Opposition parties have moved swiftly to slam the reconstruction and economic recovery plan President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered at a joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday.
In his address, the president promised to fast-track reforms at power utility Eskom and accelerate procurement from independent power producers.
However, opposition parties seemed underwhelmed by Ramaphosa’s speech, with some saying the president’s plans were not new and that his proposals did not go far enough.
Earlier, the SA Communist Party released a statement calling on the president to server the influence between politicians and the state.
“Government must clamp down on undue influence on the state and state officials and entities and public representatives. In line with capitalist values, such influence is destined for private income generation and private wealth accumulation and involves private sector elements,” said the party.
In his speech, Ramaphosa said that 800 000 jobs would be created, more teacher assistants would be employed and the Covid-19 relief grants would be extended by three months.
“We will be extending the special Covid-19 relief grant by a further three months. This will maintain a temporary expansion of social protection and allow the labour market sufficient time to recover,” said Ramaphosa.
He said the Covid-19 relief grant, which was introduced six months ago, had so far provided additional support to about 17 million citizens from poor households.
Part of his plan included job creation by focusing on infrastructure investment, re-industrialisation of the economy and acceleration of economic reforms, among other things.
However, political parties doubted government’s ability to deliver on the plans Ramaphosa announced.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald questioned why Ramaphosa’s speech always mentioned infrastructure development. He said there was nothing new in the speech.
“How long do we have to hear that there is going to be infrastructure development? How long are we going to hear about renewable energy?
How long are we going to hear that he is going to be creating jobs? What he announced this afternoon is an extension of social grants,” said Groenewald.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said Ramaphosa, together with his predecessors, had made similar promises in the past but there was no implementation. “The plan he has outlined is no different to what he has been telling us in the last three state of the nation addresses. Sometimes it’s like a cut and pastes from his previous speeches,” said Holomisa.
The EFF said that Ramaphosa’s speech only promised impractical solutions. “The economic reconstruction and recovery plan Ramaphosa presented today only exists in the imaginary world that he and his Cabinet exist in and is out of touch with reality,” the party said.
“The reality faced by workers in farms, construction sites, factories, municipalities, the poor people in the informal settlement without food, water and electricity, students who continue to suffer exclusion from institutions of higher learning because they are born poor and unemployed youth remains without any believable and practical economic reconstruction and recovery plan.
“Ramaphosa continues to mislead our people with the imaginary R500 billion Covid-19 relief package that never existed. Millions of people lost jobs,” the EFF said.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen criticised government’s plans to further fund SAA to the tune of R10 billion, saying the money could be better used.
“I think what was missing [in the speech] was the urgency of these plans. South Africa does not need a plan for two or three years, it needs a plan for now. We are in an economic crisis, we have massive unemployment and we need investment and growth,” said Steenhuisen.
He also criticised the job creation plan, which relied on the state. He questioned how the country could talk about cutting the wage bill while it promised to create jobs.
“I think it was a big missed opportunity. I think people were expecting bold reforms. I would have loved the president today to bring his reform agenda and slam it on the table and say, ‘Let’s pass this through this house’,” said Steenhuisen.
Earlier, Steenhuisen had criticised the extension of the national state of disaster, claiming it was undermining investor confidence in the country.
He blamed the state of disaster for removing Parliament’s oversight role on the members of the national executive, including holding them accountable.
“It effectively allows government to run a dictatorship, making new laws that fundamentally affect people without having to consult Parliament. This has absolutely nothing to do with the virus,” Steenhuisen said.
He said the DA was calling for an end of all restrictions, including on international travel, alcohol sales, the curfew and said all schools should be reopened.