There is no doubt that 1994 was a time of heightened expectation and hope. There is no doubt either that 2015 is a time of great national angst and uncertainty. COPE believes that SONA 2015 must address the 10 issues that we list below as these are pulling our country down –
1. Lack of forceful, democratic and visionary leadership;
2. Failures in respect of transparency, accountability and financial controls;
3. Abandonment of the drive for national reconciliation to achieve a common national identity and social cohesion;
4. Inability to pull the economy out of its stagnant position because of a failure to:
a. rein in state borrowing which now stands at a staggering 47% of GDP;
b. direct resources to infrastructure rather than consumption;
c. create the skills pool that a complex economy such as ours needs;
d. reduce red tape and other impediments to doing business;
e. encourage fixed direct investments in the economy;
f. create confidence in SARS in order to achieve wide scale tax compliance.
5. Unwillingness by President Zuma to be forthright and come clean on Nkandla and avoiding ridiculous remarks such as Nkandla being a concern only to “the media, and the opposition” and an “issue with the clever blacks.”
6. Interfering with the Justice-Criminal System has had disastrous consequences. The indecent attempt to fire the head of the HAWKS, and the mess in appointing a competent National Director of the NPA have a lot to do, in our view, with manipulating the institutions of State to protect President Zuma.
7. Undermining of Chapter 9 Institutions by the ANC as when Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Kebby Maphatsoe, brazenly and falsely accused Public Protector Thuli Madonsela of being a Central Intelligence Agency plant. The erosion of civil liberties, the threat to business people who speak out and the pressure being put on the media have contributed to making South Africa less free and confident than it was under President Mandela;
8. Creating a government that is too big, too ineffective and much too costly. Under President Zuma, the size of government has nearly doubled. The bureaucracy is terribly bloated and all of this of course impacts on our budget. The cost of our total Public Service is close to 14% of GDP. Compare this with 3.7%, for Russia and 4.4% for Brazil.
9. Borrowing recklessly in order to meet the demands of the budget has placed the State in a precarious position. We are living on borrowed time with borrowed money. President Zuma has brought South Africa to the edge of a fiscal cliff with his policies of unrestrained spending on the consumption side and by allowing a lack of consequences, as the Auditor General laments, for irregular, wasteful and futile expenditure by state officials exceeding R25 billion last year.
10. Allowing competitive clientalism to take deep root has meant that ANC elites have been busy extending their patronage networks to maximise rent extraction. ANC supporters have been spending enormous amounts on political lobbying or buying a seat at the table where President Zuma sits for an astronomical amount to get contracts and to increase their share of existing personal wealth without creating wealth for the nation as a whole.
Minister Radebe is rightly calling on all of us to invite investments and Minister Nene is right in asserting that the NDP is the only plan on the table and that we should all give support to it. We are ready to play our part, is the President willing to lead or continue to duck and dive.