The na­tion is in quite a state

Last year’s far­ci­cal state of the na­tion was one of many events in a hor­ri­ble year best for­got­ten for Pres­i­dent Zuma

CityPress - - Voices - In pub­lic sec­tor (don’t know) to con­trib­ute R125 bil­lion to econ­omy an­nu­ally by 2017 Fe­rial Haf­fa­jee voices@ city­press. co. za The SIU, anti-cor­rup­tion task team and Hawks will con­tinue to work to Cen­tralise

Em­ploy­ment tax in­cen­tive

The year 2015 will be recorded in the an­nals of his­tory as Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s an­nus hor­ri­bilis (the Latin term for a hor­ri­ble year). So hor­ri­ble, in fact, that most of us may have for­got­ten the pres­i­dent’s state of the na­tion ad­dress de­liv­ered a year ago this week. In fact, it was de­liv­ered in chunks be­tween its dis­rup­tion by se­cu­rity toughs toss­ing out the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers when they dis­rupted the ad­dress with the ques­tion-be­come-hash­tag #PayBack­TheMoney.

The cen­tre­piece of the ad­dress was a 10-point plan on the econ­omy meant to bol­ster con­fi­dence and growth. South Africa ends the political year and starts a new one star­ing down the bar­rel of po­ten­tial re­ces­sion, with busi­ness con­fi­dence and in­vestor ap­petite at their low­est ebb in a decade.

Ef­forts to re­sus­ci­tate the econ­omy through a mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture drive, as well as in­vestor in­cen­tives, have worked patchily, if at all, given the num­bers. The pres­i­dent is likely to high­light in­stances of in­vestor con­fi­dence, such as the big fa­cil­ity by Unilever that broke ground last year, as well as BMW’s ex­ten­sion of its man­u­fac­tur­ing line to bump up the ex­ports of X3s.

That hap­pened be­fore the pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion to fire a highly re­garded fi­nance min­is­ter, Nh­lanhla Nene, and re­place him with a North West nonen­tity, Des van Rooyen. That cost the econ­omy R177 bil­lion and a top­pling of con­fi­dence that has seen Pravin Gord­han, back at the helm as fi­nance min­is­ter, ini­ti­at­ing a se­ries of emer­gency mea­sures to pull busi­ness back on side. The 2016

Re­open the land claims process ad­dress is likely to in­clude pla­ca­tory mes­sages for a skit­tish sec­tor.

From Fe­bru­ary last year (and be­fore), Nkandla has come to de­fine Pres­i­dent Zuma’s term as leader, and the fall­out from spend­ing on the pres­i­den­tial es­tate is set to con­tinue. There were also un­pre­dictable events that set plans asun­der. Th­ese in­cluded

com­bat cor­rup­tion

pro­cure­ment Clean South Africa cam­paign ev­ery July 18 on Madiba’s birth­day the drought that af­fected a se­ries of ideas mooted by the pres­i­dent last year to ex­pand agri­cul­tural out­put.

The xeno­pho­bic at­tacks that started when Zulu King Good­will Zwelithini made re­marks to his fol­low­ers about for­eign­ers quickly spread across at least four provinces, and dis­tracted the coun­try from its fo­cus on growth and so­cial-in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing. The at­tacks hard­ened at­ti­tudes to South African busi­nesses op­er­at­ing on the con­ti­nent, but specif­i­cally in Nige­ria. And while South Africa bol­stered its re­la­tion­ship with China through­out 2015, that econ­omy is now ex­hibit­ing the tell­tale signs of dis­tress, most no­tably through the su­per­power’s de­ci­sion to cur­tail im­ports of com­modi­ties. As an emerg­ing mar­ket, South Africa is in dire straits, along with a bas­ket of other sim­i­lar-sized economies. Still, Pres­i­dent Zuma is likely to high­light the cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of the New De­vel­op­ment Bank for Brics (Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia, China, South Africa) as one of the few high­lights of an oth­er­wise hor­ri­ble year.

Droughts, global cur­rency routs, de­clin­ing com­modi­ties and xeno­pho­bic at­tacks are events that gov­ern­ments can, ar­guably, man­age but not pre­dict. They con­trib­uted to a year best for­got­ten for the pres­i­dent.

But he also de­liv­ered sev­eral spec­tac­u­lar own goals, from his at­tempt to delete the im­por­tance of the Nkandla scan­dal (re­mem­ber the “Nkaand­laaa!” per­for­mance at Par­lia­ment, where the phrase “Thixo wase Ge­orge Goch!” en­tered political lore?) to the un­wise fir­ing of Nene, a de­ci­sion likely to haunt him in 2016.

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