During Zuma’s term in office, we have begun to witness a worrying reversal in the progress which has been made, says Lindiwe Mazibuko.
This year marks the end of President Jacob Zuma’s first term in office. But what is the true state of the South African nation five years on?
Zuma has presided over a series of major crises: the poor performance of our economy, the rapid increase in corruption and cronyism, and numerous challenges with the quality of our education system. We have also seen an increase in incidents of police brutality owing to a militarised police service, as well as the prevalence of service delivery protests.
This, coupled with policy uncertainty arising from tension between the National Development Plan and the New Growth Path, has had a deeply negative effect on investor confidence in our country.
Despite numerous promises of jobs and economic growth from Zuma’s ANC, the opposite has come true. Over the past five years, 365 750 South Africans have joined the ranks of the unemployed every year – almost double the number of previous years.
The number of discouraged job seekers nearly doubled to reach 2.24 million by the third quarter of 2013. In Zuma’s fourth year as president, GDP growth dropped to just below 2 percent, down from an average rate of 4.23 percent during the presidency of his predecessors.
During the years of Thabo Mbeki, we at least saw a relatively well-run economy. During his presidency, the unemployment rate, using the expanded definition, dropped from 35.5 percent to 32.4 percent.
All of these gains have been lost. Despite the continual promises of growth, Zuma’s ANC has failed to deliver. Since taking the Presidency in 2009, and promising to create 5 million jobs by this year, we’ve only seen 126 000 people join the ranks of the employed. More worryingly, a further 1.4 million people have joined the ranks of the unemployed.
We know this to be the result of poor fiscal policy, including large national government debt and a failure by the government to manage economic risks and foster growth. It is also because President Zuma refuses to pick a side – he panders to the interests of his tripartite alliance partners because he puts what is in his best interests ahead of what is best for all South Africans.
Adding to our economic woes is the unforgivable reality that an estimated R675 billion has been lost to corruption since 1994. If anything, corruption is one of the greatest inhibitors of growth in South Africa. That is why we should all be shocked to learn that South Africa has dropped 17 positions on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index during Zuma’s term of office.
But we should not be surprised. From the very beginning, Zuma lacked both the credibility and the determination to combat corruption. His party disbanded the Directorate of Special Operations (the Scorpions) – a key corruption-fighting unit – instead of strengthening it. And instead of answering to 783 charges of corruption, Zuma has done everything possible to avoid his day in court.
Today, this pattern continues. The president ducks and dives to avoid providing South Africans with the truth about his involvement in the spending of more than R200 million in public money upgrading his private residence in Nkandla. And he spends millions of rand of the people’s money delaying the release of the “spy tapes”, as well as a judicial review into the dropping of charges against him.
The key question to which every South African parent wants an answer is whether the education their child receives will help them find a job and build a better life. The answer remains unacceptable for too many of our fellow citizens.
The Department of Basic Education has itself admitted to about 17 percent decline in the number of candidates who wrote maths and physical science respectively between 2009 and last year. This means that the number of pupils who could be potential candidates for engineering, medicine, or any technical study at tertiary level is decreasing. Added to this, in 2008 there was a shortage of 4 890 maths teachers and 4 551 science teachers countrywide.
Another major drag on the quality of our education system is Zuma’s pandering to the Cosatu-affiliated trade unions. The SA Democratic Teachers Union continues to hinder key education policies that could ensure better quality education – including competency tests for matric markers and teacher performance monitoring.
Textbook delivery has also been a major blight on Zuma’s record over the last term. Pupils in Limpopo went without textbooks for over six months of the school year, and a court held that the government was infringing upon the basic human rights of its learners. According to reports in 2013, 140 schools in the province had not received their full complement of textbooks by the end of January 2013 – a clear indication that past problems still persist.
Added to this are lingering problems with the delivery of infrastructure needed to educate our children. According to the National Education Infrastructure System, in 2011 2 402 schools in South Africa did not have access to safe water sources, and 2 611 schools had an irregular supply of these most basic provisions. In this same year, 11 450 schools still had pit latrines, and 913 schools had no toilet facilities at all.
In order for South Africans to live lives of value, they must feel safe in their homes and in their communities. But for too many South Africans, violence and fear have become a way of life.
The official crime statistics of 2012/13 tell us that little progress has been made in reducing violent crime: the murder rate is up for the first time in five years, and drug-related crime has been significantly higher in the Zuma years than in preceding presidencies.
Property-related crime (including burglaries, stock theft and theft from vehicles) has increased by 5.9 percent under Zuma’s presidency (after decreasing by 20 percent in the five years prior), and the illegal possession of firearms has also increased 5.9 percent over the course of Zuma’s stewardship.
Not only is the SAPS failing to protect citizens from crime, but recent incidents of police brutality have positioned the police service as a major precipitator of social wrongdoing and injustice.
The final area of major concern for South Africa is service delivery. Between 1994 and 2009, the percentage of households with access to electricity increased by 28 percent, but under Zuma’s ANC the rate has decreased dramatically, with only an additional 6 percent of households gaining access to electricity.
Since 1994, the number of households with access to drinkable water increased by 33 percent. However, during Zuma’s presidency this only increased by 3 percent. Similarly, while the number of households with access to sanitation increased from 51 percent in 1994 to 85 percent in 2013; there has only been a 2 percent increase in the last four years.
This failure to improve on the strong foundation that was left to him is the reason that President Zuma’s administration today faces protest action after protest action.
Twenty years into our democracy, South Africa is undoubtedly a better place than it was in 1994. However, during Zuma’s term in office, we have begun to witness a worrying reversal in the progress which has been made.
We can and must break this trend. South Africans can do this by giving the DA a chance to govern. We have the right policies to put right the wrongs of apartheid.
In the Western Cape, where we govern, we are prioritising basic services for the poor, improving education, and creating jobs. Indeed, we are realising the dreams of 1994.
We also have the right policies to end corruption and create jobs. That is why, if we are elected to national government, the DA will create 6 million REAL jobs and increase economic growth to 8 percent in the next 10 years.
The 2014 general elections will be a watershed moment in South Africa’s history. South Africa simply cannot afford five more years of President Zuma.
We need to get South Africa back on the road to prosperity. We need to work again towards the dream of 1994. The DA is the party with the right policies and the right leadership to make this happen.
* Lindiwe Mazibuko is the DA’s parliamentary leader.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.