By Abigail Moyo
The nation’s true state is embodied by the challenges South Africans have to overcome daily and not by the good-sounding economic and democratic achievements of the past that were held up to us during last week’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) by President Cyril Ramaphosa
As always, there remain more questions than answers.
The current high unemployment rate is a concern in terms of economic progress. How is it that far-reaching economic reforms, an ambitious investment drive, and an infrastructure programme starting to yield results, still don’t result in sustainable jobs?
The placement of over a million school assistants in 23 000 schools to provide them with work experience is troublesome, as such short-term solutions tend to leave people unemployed as soon as the project ends. Thirty years after the dawn of democracy, a whopping 55.5 % of South Africans still live in abject poverty.
Trying to convince the nation that the government has “set out a clear plan to end load shedding” in 2024 is laughable. What level of success did previous, similar promises and plans to end load shedding achieve?
UASA welcomes the plan to implement a significant debt relief package for Eskom to invest in maintenance and transmission infrastructure; to build more than 14 000 km of new transmission lines to accommodate renewable energy; and, the tabling of the Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill to support the restructuring of Eskom and establish a competitive electricity market.
Establishing the Climate Change Response Fund, which should ensure assistance with disaster management in affected regions, is also a welcome intervention, as is the increase in financing pledges for the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan from R170 billion to almost R240bn. However, UASA urges Ramaphosa to ensure these funds are directed to projects that will ensure the success of just energy transitions. Our industries, workforce and future depend on it.
UASA frowns on the statement that more than 200 state capture accused are being prosecuted and more are under investigation. We have yet to see one person tied to state capture convicted and jailed. Recovering stolen funds is not enough.
UASA questions the success of the bulk water projects under construction year after year to improve water supply to millions of residents in villages, towns, and cities across the country. Millions of South Africans still don’t have clean, running water, and others are learning to live without the clean water supply they once had.
The recruitment of 20 000 police officers over the past two years and another 10 000 in the year to come cannot be faulted. However, crime is rampant, and many live in fear as the so-called security cluster does not maintain clear visibility and action to ensure the safety and protection of South Africans.
UASA also welcomes the extension of the SRD Grant for the unemployed, although jobs would be more appreciated.
The inspired “journey together” as painted during Sona 2024 is far removed from reality for too many South Africans, who ask how many more promises they have to listen to before they see some actual work and results.
Abigail Moyo is the spokesperson of the trade union UASA.