OPINION: Sona, the way it should be
On Thursday evening, Julius permitting, President Jacob Zuma is due to give his State of the Nation Address (Sona). There will be fanfare, fashion, and cannon fire. And after all of that, the actual policy will be delivered. But first, here is the Sona that President Zuma should give.
(Note: this is not the actual speech.)
My fellow South Africans, good evening, sawubona, goeienaand, dumelang. I greet you all, those who agree with me, and those who do not, those who voted for the ANC, and those who did not; those who want change, and those who want my administration to endure.
All of us want this country to prosper. Let me be honest, these are trying times. Our economy is slowing down, jobs are getting harder to come by, corruption is rife, and crime, especially some violent crime, appears to be rising. We are beginning to fight with each other when we should be working together. And, of course, load shedding, the planned power cuts implemented by Eskom, are affecting all of us. This is a tough time for our beloved country, South Africa.
But, my fellow citizens, we need to endure. Not just because I ask you to, not because the solutions we need are easy to come by. They are not. But all of us in this chamber, and all of you listening to this, from the comfortable clubs in Constantia to the mud shacks in Musina, want a better life, a better South Africa, for our children. We all want to live our lives in peace, we all want to see our hopes become reality, we all want to see our children's future brighter than ours once was.
I have many pages of numbers here before me, and while I would usually read them all, this time I will not. If you need to read them, they will be published everywhere. I need this time to talk you about what really matters: how are we going to ensure that we build this country to reach its full potential, and how we will do it together. Because, my fellow citizens, if we're not in this together, together we will fall.
The ANC government has been under tremendous pressure over the last few years, partly because of the way the political scene naturally develops in a country like ours, but also because of the perceived lack of delivery by the government and its institutions. Tonight, I am ready to say that while it is true that we have fallen short of delivering on everything we promised, I firmly believe that only the ANC-led government is capable of delivering stability to South Africa. I also want to use the power of this podium to invite the DA to work with us on the issues I'm about to outline. I extend my invitation to the EFF, too: instead of wasting your energy, work with us and all South Africans will benefit.
My fellow citizens, we must start with our electrical infrastructure. We can argue, and we have argued, about the causes of the load shedding. This is a fruitless argument; we need to look forward. The problems that we face are many. As a start, I will tomorrow dispatch my Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson to the building site at Medupi. I will ask her to stay there to oversee the site until at least three of the units are online and producing electricity. I have also asked Bobby Godsell to return to Eskom, and to play a leading role in the completion of Medupi and Kusile. I and my Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will receive daily updates from those sites. Crucially, the leadership of Numsa, whose members are working on these sites, have agreed to meet me personally twice a week.
This is now our priority, to get these power stations up and running as soon as possible as well as to urgently plan for what is to come next. In the meantime, I am going to change the Ministerial Handbook, to compel my ministers, and their departments, to lead the way in saving electricity. Their buildings will from now on aggressively conserve the energy and the ministers will personally be responsible to me for any slip-ups.
In the meantime, I have taken the decision to pause our conversations with the vendor countries looking at helping us to build nuclear power stations. The National Development Plan calls for an electricity generation mix. That is what we will follow.
We have to be realistic about this: there is no easy way out of load shedding. But we will share the pain, and the darkness, with you, and we will do everything we can to fix it. You will be able to mark our daily progress on a series of websites that offer live footage of the construction at these sites. And while coal will be our main source for a long time, we will start bringing in renewable energy.
My friends, the chaos at the National Prosecuting Authority has gone on long enough. Judge Zak Yacoob investigated the organisation, his report is being made public immediately, and I intend to act on its recommendations. In the meantime, I am going to speak to Mxolisi Nxasana, and make him this public offer here tonight. Mr Nxasana, there is currently an inquiry into your fitness for office. I will cancel the inquiry, if you resign. And, in return, I will appoint a judge or a retired judge to head this august institution. We need to end the chaos, I have the legal power to appoint anyone I want. But I will voluntarily set the convention now that this organisation is headed by a judge.
I intend to announce which judge in the next week.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, the South African Revenue Service has also been plagued by problems. Mr Tom Moyane has offered to resign, if those involved in a certain unit do so as well. All have agreed that it is time to move on. In a newfound spirit of collaboration, they have offered their services in a consultative capacity to the new leadership that I shall appoint within weeks. Mr Trevor Manuel has agreed to head up the search for successors.
My South African brothers and sisters, it is time to acknowledge that our state-owned entities are not performing, and are holding our economy back. It is time to end this. SAA is going to be split up, and while its international business will still be owned by government, its domestic business must make a profit, or be closed down. I know this is a big change, but government must stop bailing out SAA.
Transnet has been performing better over the last few months, but I have asked it to provide me with a list of its biggest challenges. Once I have that list, I will sit down with the country's best experts, including its former CEO Maria Ramos, to work out the best course of action here. The National Planning Commission will play a big role in rejuvenating this crucial organisation.
Youth unemployment is still too high in our country. All of us know young people who can't find jobs. Starting from the Budget, the Youth Wage Subsidy is going to be expanded, in the hope that business will find more space for these people. But the key to job creation is small business. My Small Business Development Minister, Ambassador Lindiwe Zulu, has been working on a plan to make life easier for these firms. Mr Vavi and Mr Dlamini, it's nice to see you sitting together here tonight, but I must warn you, this plan includes proposals to exempt smaller firms from our labour law regime. Ambassador Zulu has my full support on this, and I intend to see it through.
It is time to help businesses help our young people. I am repeating myself when I say we cannot be a nation of social grants. Government can't generate money, only the private sector can. We all need to understand this, and live by this credo. It will be hard for some us, but it must be done. This must become ingrained in how we live. We all believe in freedom, but freedom can only be complete with economic freedom. And that includes the right to start up a business free of any unnecessary regulation. All of the regulation that we have in this area will be reviewed, and only regulation that is shown to be absolutely necessary will be retained.
We are all South Africans. We may be different, but that is our strength. As I said on Sunday, we mustn't let our colour be how we judge each other. We must listen and learn, and accept and welcome. I believe that that is the key to harmony with each other. But, I must also say that if we are all pulling in the same direction, if our economy is growing, it will be easier. We will all feel that we will have a better life, that our children will all have a better life.
That is the focus of my government for the next 12 months. We must fix the power crisis, and we must do it as soon as humanly possible. We must fix our state security institutions. And we must fix our economy.
Together, we will make this a country where all who live in it, black and white, feel proud to be home. Citizens of South Africa, may the morning of tomorrow be also a beginning of the new era, where we talk to each other, not past each other, where we feel we all can win, where we see each other through our hopes, not our fears. Today, I make my personal step towards that future. Please join me.
This column first appeared on Daily Maverick.
Stephen Grootes is the senior political correspondent for Eyewitness News and the host of the Midday Report on Talk Radio 702 and 567 CapeTalk. He is the author of SA Politics Unspun. Follow him on Twitter: @StephenGrootes