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What Zuma should've said

Feb 16 2015 07:46
Mandi Samllhorne

President Jacob Zuma delivering the 2015 State of the Nation address.

LADIES and gentlemen, what just happened here in Parliament is a red flag, isn’t it?

There are cracks – more than cracks, fissures – appearing in the rainbow nation, and I realise that my government has, at the very least, done little to arrest the process of disintegration.

So let me start by addressing that burning issue.

The Nkandla thing – oh, what a mess! It got out of hand, and to be honest, I’m not even sure how. Family demands, architects and contractors with inflated ideas of grandeur, ja, even corruption… I should’ve put a stop to it.

I guess saying Sorry will not work at this late stage, and I may be earning more than David Cameron, but even so I’d have to live another few decades top ‘pay back the money’, so, here’s the thing: I’ll give it to the nation, shall I? You can turn it into an institute of tertiary education or something that will actually benefit the people in the rural area around it. And that’ll give MaKhumalo’s tuck shop a real boost…

Now let’s get down to the real business.

Let me get serious with the nation. We are putting all arms of government on an emergency footing. This is like war-time: our nation is in crisis, and all of us must be ready to work, to sacrifice and to man up. My government won’t accept any shilly-shallying, any whining and complaining, from any role-players, in the public sector or out of it. Yes, I expect contributions and sacrifices from the private sector too.

READ: Pay back the money not strictly about Nkandla

There are burning issues to deal with. I am going to incentivise industry to go all out – just as it would in war-time – to make the technology we need to deal with the energy crisis: solar panels, solar geysers, wind-turbines and all the technology that facilitates energy efficiency. (And by the way, we will be sanctioning any government department that does not implement energy-efficiency without delay, at any level of government. I drove past municipal offices in the West Rand one night, and all their lights were on…)

I will accept any industry delegation that comes to my office with solid ideas for attacking this issue fast without destroying the land and eco-systems that are our assets.

It can be done! And if we go onto a war footing, we can use our efforts as a way of uniting our country – the people together, side by side, working to build the better future we’ve spent far too much time talking about instead of getting everyone on board to make the vision real. The people should never be in an adversarial relationship with government. We are your servants, after all. (On that note, I am banning the use of excessive entourages and blue lights – they’re just an ego-boost and waste of money.)

We have to get a handle on unemployment. Yes, it has come down, but only slightly. We have to fast-track the creation of jobs. That’s not going to come from big business, but from small business – micro business, in fact.

READ: Sona wrap: Zuma drops bomb on land ownership

We will dedicate a significant proportion of this year’s budget to driving job creation in small business. Some of it will go towards reviving the system of apprenticeship for artisans. The dignity of artisanship must also be boosted – our young people must feel proud of their skills.

This is even more important than the establishment of new universities, but we will focus our efforts on rapidly ramping up the quality and accessibility of education at all levels. And yes, we’ll pay attention to the suggestion by Prof Jansen that higher education should be free to those who are the first generation in their families to go beyond matric. In turn, we will expect more from our graduates; those who hold qualifications funded by the state will need to serve the state for a limited period.

To create demand for small businesses, we have to put more money into the system – money that comes from taxing the better-off sectors can be re-circulated by putting it into social grants.

I am going to urgently require that the appropriate ministries work out how best to implement an equivalent to the Basic Income Grant, which would be taxed back from the rich but would put money into circulation in the very communities where jobs are most needed, creating demand for goods and services.

(We’re going to stop bleeding money in corruption. Forget the little cases we’ve made much of in the past. We’re going to war on this – we can use what we claw back in far better ways. R700bn in twenty years? Stop the bleed – even slow it – and it would go some way to helping rev the economy by putting money into poorer communities. And what about the R147bn lost EVERY YEAR to money that leaves the country illegally? Crack down on that, and heavens, the possibilities are endless.)  

READ: Presidency explains foreign land ownership plans

Our social grants have really helped save many from out-and-out starvation, but from now on, all grants will be conditional. Old people will have to show they go to a clinic twice a year for a check-up, mothers will only get grants for babies on proof that they’ve taken the child to the clinic regularly, child-care grants will be contingent on kids going to school, and so on.

We must ensure that policemen and women are trusted by and effective in the communities they serve. It’s going to be a tough one. So we’ll get the local communities involved in assessing and screening members and investigating complaints – many community policing forums know a lot about policing. And Popcru will have to come to the party, too.

We simply have to get health right. The poorest and most vulnerable cannot be the ones to suffer because the state system is not working. I will be calling on all the role-players, private and public, to co-operate fully with the department of health – once again, as if you were trying to fix public health in the teeth of a war.

One last thing: I promise transparency, fellow South Africans. I am going to keep you informed every step of the way as we try to heal the wounds and right the ship of state. I hope that each and every one of you will join the effort to make South Africa a proud and healthy country once again.

*Mandi Smallhorne is a versatile journalist and editor. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on twitter.


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