SONA 2014 - President Jacob Zuma delivering his last State of the Nation Address to a Joint Sitting of the two Houses of Parliament. 13/02/2014, Siyabulela Duda, GCIS

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma may have boasted that his government had a good story to tell, but political analysts and academics have criticised him for not addressing the burning issues in the country.

They said the president’s State of the Nation Address last night was nothing more than an electioneering ploy aimed at point-scoring

Professor Amanda Gouws of Stellenbosch University’s political science department, labelled the address “uninspiring”, merely highlighting a list of successes in the form of statistics.

“This was not a game-changing speech – he did not pull a rabbit out of a hat – just like all his other State of the Nation speeches. It was very uninspiring because statistics can be disagreed with.

“Politics is not only a numbers game. We can see that in the violence and dissatisfaction of a large numbers of the population.”

Gouws said Zuma had claimed that the ANC was a victim of its own successes as far as services went but those without could not wait any longer. “It has got to do with continuing poverty and unemployment, decent jobs, not only temporary public works jobs.”

“He argues we have a good story to tell regarding education… bad schools, a contested matric pass rate, more children in schools and universities but not more staff or spending on education – how is that a good story?”

But Gouws gave some credit to the president for reprimanding striking workers, mine bosses and unions for their part in undermining the economy.

Professor Guy Lamb, UCT’s director of the Safety and Violence Initiative, said the speech was a 90 minute “highlights reel” with the odd acknowledgement of a need for improvement.

“The business of government for the past four years was presented in the context of two decades of considerable democratic consolidation, juxtaposed with the sins of apartheid.”

However, Lamb said Zuma was within his rights to celebrate the drop in the overall crime rate since 2002.

“However, what was not mentioned was that the most recent crime statistics have shown increases in certain categories of violent crime, particularly murder. There is now a growing consensus among many of those who study crime and violence that such increases may not be anomalies.”

Lamb said it was comforting to hear the president was deeply concerned about violent protests and police brutality in South Africa.

Lamb pointed out that, ironically, the president’s speech started off with a commemoration of those who had died as result of state-sponsored violence, yet those who recently lost their lives as a result of police action while protesting for constitutionally-enshrined decent basic services were deemed to be impatient.

UCT Department of Political Studies lecturer Lauren Paremoer said Zuma’s speech noted three significant differences between apartheid and post-apartheid SA, the increased presence of women in representative institutions, increased provision of services to the poor and the universal recognition of the right to vote.

However, the speech lacked explanations about why so little progress had been made in improving the status of women, while the problems of inequality and poverty were only mentioned in passing.

Paremoer said the government was investing in improving infrastructure but it seemed to be prioritising large-scale projects like ports, railways and nuclear energy. It was clear South Africans wanted more investment in infrastructure that would improve their daily lives though access to water, electricity, schools and hospitals.

Many South Africans had access to housing and basic services but these were often unaffordable, sub-standard and did little to address apartheid spatial planning.

Paremoer said the president correctly noted the country ran the largest public-sector HIV/Aids treatment programme in the world.

“This is one of the most significant successes of the Zuma government. Given the size of the epidemic, it was important the president signalled his commitment to expanding this programme in future years,” she said.

Cape Argus