5 years of Zuma: a trip through the highlights, lowlights and no lights

2014-02-13 12:11

Ferial Haffajee assesses the past five state of the nation addresses.

» 7 highlights

The infrastructure programme – underplayed in presidential assessments. Social infrastructure (schools, hospitals, clinics, housing, solar-generated power) has changed markedly and altered the landscape.

Priorities. Unlike with previous presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, priorities have not changed every year to suit a presidential fad – there are five and they are consistent. The Kha Ri Gude mass literacy programme has quietly changed many lives. Education is still terrible, but we know how bad, thanks to annual national assessments and a schools audit.

The matric pass rate is up and government is reassessing the 30% pass rate.

Public health is still terrible, but we know how bad it is thanks to the first-ever proper audit of public health facilities. The impact Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has made on public health is incalculable.

The presidential hotline. It works and takes thousands of complaints a year, a large percentage of which are resolved.

Green. We’re going green. The solar water geyser programme is changing the energy mix as are wind farms and solar parks.

» 7 lowlights

Jobs. Every year, in his state of the nation address, the president has a new reason for our endemic underemployment and unemployment. The real story: a growing economy makes jobs. That’s it.

Communication costs and access. The president has changed his communications ministers more often than he gets married. And that’s a lot. It’s not working. Nigeria and Kenya are beating us hands down in this area.

Land restitution. It’s not working and no one knows why, so government’s shifted the goalposts and reopened the land claims cutoff date.

State-owned enterprises. Parastatals are placed at a pivotal point of economic growth, but they require bailouts all the time and are ruinous to the fiscus. Transnet and the airports company, Acsa, are exceptions.

Local government. Each year, local government comes up as an Achilles heel for President Zuma in his state of the nation addresses. He can’t tackle them for three reasons: the way the Constitution distributes power across the three levels of government; corruption; and cadre deployment. We’re stuck.

Mining. Every year, for the past three years, mining emerges as a flash point – be it on labour, regulation or mooted policy changes. Every year, the president promises the industry will improve but it gets more unstable. Miners flee. Employment slows.

Agriculture. We should be growing more mielies, making more cereal and harvesting more fruit for export. We don’t because the farming community is uncertain and nervous.

» 7 no lights

Broadband. It’s not simpler, better or faster even though the president and his Cabinet promise it will be, almost every year.

Digital migration from analogue. A dog’s breakfast. The inability to move television from the analogue spectrum to the digital is holding up broadband. Cut through the vested interests already. This is our future.

Jobs. Governments don’t create jobs but does well at public works opportunities. Channels need to be opened from the public works job opportunities into private-sector jobs.

Corruption. The president lacks the moral authority to crack down on corruption. There is nothing anybody can do about this. The so-called spy tapes, which got the president off the hook of prosecution, are never likely to see the light of day until the end of his term. Their release has been delayed by the president’s serial court actions.

Capable state. The cornerstone of the National Development Plan is a capable state. The state can only be made capable if a sunset clause is placed on cadre deployment and a ban placed on civil servants being allowed to do business with the state. Don’t hold your breath.

Youth employment incentive. In his third state of the nation address, the president raised the possibility of support for businesses that employ young people. It is unlikely to happen, even though the provision for which is now a draft law.

Business confidence. Generally at a low. Big business has largely been marginalised by the state-focused administration of President Zuma.

» What are your highlights and lowlights of the past five years? Leave your comment below or join the conversation: @City_Press

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