to millions of South Africans who are dis-heartened by what is happening in Parliament.
Worse than the speech itself on Thursday was the moral trajectory of the House which has degenerated to hit rock-bottom in respect of moral values. Having been brought up by Prince M. Buthelezi, in a political school that values respect, integrity, Ubuntu and the principle of disagreeing without being disagreeable, I am not proud right now, to be associated with a House that reflected such low levels of these values on Thursday. Robustness and active engagement should not equate to the disintegration of the country’s treasured values.
I thank you.
Hon. M Khawula, MP