Democratic Alliance (Cape Town)

South Africa: Unemployed Youth Forgotten in Zuma's SONA

press release

Photo: GCIS
The Parliament of South Africa.

President Zuma has passed up a golden opportunity to present us with a bold new plan. Instead, all he gave us was an uninspired version of last year's SONA, which provides no hope for South Africans crying out for real leadership. All we heard was more of the same empty promises we have heard before.

No one will suffer more from this than the millions of unemployed young South Africans, who were waiting for the President to announce the implementation of the Youth Wage Subsidy, but got nothing more than vague assurances.

He knows what key priorities need to be achieved, but provides no plan or details on how they will be achieved. This is the hallmark of a President who can only deliver vague promises, not of a President touted as a man of action.

Job creation and youth unemployment

The President failed to provide a clear message to the millions of unemployed young South Africans that he will prioritise job creation. He did not acknowledge the need to encourage job creation through rapid economic growth. Instead he cow-towed to COSATU and the ideals of the New Growth Path, which emphasise state intervention as a key driver to create jobs.

While President Zuma acknowledges the need for government departments to pay SMMEs within 30 days, something they should be doing anyways, he failed to announce any plans to remove the regulatory burdens that stifle the growth of so many small businesses.

President Zuma 'appealed' to the private sector to employ graduates, when he should have announced a clear deadline for the implementation of a youth wage subsidy, which would achieve this very outcome.

There was no detail on his plan to fight youth unemployment, just a vague pledge to do so. The time for empty promises to young South Africans is over. He promised to do so three years ago - why has he not implemented the Youth Wage Subsidy yet?

This was an inexcusable omission, and will be remembered by the many thousands of unemployed youth as the symbol of his failed presidency. The message to young South Africans was clear today: political expediency trumps job creation and growth.

Crime

The DA welcomes the President's strong condemnation of violence against women. We agree that there must be unity in action, and that it must be treated with urgency. However, he failed to provide a clear and concrete plan as to how government will improve the safety and security of all South Africans. There was no reference to training of police officers, no reference to increased resources to the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units. Nor was their mention of increased specialised prosecutors or the reinstatement of Sexual Offences Courts.

The reality is that it is the government which is failing to implement legislation such as the Domestic Violence Act, and the Sexual Offences Act.

There is also no reference to increasing the number of public order police, and providing them with adequate training and resources, nor to the demilitarisation of the SAPS - as recommended in the National Development Plan.

Education

President Zuma has committed to making sure that teachers are in school, in class and on time in the last three SONAs. But he has provided no plan to achieve this. We welcome his review of teacher remuneration, but where is the link to performance? The National Development Plan makes clear reference to holding teachers accountable, but Mr Zuma failed to tell South Africans how he would do so. He has also backtracked on the proposal to make teaching an essential service by endorsing teachers' unconditional right to strike. Once again, the rights of teachers to strike are trumping learners' right to education.

Fraud and corruption

The President announced a cracking down on fraud and corruption in infrastructure programmes, but announced no further plans to tackle this. Where is the review of the Ministerial Handbook? Why has the Public Service Integrity Framework not been tabled, as promised last year? Why will the Public Works report into the upgrade of his Nkandla home not be made public?

Most significantly, he made no clear pronouncement on appointing a permanent head to the National Prosecuting Authority or to the Special Investigating Unit. If he was truly committed to the fight against corruption, this would be his first priority.

Mining sector

President Zuma claims that he has brought certainty to the mining sector. This is not only blatantly misleading, but a telling indication of his complete denial of the crisis in the mining industry. The President's failure to stand up to COSATU, the violence of the Marikana Tragedy, unrest across the industry and now tens of thousands of job losses prove that the President is wrong. His government should spend more time trying to address the fundamental challenges in the sector, and less time making damning statements about the private sector. His announcement that a study of tax policies will be commissioned to evaluate the current mining royalty regime will certainly not do anything to inspire confidence in investors.

Land reform

Instead of condemning the "willing buyer, willing seller" principle, he should have focused his attention on the proposals of his National Development Plan, which we support. The NDP requires that attention be paid to utilising state land for reform, individual land tenure, and equitable share schemes. He failed to make such mention, nor has he made any reference to the complete disarray of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. He has also failed to provide any clarity on progress with the audit of state-owned land, which is critical to ensure the transfer of land ownership to the thousands of South Africans who live on state-owned land, but have no ownership rights.

Gap housing

President Zuma stated that R126 million has been allocated to housing subsidies for the gap housing market. This is just half of what he spent on the upgrade of his own private home in Nkandla. If he was serious about addressing the human settlement backlogs, he would have provided a more detailed plan to do so.

Conclusion

All in all, the President said nothing new, provided no vision or leadership and no details on concrete action to address the key concerns of South Africans.

Lindiwe Mazibuko, Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Alliance

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