SONA 2022: ‘High’ on good intent, lacking in delivery
The President’s action plan to Parliament on cleaning up state capture must ensure that necessary resources and expertise are injected into prosecutions that result in perpetrators behind bars and the firing of culpable politicians and officials. We are tired of promises of future action.
President Ramaphosa’s undertaking of action against state capture and Cabinet failures on national security were the most important part of SONA 2022. Rapid and significant delivery on these promises will instil public confidence, as accountability is long overdue on these matters.
The President acknowledged the devastation of state capture and the Cabinet’s responsibility for failures in July, and promised action on both these matters, in what we hope will be the first significant efforts by the executive to implement accountability. “We know that the fight against corruption is far from over,” he told us, and we agree.
We are still waiting for accountability against ministers who failed South Africa during the July 2021 riots, and those linked to state capture. Let this not be the era of blaming all state failures on the state capture gang of the Zuma administration and an ongoing failure to act decisively.
The President’s SONA speech contained many excellent statements and ideas, which will take significant resources to implement. We need to see these reflected in the Budget later this month. Ample resources are necessary for law enforcement, specialised anti-corruption units, courts and prosecutors, if these promises will come to fruition. The President reminded us that the SIU has referred 224 government officials for disciplinary action and referred 386 cases for possible prosecution to the NPA: these cases cannot be allowed to wait for years for skilled staff and resources to finalise them.
South Africans also need to see crucial appointments of highly skilled people in positions of authority – and this requires an end to the cadre deployment which has crippled our economy.
The President made a strong plea for unity from business and civil society to rebuild the economy and introduce efficiency within state departments, however, there is a clear reluctance by many state departments to engage with organised civil society. Many good suggestions have been made to introduce efficiencies such as driver’s licence extensions and AARTO’s unworkable processes, yet our government refuses to engage.
Another oft-repeated proposal to buy local was once again proposed by the President, yet we have not heard of a pending policy statement to instruct government at all levels to purchase only vehicles manufactured in South Africa. Policy amendments to force government departments to buy locally produced vehicles would result in major beneficial implications for the local economy, investment and employment creation.
While President Ramaphosa admitted the serious problems facing South Africa and gave us a list of plans to go forward, much of this was overshadowed by the repetition of old promises and government’s long record of over-promising and under-delivery.
We are concerned that the Presidential SOE Council is “preparing recommendations” on SOEs to be retained, consolidated or disposed of, but if government was serious about this, the President would have pronounced on meaningful disposal of non-core SOEs that have not made a profit in two years.
The President means well in his comment that government is not the creator of jobs, as this is best left to business, and that government should be the enabler of business. Yet he spoke of the establishment of a “state-owned Holding Company to house strategic SOEs and to exercise coordinated shareholder oversight”, which OUTA believes is supposed to be the role of the Department of Public Enterprises.
OUTA would have liked to hear the President announce that Parliament will be persuaded to pass new legislation that all SOE and state institution boards should contain at least one (possibly more) civil society representatives, and that ministers should not have the sole powers in these appointments.
A soundclip with comment by OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage is here.