Less promises and more delivery for SONA 2020 – we need hope
While past SONA speeches have proposed good plans to take South Africa forward, OUTA trusts that this week President Ramaphosa will deliver a plan that is realistic and provides clarity on implementation.
If there ever was a time that South Africa needed a SONA speech that was compelling and committed to meaningful action that will lift our country out of its current downward trajectory, it is now. Over the past decade, impressive statements and promises have been made in SONA speeches, but not enough has been delivered to improve the lives of the ordinary citizen.
OUTA’s high level evaluation of overarching statements made in SONA speeches over the past decade have shown us that some of the key targets on poverty alleviation, infrastructural development, job creation, health matters and general economic improvement have, unfortunately, fallen short.
Reflecting on SONA commitments made by the President in 2019, we can observe the following:
President Ramaphosa promised that within the next decade our economy would grow faster than the population. The official unemployment rate remained unchanged from last year, which doesn't bode well for South Africans or our economy. Indeed, the South African economy narrowly dodged a recession in 2019.
The President also highlighted the need to rebuild the foundations of our economy by revitalising and expanding the Production sectors. The damage caused by the ongoing load shedding has reversed many of the gains in these sectors.
There has not been enough progress on the President’s commitment to improve the ease of doing business in South Africa. In fact, the country slipped to 84th position out of 190 economies according to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report.
Citizens also need greater feedback on other commitments made, such as progress on the R100bn Infrastructure Fund (SONA February 2019) and the establishment of the Presidential SOE Council (SONA June 2019).
What South Africa doesn’t need in SONA 2020, is a long list of promises that are unlikely to be implemented. South Africans are generally supportive of the need for economic transformation, job creation, better education, vastly improved basic services (including universal health care), social cohesion, safer communities and the need to address corruption. What we desperately need is the clear and measurable list of actionable steps that our government will be able to deliver on, with timelines and all necessary measures in place.
We are mindful that this year’s SONA will reflect on some of the past promises achieved, such as the progress that is underway in some of our state owned enterprises (SOEs), a NPA that has been strengthened with a new National Director of Public Prosecutions and a new Investigative Directorate that came on board in May 2019 (as promised in SONA February 2019). We are also grateful that corruption charges were reinstated against former President Jacob Zuma and that the Nugent Commission’s work is building a better SARS, a key organisation whose new Commissioner started in May 2019.
What we hope for in SONA 2020 is a deeper dive into the big fixes and visionary changes that will lift South Africa to its rightful position as leader of the African continent. How will we improve South Africa’s poor position and move to the top of Africa’s list on matters of education and healthcare for our citizens? What will our government do to address corruption in the police force and the public service in general? How will South Africa stimulate meaningful and believable job market growth over the next five years?
We also need an assurance that consequences will be forthcoming for those implicated in State Capture, as has been exposed during the Zondo Commission. All those who fail to deliver on the social contract with society should be held to account, including those responsible for the gross corruption and maladministration at many failing municipalities.
In addition, OUTA trust that the President will finally announce definitively on the scrapping of e-tolls. We also hope that, while we urgently need greater measures to ensure safety on our roads, the President will consider reviewing the glaring flaws contained within the AARTO Act, which in its current form is highly unlikely to improve road safety.
We remember the roadmap to a united and prosperous South Africa laid down by the National Development Plan and believe that this great initiative and plan needs to receive new life.
We hope that this year’s SONA inspires our nation with clear goals and action steps that will make a real, meaningful difference in the lives of ordinary South Africans.