ANALYSIS: What Zuma didn't say

2017-02-10 10:15
President Jacob Zuma at Sona 2017.

President Jacob Zuma at Sona 2017.

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President Jacob Zuma struggled on Thursday night to get a word in between the chaos that ensued during his State of the Nation Address. 

When he finally did speak, the speech he made was half a report of government’s achievements of the past year, and half their plans for 2017.

If the president is to be believed, South Africa is in a period of recovery, with several improvements over the past year. He however failed to mention some important facts.

What he did say:

“We successfully avoided a credit ratings downgrade which would have had a significant impact on our economy.”

What he didn’t say:

We managed this despite major political turmoil and in-fighting in the ANC and a total onslaught by himself and the Guptas on Treasury, which included a fraud charge against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Gordhan was at pains last year to boost investor and business confidence to avoid the credit downgrade all the while having to war with the president for control of the country’s state-owned enterprises and SARS – this with the threat of a Cabinet reshuffle that would see him removed from his position hanging over his head.

What he did say:

“Government is working hard to ensure reliable bulk water supply in the various areas of the country to support economic growth whilst increasing access to vulnerable and rural municipalities… We call upon municipalities to support the War on Leaks programme.”

What he didn’t say: 

The current water crisis is not only due to the drought, but has been induced over years by poor government planning. Our water infrastructure has not been upgraded in more than 20 years and the department of water and sanitation’s most recent figures show that nearly R810 billion is necessary to replace outdated infrastructure over the next 10 years. This would require a yearly investment of R81 billion. We currently have roughly half of that budgeted. Disfunctional waste-water treatment plants are furthermore spewing almost 4 billion litres of untreated or partially treated sewage into the country’s dams and rivers daily, polluting what available drinking water we have left. A lack of skills (admittedly being addressed) is a real problem and after bulk-water management and processing were devolved to the provinces in 1994, serious capacity constraints have hampered proper management of our water.

What he did say:

“We continue to build modern schools replacing mud structures and other inappropriate buildings through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure delivery Initiative (ASIDI). This gives our children dignity. A total of one hundred and seventy three inappropriate structures have been eradicated since 2011 In total, 895 new schools now provide a conducive learning environment for our children.”

What he didn’t say:

Of the schools identified in 2014 for upgrades as part of the ASIDI programme 4% still do not have electricity; 9% still do not have adequate sanitation; and 4% still do not have running water. Yet, statistics released by the department of basic education show chronic under-spending with regards to the roll out of infrastructure. The department last year failed to meet the November 29 deadline for the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure report for all the provinces, meaning we have no accurate way of measuring what is being done to improve school infrastructure.

What he did say: 
“Amongst the participating countries [in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timms)], South Africa has shown the largest improvement of 87 points in Mathematics and 90 points in Science.”

What he didn’t say: 

This improvement was from the lowest base possible. According to the latest Timms test results only 34% of Gr.9 learners could do basic maths, ie. could reach the lowest international benchmark. This number is up from 24% in 2011. Although an improvement, it still means 66% of our learners could not do basic computations or math tables, or acquired a basic understanding of numbers. This is clearly reflected in our matric results. Only one in three learners who wrote the national certificate exam in 2016 achieved 40% or more in the Mathematics. That is roughly 1.5% of learners who start school in Gr.1.

What he did say:

“… social grants now reach close to 17 million people, mainly older persons and children, many families would not be able to put food on the table if it were not for social grants.”

What he didn’t say: 

These 17 million people run the risk of not receiving their grants come April 2017 due to a botched tender process by the department of social development. In April 2014, the Constitutional Court tasked the department with taking over payments after it was found that there were irregularities in the appointment of CPS as the service provider. Two years later, the department is still not ready to do this and is now applying to the court to extend CPS’s illegal tender in a desperate effort to make sure people receive their grants.

What he did say:

“The Mining Charter is currently being reviewed … We will continue to pursue direct state involvement in mining… The Mining Company of South Africa Bill will be presented to Cabinet and Parliament during the year.”

What he didn’t say:

Grave concerns about government’s intentions with the new Mining Charter and its possible impact exist among industry members. While there’s agreement on the importance of transformation, certain features of government’s proposals threaten the viability of many mining operations and could lead to mining companies withdrawing from the country. Mining contributes about 8% to South Africa's GDP and accounts for some 400 000 direct jobs. The impact of decreased investment in the mining sector on the economy (both nationally and locally in mining communities) will be devastating.

What he did say:

“We had stated our intention of using the Expropriation Act to pursue land reform and land redistribution, in line with the Constitution.”

What he didn’t say:

In the last 8 years, very little to nothing has been done to accelerate the redistribution of land. Research shows that between 70% to 90% of the projects that did get off the ground (including land restitution projects) failed. The reasons for this include inadequate post-settlement support, lack of skills, poor planning and infighting within communities. 

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  sona 2017

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