DA has already shown how to fix SA, while ANC trots out same old hollow promises

State of the nation speech failed miserably to reflect the reality

10 February 2019 - 00:00 By MMUSI MAIMANE

As the dust settles on the state of the nation address, it would be remiss of us not to consider it against the backdrop of the real state of the nation. Before President Cyril Ramaphosa stepped up to the podium, he - like millions of South Africans - was acutely aware of the urgent need for an immediate departure from the past 10 years of ANC governance. He was aware of the desperate need for reform rather than reassurance.
It is disappointing that the president failed to announce real reform, simply delivering a "safe" route. Talk shops, summits, commissions and meetings have yielded no tangible change for those left behind - most importantly the almost 10-million unemployed South Africans. We don't need more talk, we need action.
This year's address will have rung hollow for the 30-million South Africans still living in dire poverty a quarter-century into democracy. And it rang hollow for those hoping for the structural changes our economy needs to grow rapidly and create jobs. We could put a job in every home relatively quickly, but not by tinkering around the edge of current policy.
The real state of the nation is this. Almost 10-million South Africans do not have a job or have given up looking for one. Around 40% of our households do not have a single job, and around 80% of our 10-year-olds can't read for meaning. Each night, 14-million South Africans go to bed hungry. To tackle this, we desperately need a government that can get the basics right: real reforms that get our economy growing and creating jobs; teachers that can teach our children; hospitals that can help our sick; and a police service that can keep us safe.
Ramaphosa made a lot of promises, many of which were vacuous given the crises we face. It was as if the president is not in touch with reality.
For example, promising an unaffordable tablet for every schoolchild when most 10-year-olds can hardly read is like promising fancy running shoes to someone in a wheelchair; likewise, a fourth industrial revolution committee when 10-million adults are unemployed and largely unemployable thanks to our broken basic education system.
He promised a complex National Health Insurance system when the ANC government can't even get the pilot right. It can't fix our public clinics and hospitals and get them properly staffed and equipped. But it wants to nationalise our health services.
Ramaphosa should have told us that the ANC was going to back down on the cumbersome labour legislation that is its wall between economic insiders and outsiders. He should have promised to reform the ANC's policy of broad-based BEE so that it actually empowers ordinary South Africans who are locked out of opportunity - rather than enriching and re-enriching the connected elite.
He should have promised that the public will not be paying for the ANC's destruction of Eskom through higher electricity tariffs, but rather that electricity production will be thrown open to independent operators, and that cities will be able to buy directly from them. And that Eskom costs, and all the wasted costs associated with our bloated state, will be drastically cut.
He should have promised to stare down the South African Democratic Teachers Union and insist on a teacher corps that is properly trained, evaluated, incentivised and held to account. In short, he should have promised to dismantle the system of deprivation, the high wall, that still locks millions and millions of South Africans out of opportunity. He did none of that.
Glittering dinners at investor roadshows and more talk shops are not going to fix our jobs crisis. Investors only invest when they smell profit. And that requires getting the basics right: an investment-friendly regulatory system and a reliable, affordable supply of electricity.
He should have decisively cancelled the ANC's reckless plan to amend the constitution to enable expropriation without compensation, which has already put so much investment on hold. Rather than meddling with the constitution, the government must fund land reform.
He did none of that. He talked and tinkered and told us to "watch this space". If we want to gauge the real state of our nation, we need to recognise that things are getting worse, and acknowledge that the reason is the ANC. Everything we need to do to fix our economy stands in direct opposition to ANC vision and policy.
All Ramaphosa's talk of renewal in the party is a red herring. Even if he could somehow find internal support to have his senior colleagues charged and prosecuted, it would not reverse our economic slide. Our jobless will grow to 11-million. The World Bank's latest prediction of GDP growth at around 1.4% is less than half of what we'd need to start making inroads.
Election 2019 is our chance to effect real change. And when deciding on a new bus, the only thing that matters is a party's track record.
Thirteen years in Cape Town, 10 years in the Western Cape and two years in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay have given the DA a chance to demonstrate the DA difference, and not just talk about it. The results - the ones that really matter when it comes to closing the gap between economic insiders and outsiders - speak for themselves. On all objective indicators, the DA runs the best governments in the country.
The DA-run Western Cape leads on every measure of good provincial governance. Over the past year, over half the jobs created in SA were in the Western Cape, thanks to an obsessive focus on attracting investment, growing tourism and supporting a farm sector hard hit by drought.
The Western Cape government got 83% clean audits in the last auditor-general's report. Our track record says we don't tolerate corruption and mismanagement of public funds.
Later this month we will launch our election manifesto. It represents a brand-new, bright future. That is what South Africans deserve - the chance to finally build our dream country, one SA that works for all its people
• Maimane is leader of the DA

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