Cape Town - Leaders of the opposition, civil society partners, activists and opposition members slammed President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address on Thursday night for falling short on detail at best, and failing the most vulnerable of citizens at worst.
Zuma’s address may have been greeted by a standing ovation and loud cheers inside the National Assembly chamber, but DA leader Helen Zille questioned the 6 million work opportunities announced by the president, saying real jobs came out of economic growth while work opportunities were merely temporary replacements (EPWP jobs).
“The president tonight said about 500 000 jobs have been created but he promised 5 million jobs. So only one out of 10 of those jobs materialised and that is why we need economic growth to ensure that we get real jobs and many of them.”
On corruption, Zille said Zuma needed to put his money where his mouth was.
“He’s got no credibility to talk about corruption when he refuses to go to court to answer his own charges,” she said.
Zille added that while there was no doubt that the country was a much better place than it was under apartheid, progress had not been made under Zuma, but rather under former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko labelled Zuma’s speech “pretty dismal”.
“He tried to ride on the coat tails of his predecessors. Yes, we acknowledge that South Africa is a better place to live in, but is it better than 2009 when (Zuma took office)?”
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said there was nothing new in the president’s speech.
“What we noticed is that he has been rehearsing all the annual reports which we have read so far and he has no plan to create jobs, because he is talking now about creating jobs up until 2019, 6 million jobs. It is an old story – we have heard that noise before.”
Sapa reports that Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota scored the president’s speech a one out of 10, adding that he failed to address critical issues, including the Nkandla saga.
“How can he say we are winning the battle against corruption when he himself has not even appeared before the courts to account for the many allegations made against him and when he didn’t even say anything to us about Nkandla?”
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said the president’s address was nothing more than a “brag speech” focusing more on the elections and very little on the future. “If it is such a good story why are all the municipalities burning?”
ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe said the president’s address was a very cleverly written speech to get the sympathy of the public which was very unhappy with him.
Meshoe said while Zuma mentioned a lot of good things that the government had done, it did not correspond to what was happening on the ground.
Aninka Claassens of the Centre for Law and Society at UCT said Zuma’s boast of the restitution of nearly 5 000 farms to black South Africans was a “huge failure”.
“The restitution process is in a shambles. The target was for 30 percent of claims to be resolved and not even 5 percent has been concluded.”
Thokozile Madonko of the Budget Expenditure Monitory Forum, hosted by Section 27, said they had hoped the speech would have given more clarity on the issue of the National Health Insurance (NHI).
“We also would have liked to have seen a firmer commitment to when the White Paper on the NHI or when the much talked-about Treasury paper about financing the NHI would be made public.”
The monitoring forum recognised the achievements made on HIV and Aids, but it was not the end of Aids, which many would like to believe.
Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the trade union federation welcomed any measures which would create jobs, but was disappointed the president had not spelled out proposals to implement the Youth Employment Accord.
The federation remained opposed to the Employment Tax Incentive and was “disappointed it’s still there”, Craven said.
However, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe praised Zuma’s speech, saying it showed the “coherence” of the work the government had been doing in the past five years.
Mantashe agreed with the president’s stance on violent service delivery protests, saying it was not acceptable.
“It is not acceptable that people die at the hands of the police. It is a fundamental right to protest, but it must not lead to death.”