It’s been 25 years since South Africa realised its dream of democracy however, to the marginalised and dispossessed, the current state of affairs is a living nightmare. President Cyril Ramaphosa, earlier this month addressed the nation and its chosen representatives in parliament in what is known as the annual State of the Nation Address. It is where the leader of our country speaks on the failures and successes of the past year and how government seeks to remedy those failures and promote growth and prosperity for all.
As a country, 2018 showed us flames. There was a technical recession, political instability, a water crisis, wide-spread unemployment, the epidemic of cash in transit heists, violent protests and the negative results of rampant corruption took their toll on state owned enterprises. Under these circumstances, our President Cyril Ramaphosa began office in the beginning of 2018. He promised a New Dawn for South Africa and momentarily there was an increase in confidence for the government.
However, as the year progressed South Africans were demoralised by “the effects of state capture on vital public institutions including our law enforcement agencies, whose integrity and ability to fulfil their mandate has been eroded”. Key institutions were compromised such as the National Prosecuting Authority, the South African Revenue Service, the State Security Agency and the South African Police Service.
Crime and violence in South Africa become an issue that we could no longer ignore with horrific accounts highlighted across news. The president spoke of how he was aware of the failures of government in protecting citizens who deserve to live in a free, safe and fair country.
Why pay attention to the SONA?
If you are interested in the livelihood of South Africa and its future then it is important to know what the plans are for our state. In order to ensure the safekeeping our democracy, it is imperative be cognisant what has been pledged by government so we can hold our leaders accountable. And, to see whether the state is responsive to the needs of its citizens. It is also empowering to know what services are available to you as a resident of South Africa.
Here is a run-down of the key issues addressed.
- The president spoke of how measures are being taken to increase direct foreign investment, expanding the export rate of South Africa as well as taking actions aimed at “reducing the consumption of imports”.
- President Ramaphosa said, “given the key role that small businesses play in stimulating economic activity and employment… we are focusing this year on significantly expanding our Small Business Incubation Programme.” This programme offers upcoming entrepreneurs with “physical space, infrastructure and shared services, access to specialised knowledge, market linkages, training in the use of new technologies and access to finance”. In order to aid this programme “township digital hubs will be established, initially in four provinces, with more to follow.” President Ramaphosa affirmed that these hubs are to “provide most needed entrepreneurial services to small and medium enterprises in the rural areas and townships but more especially to young people who wants to start their businesses.”
- In order to redress unemployment; in which the youth are most adversely affected, the government has launched a Youth Employment Service which places “unemployed youth in paid internships in companies across the economy”. The government itself has extended a helping hand by removing work experience as a minimum requirement for entry-level jobs in state institutions.
- The state remains steadfast in its commitment to land reform as this is said to increase “agricultural output and promote economic inclusion”. By the end of March 2019, a report written by “an advisory panel of experts headed by Dr Vuyo Mahlathi”, will be released. It is to advise government on how to conduct land expropriation without compensation. The president mentioned that the government has subsequently “invested significantly in comprehensive farmer development support to ensure that restituted and communal land is productively utilised” and “will continue to prioritise targeted skills development and capacity building programmes for smallholder and emerging black farmers”.
- Recently there was a discovery of an oil and gas reserve off the coast of South Africa by French multinational oil and gas company Total. The president thought “this could well be a game-changer for our country and will have significant consequences for our country’s energy security and the development of this industry”.
- The infrastructure of South Africa needs to be further developed and maintained, therefore “R1.3 Trillion has been invested to build hundreds of schools and two new universities, to build hundreds of thousands of new houses, to electrify more than a million homes, generate new electricity and expand public transport”. Government has already begun the task of building state funded student accommodation.
- “New boards with credible, appropriately experienced and ethical directors” have been installed at a number of state-owned enterprises, including Eskom. As we are all too aware, of how Eskom is failing to provide the country with adequate electricity. The president admitted that this “could severely damage our economic and social development ambitions” and announced that there would be an increase in the price of electricity to help Eskom cover its losses. It was also disclosed that Eskom would be split into “three separate entities- Generation, Transmission and Distribution- under Eskom Holdings”.
- In order to increase the quality of basic education there will now be “two years of compulsory Early Childhood Development for all children before they enter Grade 1”. Internationally acclaimed education expert Professor Jonathan Jansen has said “if you want to change the education system in a country you don’t go to universities – less than 20% of our young people go to universities – you start with the preschools.”
Prof Jansen has also stated that “almost eight out of 10 children cannot read in Grade 4 – for understanding.” The president admits that quality education is “possibly the single most important factor in overcoming poverty, unemployment and inequality” therefore the government will be “expanding the availability of early reading resources across the foundation phase of schooling”.
Our head of state, announced that the government plans to “provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device” over the next six years.
In order to give South Africa a competitive advantage in the world of technological innovation new subjects will be introduced, these are “technical mathematics, technical sciences, maritime sciences, aviation studies, mining sciences and aquaponics”. And, that “several ordinary public schools will be transformed into technical high schools”.
- The government also promised to “take a significant step towards universal access to quality health care for all South Africans”
- The president also noted that “every day, South African women are faced with discrimination, abuse, violence and even death, often by those they are closet to”. Therefore, the government is increasing its funding to Thuthuzela Care Centres which are a “critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy, aiming to reduce secondary victimisation and to build a case ready for successful prosecution.” And, Khuseleka Care Centres which is an initiative of the Department of Social Development that “provides support services to women and children who are victims of crime and violence under the Victim Empowerment Programme.” The Government has pledged to “improve the quality of services in shelters and ensure they also accommodate members of the LGBTQI+ community”. As there is the indignity of “corrective” rape where members of the LGBTQI+ are sexually violated by mainly toxic men, to cure them of their homosexuality.
These efforts to end inequality, poverty, discrimination and unemployment will all be rendered useless if government does not take major steps to eradicate corruption and state capture.
- In efforts to improve the “capabilities of public servants, the National School of Government is introducing a suite of compulsory courses, covering areas like ethics and anti-corruption, senior management and supply chain management”. There will be “harsher penalties, including fines and/or prison sentences for officials that transgress.”
President Ramaphosa declared that the date of the national and provincial government elections is the 8th of May 2019, it is an opportunity to practice our democratic right “to determine the direction of this country”.
Personally, I am unimpressed with the efforts government plans to make; to allow the flourishing of South Africa and her economy. I think there is a lack of creativity in the schemes said to be deployed. If you would like a more detailed account, consider reading the SONA on the South African Governments website
Stay tuned as Girl Boss will be analysing tomorrow’s budget speech given by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.