OUR EXPECTATIONS ON THE SONA
9 February 2022
The State of the Nation Address offers the President of the country an opportunity to take stock of what has been happening in the country, but also to offer hope to the nation that tomorrow will be better than today.
For the current administration, the SONA expected to be delivered this Thursday will essentially be a mid-term report on whether the promised “New Dawn” has happened or remains a flickering illusion, a mirage to be pursued but never attained.
It is AZAPO’s view that the report should indicate whether our country has been rescued from that which the President referred to as “9 wasted years” of the Zuma administration. However, we should quickly remind the people that the vehicle that delivered the “9 wasted years” and the promised New Dawn is the same – the ruling ANC. In that sense, it would be on point if the report talked to the “27 wasted years”.
Perhaps it is an unfair expectation for us to expect that the creators of the current political and economic crisis would have the capacity to resolve the crisis that they created. The reckless mind that created the problem is seldom the best to solve its own problematic creation; more so if it selfishly benefits from the public problem it created .
What is clear, though, is that there appears to be no plan to get the country out of the current political and economic crisis.
The people know what they do not have. At 46.6% or 13 million, they know that unemployment is at its highest ever, with about five out of ten people swelling the ranks of the unemployed. They know that education, especially tertiary education, which has been projected as the most potent tool to fight poverty, is no longer sufficient to guarantee a job because there are hundreds of thousands of young university graduates sitting at home without jobs. We should add that those unemployed graduates are black.
The people know that the promise of liberation has been nothing but bogus as they continue to live in squalor, without ownership of the land and their minerals; their wealth and all the natural resources they lost through organised theft by the colonialists.
Indeed, they know that they have no basic services such as water, electricity, sanitation, housing and roads. They know that their education system and health services are in a mess. They know that they are on their own to fight criminals who torture them in their homes. Ordinary law-abiding citizens are turned into criminals as they are forced to take the law into their own hands to deal with thieves who are stealing their livestock in Sekhukhune, Masisi and other areas such as the Lesotho border.
Again, we see the citizens being instigated to wage campaigns like the so-called “Operation Dudula” or “Operation Sepelang”. In these operations the local black people are instigated to sometimes displace fellow Afrikans from other Afrikan countries and burn their homes. The assumption implanted in the desperate minds of the people is that fellow Afrikans are the cause of our miseries like chronic unemployment and abject poverty. Yet we know that this is not true.
We should therefore expect the President to advise the citizens about what is to be done about the porous borders and the undocumented immigrants that make planning that relate to service delivery a nightmare. The poor should not be unleashed against the poor. When that happens, they will blame one another for their miseries, and hell will break loose. It is however worrying that there seems to be a racist hand exploiting and fanning the fans of self-hatred among the people. Meanwhile, the State is conspicuous by its silence.
What happened to the promise that “the doors of learning shall be open”? It seems the more these doors open, the more they close on the black child. The President has no choice but take the nation into confidence about what happened to the empty declaration of “free education” by his predecessor at the unceremonious end of his term of office. When will education be free? Why should black children die for what Onkgopotse Tiro died for about 50 years ago? Why should black children die for what the June 16 Uprising students died for?
Sadly, this year’s SONA will be delivered in Cape Town City Hall because Parliament has been reduced to ashes. The best that the State has been able to do was to explain the attack on the symbol of our democracy with a rushed arrest of a homeless person who seems to be troubled.
In July last year, the country was in flames in civil unrest that some analysts attributed to the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma after he was found guilty of contempt of court for his refusal to appear before the Zondo Commission. Before and after that, the country has witnessed the unexplained burning of important buildings like Eskom, municipalities and other national key points. You could be tempted to ask for South Africa to be renamed “Kwavutha” (where everything is on fire).
It comes as no surprise that the people know that the country lacks credible, bold and decisive leadership that can deal with the scourge of rampant corruption. More than four years of the Steinhoff scandal where billions of rands were stolen more than two years after the VBS saga, no one has been convicted for these high profile crimes despite repeated nice-sounding slogans about accelerating the fight against corruption and fraud.
The people know that they are on their own. So, under the circumstances, what can they expect from SONA? The honest answer is that they should expect nothing. Zilch. If anything, they will get more promises about creating employment and delivering service. But in reality these will only be words that will not be supported by any tangible action.
But if we had a government with a vision, what would that government say on Thursday?
A government with a vision would have a single focus on growing the economy. Such government would accept that given the apartheid and anti-black past which somehow endures, we cannot outsource the development of the country to capital which is largely dominated by the haves who are largely white. Instead of crippling our SOEs by looting them and deploying unqualified cadres, a caring government would properly resource these entities to ensure that the State plays a developmental role to revive the economy and aggressively deal with the poor black person problem just as the Nationalist Party regime dealt with “the poor white man” problem.
Instead of borrowing from the IMF and the World Bank, a caring government should fight corruption and use the funds saved by an effective war on corruption to invest in the building of schools, hospitals, roads, dams and other infrastructure projects which will create millions of jobs.
A caring government should announce plans to restore proper governance and the prestige of the State so that we do not have a situation where criminal gangs attack a police station and steal guns from the police. The stealing of weapons of war from the State buildings is one thing. But the apparent untraceability and lack of arresting of the culprits is a cause for concern for the country’s internal security and sovereignty.
A visionary government should announce how it would form partnerships with citizens to restore discipline in schools so that schools can be centres of academic excellence and not places of bullying and crime. A visionary government should announce plans of reviving Ubuntu in the public service so that nurses, the police and other public servants serve our people with honour and dignity. But that starts with the government ensuring that these professionals are adequately remunerated and are discharging their duties under proper working conditions.
In a nutshell, SONA should inspire confidence and hope to the nation. It should remind the people that it is possible to grow the economy, create employment and become a model State of development. But as AZAPO we are aware that we should adjust our expectations to reality. And that reality is that those who created the current crisis are the least qualified to resolve the crisis.
Qekema is the President of AZAPO