Trade union Solidarity joined the various dissenting voices by describing President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address SONA) on Thursday night as a “pipe dream of an African utopia”.
Ramaphosa outlined seven priority areas and several goals for the next 10 years that included that no person in South Africa will go hungry and that two million more young people will be in employment.
“Our schools will have better educational outcomes and every 10-year-old will be able to read for meaning. Violent crime will be halved,” said Ramaphosa.
But like many opposition parties, Solidarity tore into the president’s desire to “build an ethical state” saying he failed to mention “how those guilty of shockingly squandering South Africans’ tax money would be brought to book”.
Monica Mynhardt, a researcher at the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI), said Ramaphosa sidestepped important issues.
“The president did not come forward with any definite plans to turn ailing entities such as the South African Broadcasting Corporation, South African Airways and Denel around; on the contrary, he did not even once refer to those state-owned entities.”
“In a feverish attempt to keep power in government’s hands, the president announced that an absurd bail-out of R230 billion would be given to Eskom over the next ten years. ”
Mynhardt said a bail-out without real change and actual plans does not mean much.
“Promises about unbundling Eskom were made earlier, but this proposal seems to have died a silent death as no mention was made of it in this State of the Nation address,” Mynhardt said.
“In spite of the fact that we live in a country where the government is unable to keep the lights on, the president dreams of high-speed trains and a technologically advanced economy.
“Another perturbing issue is the government’s actual plans to have the National Health Insurance approved by the sixth parliament despite justified opposition from all quarters. The same goes for the land reform issue.”
Mynhardt said the government’s plans to accelerate land reform in rural and urban areas leave South Africans and foreign investors uncertain about the future of food security and property rights.
“The president shockingly contradicted himself when he emphasised that accelerated economic growth, among other things, required a clear property rights regime,” Mynhardt said.
“However, it is absurd of the president to expect agriculture to play a key role in economic growth amid the fact that this sector is the one suffering the most because of the concept of expropriation without compensation.
“One highlight of the state of the nation address was the president’s assurance that the [SA] Reserve Bank would remain independent, but in light of the empty promises and the devastating ideologies in which the ANC [African National Congress] is rooted.
“It would be extremely naïve to believe that the ANC will surrender at any time soon the centralised power it had acquired with so much effort.”
The president rounded off his speech on a positive unifying note saying: “Working together there is nothing we cannot be, nothing we cannot do, and nothing we cannot achieve.”
But that did not soften the stinging criticism by Solidarity, which echoed the reaction of the Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane who said Ramaphosa’s intended ambitions for certain projects was a “nightmare for ordinary South Africans”.
Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema said of Ramaphosa: “The man wanted to be president for the last 30 years, for more than three decades … he still doesn’t know what he wants to do for South Africa except to tell us he has been dreaming.”