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State of the Nation Address: President Zuma out of touch with reality

Lindiwe Mazibuko, Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Alliance
9 February 2012

This evening South Africans were looking forward to an honest assessment of the state of our nation. They did not get it.

Instead, they got a speech designed to put a positive gloss on government performance and appease the governing party’s alliance partners ahead of the Mangaung elective conference in December.

As a result, the President appeared out of touch with reality.

Instead of acknowledging that 107,000 jobs were lost this year, the President spun the figures to make it appear as if there had been an improvement in job creation.

Despite growing unemployment, the President had nothing new to say – besides spending on infrastructure – about how jobs would be created. It was notable that, as a result of opposition from Cosatu, there was no mention of the wage subsidy he announced in 2010.

We welcome the infrastructure projects mentioned by the President, but there are question marks over how we are going to find an additional R330 billion per year to pay for them. If the President had the courage to take on his alliance partners, he would have announced plans to cut the public sector wage bill to pay for new infrastructure.

The influence of Cosatu also came through in the President’s assessment of education when he thanked SADTU for supporting a campaign to get teachers teaching seven hours a day. He must be unaware of the SADTU-led illegal strike in the Eastern Cape that took teachers out of the classroom for the first month of the school year.

The President also appeared untroubled by the violent crime that holds people hostage to fear. Just three sentences on safety and security in an hour-long speech will do nothing to reassure South Africans that the government has a plan to keep them safe from criminals.

We welcome the President’s commitment to implement a subsidy for people who are too poor to afford a house but earn too much to qualify for an RDP house – the so-called ‘gap’ market.

We reject, however, the President’s reckless statement that the willing buyer-willing seller model has failed when it is the inefficiency of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform that is to blame for the slow pace of land reform.

The President needed to set out a bold vision for South Africa with an honest assessment of the state of our nation. Instead he used the opportunity to engage in a PR exercise designed to keep his alliance partners on his side ahead of Mangaung.

South Africa deserved better than this.