DA leader John Steenhuisen believes that President Cyril Ramaphosa has failed to make the commitments necessary to ensure there is political accountability in the country.
According to Steenhuisen, Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address, which was delivered on Thursday evening, fell short in showing a commitment towards electoral reform, sending a strong message against state capture and greater efforts towards fighting corruption.
“He failed to commit to ending the ANC’s policy of state capture, which is what their explicit policy of cadre deployment is explicitly intended to achieve. Even though this is quite clearly unconstitutional. This makes a lie of his commitment to building a capable state,” he said.
This is despite the president announcing that government had started implementing a strategy that will lead to the establishment of a new independent anti-corruption body.
The DA leader went on to criticise government’s vaccine roll-out plan, saying that the rapid administering of the vaccine would not be possible.
“He [Ramaphosa] gave no assurance that his government will publish a transparent, detailed vaccine plan that citizens can use to hold them to account.
“The DA will therefore continue to pursue this plan though legal action. His appointment of corrupt DD [Deputy President David] Mabuza to head the roll-out shows that ANC factional politics takes priority over the lives and livelihoods of citizens,” he said.
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) has labelled Ramaphosa’s speech as “poorly prepared, incoherent, uninspiring, weak and underwhelming”.
The union believes that the president failed to present a comprehensive vision and a detailed plan to take the country and its people out of the current situation, and instead repeated many promises that have been made before.
“With the glaring weaknesses in our healthcare system and the opportunity that the pandemic provides to fix our ailing public healthcare system, we believe that the president has dismally failed and betrayed the South African people by not outlining practical plans and measures to resource and accelerate the implementation of the National Health Insurance system as resolved by successive conferences of the ANC and its allies,” the union said.
Nehawu slammed Ramaphosa for not committing further resources to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme as per the tripartite alliance mandate.
The union then urged government to put the safety of workers first as a third wave of Covid-19 looms.
“While we may be recovering from the second wave, we call on government to adequately prepare for the third wave to avoid a collapse of our healthcare system by making sure that there is adequate and sufficient personal protective equipment, by filling all vacant posts in our healthcare system, by providing adequate healthcare infrastructure in all our healthcare facilities, and by boosting the enforcement and compliance of Occupational Health and Safety Act in all our workplaces,” said the union.
While Nehawu does acknowledge the importance of the four main areas on which Ramaphosa’s speech was focused, they have expressed doubt about whether government will succeed under the current economic, social and health policies.
The list of priorities outlined in the speech include defeating the Covid-19 pandemic, accelerating economic recovery, implementing economic reforms to create sustainable jobs, and fighting corruption and strengthening the weakened state.
The Mosaic Training, Service & Healing Centre has raised concerns about gender-based violence and femicide not being one of the four priorities outlined in the president’s speech.
we believe that the president has dismally failed and betrayed the South African people by not outlining practical plans
“The president uses the state of the nation address to set out his government’s priorities for the coming year, and to highlight the achievements and challenges of the previous year. Excluding gender-based violence and femicide from the priorities in this speech implies that the lives of millions of women are not high on the national priority list,” said the NGO’s executive director, Advocate Tarisai Mchuchu-Macmillan.
The NGO says the harrowingly high number of media reports on femicide last year gave the country a moment of pause. They showed that the pandemic of gender-based violence and femicide were showing no signs of abating, even as we are in the grips of a global health crisis.
“South Africa’s femicide rates are five times the global average, and a woman dies every eight hours because of intimate partner abuse. It is disconcerting that President Cyril Ramaphosa did not use one of the most important days on the annual political calendar to reiterate the urgency required to eradicate gender-based violence and femicide,” Mchuchu-Macmillan said.
The organisation said Ramaphosa’s speech mentions ending gender-based violence as nothing more than a footnote, while they were hoping for a detailed action plan that went beyond pledges and rhetoric to decisively and urgently tackle this scourge.