There is a sense of unease amongst South Africans as we start the new year, uncertain of where our country is headed.
Things we should be able to take for granted, are no longer a certainty.
Even the most basic service of electricity supply is under severe threat. The supplier of 95% of our power, Eskom, will be broke by the end of the month.
Our economy has lost R300 billion and one million South Africans have lost their jobs since load-shedding began in 2007.
And the power cuts are just beginning. The load-shedding schedule from February has all the makings of an economic shutdown.
We are losing the potential to create jobs with every passing month that those in power fail to act on the real solutions and changes that South Africans need.
That is why we are witnessing the rise of nyaope, and crime amongst young people in our communities. It is because hopelessness is rising. Unemployment is rising.
Now more than ever South Africans need the institutions of democracy to work for us.
But nearly all of our democracy’s most important institutions are under threat from those who want to capture the state for their own gain.
From political interference in the crime-fighting work of the Hawks, to the politically-driven purges of senior management at SARS, to vote-rigging allegations against the IEC, to a leaderless National Prosecuting Authority – we are witnessing the capture of our institutions by powerful political interests.
That is why Parliament, now more than ever, needs to work. We must do the job the people elected us to do by holding the President accountable for the state of the nation.
We are shedding jobs with every month of load-shedding. But President Zuma instead blames load-shedding on Apartheid, when a company in which the ANC holds shares through their front Chancellor House, made R38 billion from boilers for a new power station that has still not been built.
Our neighbourhoods are being over-run by druglords, our family and friends are struggling to find work, and our communities are going without basic services.
The fact is South Africans want President Zuma to come to Parliament and account for the true state of our nation.
Our nation is in crisis and Parliament must perform its constitutional role of holding those in power accountable for it.
This is a time to put the views and needs of South Africans first by vigorously debating the state of our nation.
The EFF’s planned disruption of the State of the Nation may be good for high drama, but it does not help to restore Parliament’s role as the apex of our democracy’s mechanisms of accountability.
That is what we need to achieve, and by ignoring the rules and disrupting the House, Parliament’s capacity to do its job is eroded, not strengthened.
The EFF has made it clear in the past that he will not follow parliament’s rules, writing them off as being “created by colonialists and imperialists”, when in fact these rules were rewritten by the new democratic dispensation and published in 1997.
Destroying the institution of Parliament in no way strengthens its role.
According to rule 10 of the National Assembly the business of parliament – all of its proceedings, which includes oral questions – is suspended at the end of each annual session and only commences again once SONA has happened.
The fact that President Zuma has failed to answer questions in parliament is a huge problem that must be addressed in the programming committee. This is the right forum to do this according to Parliament’s rules.
The DA, through our Chief Whip, has written to Speaker Baleka Mbete to convene parliament’s programming committee prior to the State of the Nation address so that we can be provided with at least 5 concrete dates for the President to answer questions in Parliament. The Speaker has a constitutional responsibility to do this – she should be protecting Parliament’s mandate and not that of the President.
As long as we work through our institutions to ensure accountability, President Zuma has his day coming.
The DA will see him in court soon for the 700 charges of corruption he has been running from for 5 years. And we will use Parliament to make sure he accounts for Nkandla, for the Hawks, for SARS, for the NPA, for the SABC and all the institutions he is trying to break down to escape accountability.
The beauty of democracy is that the people can hold the powerful accountable.
The power going out in our homes and businesses is a symptom of the real struggle between us and the powerful, connected people in government who take decisions that leave us in darkness.
Our seeming inability to stop the powerful from acting against the interests of by far a majority of us South Africans, is a sign that not enough of us have yet realised the power that lies within the people.
Now more than ever we need to be committed to a politics of shared values, of unity around causes, rather than the traditional divides in our society.
Not enough of us realise that the biggest power struggle we have faced in South Africa’s young democracy is not amongst us, it is between us and the powerful, the connected.
That is why in the coming weeks I will be consulting South Africans from all walks of life on the real state of the nation.
I will be visiting South Africans in their homes and businesses, walking the streets of their communities, and holding townhall meetings to listen to their views.
In embarking on this tour to assess the real state of the nation, I want to tell South Africans that the power lies with the people, and hear first-hand what changes they want to see in our country.
We must mobilize South Africans to hold their government to account.
It is the views of ordinary South Africans that Parliament must hold President Zuma accountable to when he addresses us on the state of the nation.
Power to the People!
Speech by Mmusi Maimane