On Thursday, at 19h00, President Jacob Zuma will stand up and deliver the country’s most important political speech – the State of the Nation Address (SONA). This year’s speech is highly anticipated for a number of important reasons, which I will reflect on here.
With the start of the Fifth Parliament, President Zuma and handlers at Luthuli House have done all they could to evade accountability, a cardinal pillar of our constitutional democracy. In doing so, they have rendered the National Assembly unworkable (the modus operandi of the ANC when it comes to important institutions), and flouted the Constitution at every turn. This has distracted our national conscience from the work of Parliament to legislate for a better South Africa.
Outside the House, approximately 12 million (or 21,5%) of South Africans live in dire poverty, with this number growing; South Africa faces daily load-shedding due to the ANC’s inability to heed the warnings and plan adequately, costing the economy R300 billion and one million jobs since 2008; there is growing dissatisfaction and anger from residents in municipalities across the country; an economy that’s stuck in first gear; and the purge of the heads of corruption busting agencies.
Given this shopping list of scandals and crises, the President heads to SONA with a great deal to account for. This is the reality that he needs to face; the time for telling a good story has long past, when the reality today is in stark contrast to what the ANC would have us believe and in strong contradiction to the values of former president Nelson Mandela.
This is the one year, more than ever before, that the president cannot stand up and deliver another recycled speech that is flat on ideas, plans and substance in general. Millions of South Africans will be glued to the televisions and radio sets, with the hope that President Zuma will speak to the problems that face them daily, especially when it comes to jobs, the economy, the electricity crisis and crime.
The ideological battle within the ANC does not give clarity or spark confidence, given that the National Development Plan and the Freedom Charter are mentioned in the same sentence, by President Zuma. Mostly, the two documents are polar opposites. This is President Zuma trying to please everyone, even though policy uncertainty is a major concern raised by investors, industry and ratings agencies that depend on clarity to make decisions.
The ANC has also shelved the Independent Services and Market Operator (ISMO) Bill, which would empower Independent Power Producers to plug into the grid, allowing for the private sector to address Eskom’s power generation deficit. If we are to build a working economy, we need to a stable and constant supply of energy.
Furthermore, in addressing South Africa’s energy needs, we must look at breaking Eskom’s monopoly, which controls every aspect of electricity generation and distribution. The DA will fight this fight until power is returned to the people.
We need to reject the president’s ill-considered R1 trillion Russian nuclear deal, and invest substantially in renewable energy projects that will be able to contribute to the grid in a relatively short space of time, creating thousands of jobs in the process.
Quality education plays a big role in equalising and bettering society. If we are to secure South Africa’s future, we need a plan that ensures that the child in Alex receives the same quality of education as the child in Sandton.
Our government needs to ensure that regardless how affluent – or not – a school is, it still has access to basic resources such as textbooks and desks. Moreover, our teachers need to be required to undergo competency testing to ensure that those responsible with empower our young have the skills to do so.
The DA has also long favoured regular literacy and numeracy testing as part of learners’ assessment to make sure that they are not falling behind.
In fighting corruption and ensuring that the criminal justice system works without fear, favour or prejudice, Parliament needs to be given a greater role in the appointment of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP). How can we trust President Zuma to appoint and fire this person, when he or she makes the decision whether or not to prosecute in ‘politically sensitive’ cases?
We need to make sure that Chapter 9 institutions are not undermined by the ANC majority in Parliament, and that the president is not allowed to ignore the Public Protector, or interfere in the National Prosecuting Authority or the Hawks, amongst others.
The Democratic Alliance has been vocal about these issues, and has presented its ideas, which are readily accessible to South Africans.
We have also fought a long and hard fight to bring the president to the North Gauteng High Court on 16 March, where the court will decide on whether to reinstate the over 700 counts of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering against him.
In the light of the dire situation facing our country, and the project of state capture being undertaken by the president and the ANC, the time has come to put politics aside, and for the president to ask, “What is best for the people of South Africa?”
From Malamulele to Randfontein, South Africans are calling for leadership and a plan to steer the country in the right direction.
Our people are well aware of Apartheid and its legacy, but they are also tired of it being used to scapegoat the responsibility that government has, especially when these problems are ANC-made.
The time for excuses is over, and 2015 should mark the year that this government springs to action and implements policies that will secure a prosperous South Africa, and amends legislation that keeps holding us back.
For the last month, I have travelled to parts of the country on the Power to the People Tour, to consult South Africans on the true state of the nation, ahead of the opening of Parliament.
What is clear is that the ANC has long abandoned its duty to improve the lives of South Africans and that South Africans are tired of the ANC and its empty promises to deliver quality services. This is evident when looking at by-election results, which are an important indicator of how our people are going to vote in the 2016 Local Government Elections.
As the Democratic Alliance, we are ready to give the president his time, but when our time to respond comes, we will be guided by the voices of the people of Atteridgeville, Riverlea, Mogalakwena, Nelson Mandela Bay, and all South Africans who are calling so loudly for change. DM