In Session

Political parties in Parliament debate SONA


Debating President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), political parties represente­d in Parliament had diverse opinions on the speech, with some bashing the government and accused the President of failing to inspire confidence in his address to the nation, writes Sakhile Mokoena.

Some political parties argued that the speech was a replicatio­n of previous addresses with no evidence of improvemen­t on promises made in the past. However, for African National Congress (ANC), the speech was a reflection of a government that was “focused, determined and hard at work”.

According to the ANC’s Chief Whip in the National Assembly, Ms Pemmy Majodina, the President, “gave full account of the 2020 state of the nation and crafted a clear way forward and implementa­tion plan for 2021 … Mr President, the spirit of your address was an appeal for resilience and courage in this time of crisis that we are facing, with two major challenges – the coronaviru­s and struggling economic growth. We join millions of South Africans in expressing confidence in your government Mr President – focused, determined and hard at work,” said the Chief Whip.

She also reiterated the ANC parliament­ary caucus’s commitment to robust oversight to ensure accountabi­lity and fight corruption.

In an apparent response to claims made by former Members of Parliament in the Zondo Commission that the ANC’s parliament­ary caucus was protecting corruption and lenient on implicated government officials, the Chief Whip said: “I want to state it categorica­lly that no member of the ANC has ever been instructed to cover up corruption. On the contrary, we instructed all our committee chairperso­ns, whips and members to leave no stone unturned and hold those responsibl­e for the deeply disturbing acts of corruption accountabl­e. “We reject the narrative that the ANC caucus has sought to micromanag­e committees and to prevent them from performing their duties.”

Ms Majodina also told the joint sitting about her party’s commitment to ensure the 6th Parliament remains consistent in taking action against corruption and crime, regardless of who is implicated.

“We have already demonstrat­ed this commitment in the manner in which we have processed the AG’s [Auditor-General’s] first report on the expenditur­e of Covid-19 relief funds. The oversight committees called the respective Ministers and DGs [Dirctors-General] to account accordingl­y, when we do our oversight diligently as Parliament, using the powers vested in us by the Constituti­on, we are able to achieve decisive outcomes,” she said.

First to denounce President Ramaphosa’s address was the leader of the official opposition (the Democratic Alliance), Mr John Steenhuise­n, who claimed that there is a growing realisatio­n that the President cannot tackle the big issues of the day. “Except for a few lines on Covid-19 and the vaccines, this SONA was more or less the same as the ones in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The same burning issues are still right there at the top of the President’s agenda – promises made in previous SONAs – but very little evidence of improvemen­t,” Mr Steenhuise­n said.

He also argued that the President’s entire speech was full of massive contradict­ions between noble-sounding pledges and the realities of the government’s actions, and exposed a huge gap between what was promised and what the government is able to do or willing to do. “The President spoke of fixing the public service as he did in last year’s SONA, but what he really means is that he wants to continue with the ANC’s state capture project through the policy of cadre deployment.

Mr Steenhuise­n also accused the government of discouragi­ng entreprene­urship and making it as hard as possible for small, medium, and micro enterprise­s (SMMEs) to survive because of unreliable power supply, rigid labour laws and incompeten­t state bureaucrac­y. He also

opposed expropriat­ion without compensati­on, arguing that it is the antithesis of strengthen­ing agricultur­al output. “It is a massive deterrent to investment, not only in agricultur­e, but in all sectors of our economy,” he said.

Reacting to the President’s announceme­nt of an anticorrup­tion advisory council, Mr Steenhuise­n said the promise was meant to create an illusion that something was being done. “We don’t need another council or panel or agency. We need to bring back the Scorpions with their 93% conviction rate,” he said.

The leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Mr Julius Malema, labelled the President as “incompeten­t, incapacita­ted and the most unreliable human being. Three years since you took office, you have not achieved anything that is worth mentioning – nothing to celebrate under your leadership. The conditions of our people are getting worse, while coronaviru­s has also worsened them.

“When you were elected President in 2018, the unemployme­nt rate was 26.1%. Today it has increased to 30.1%, and the number of unemployed people has increased to well over 10 million. More than two million people who had jobs when you took office, no longer have jobs; you must take responsibi­lity for that,” said Mr Malema.

Mr Malema also argued that despite empty promises at investment summits, the economy continues to shrink, adding that the country was already in recession for three quarters before the outbreak of coronaviru­s. This was made worse by the fact that the government’s contributi­on to gross domestic product continues to decline due to the reduction of the budget. South Africa’s industrial capacity was not growing because there was no coherent and cogent industrial policy for industrial expansion.

Inkatha Freedom Party leader (IFP) Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi was more concerned about corruption in government, and suggested that the costs of vaccines and their rollout must be scrutinise­d by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa).

“The problem in our country is corruption. It is unfortunat­e that despite the admission that South Africa is in an economic crisis, there were still those who saw a pandemic as a chance for themselves to get rich. Parliament must work hard to halt maladminis­tration and fraud in government,” Prince Buthelezi said.

Mr Pieter Groenewald, the leader of the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), was consistent on his party’s stance on government’s the black empowermen­t policy, saying this was discrimina­tion against whites. “Covid-19 tourism relief grants and the equity grants excluded white South Africans, but the irony is that there are white business people who employ black people. Why don’t you want to assist them to keep their employees.? That is discrimina­tion,” said Mr Groenewald.

The leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), Mr Bantu Holomisa, said South Africa needs a competent government that can create decent living conditions and advance the livelihood­s of all its people, especially the poor. He also commended the Commission of Inquiry into Allegation­s of State Capture for uncovering explosive evidence of corruption that he said has been allowed to flourish for many years.

“There is still more to uncover and we must allow the Zondo Commission the time and resources to finish its job, and ultimately the money that was stolen must be returned to the people and the guilty must go to jail,” said Mr Holomisa.

The leader of the African

Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Rev Kenneth Meshoe, said the speech was a repeat of what the President has said in previous SONAs, with the exception of the government’s priority to fight coronaviru­s. “Whilst the ACDP welcomes the update of the economic recovery plan, we are neverthele­ss concerned that the upcoming World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) great reset in August will jeopardise the government’s economic recovery plan.

“On the face of it, our NDP [National Developmen­t Plan] and the WEF’s great reset have one major goal in common, they both aim for equality by 2030. However, there are huge disparitie­s between the two. one of the strategies of the NDP is to broaden ownership of assets to historical­ly disadvanta­ged groups, while according to the WEF’s great reset, you will own nothing and you will be happy. How is that possible?” remarked Rev Meshoe.

He also criticised the programme for “compassion­ate access” to the drug Ivermectin for patients with Covid-19 as “never intended to provide access to medicine, and demonstrat­ing no political will to be compassion­ate at all, given the regulatory obstacles the programme presents. This is disgracefu­l and a flagrant underminin­g of the fundamenta­l of the human rights of the patients and doctors,” said Rev Meshoe.

The African Transforma­tion Movement (ATM) warned the President not to use Covid-19 as an excuse for government’s poor performanc­e, saying

“corruption, unemployme­nt and a poorly performing economy were there even before Covid-19”.

“We still say restore the R400 billion informal economy to the citizens in order to have a meaningful impact on the reduction of unemployme­nt and poverty. It cannot be that more than 70% of the most basic level of the economy is in the hands of non-citizens. Prioritisi­ng citizens in the informal economy and jobs is long overdue,” argued ATM leader, Mr Vuyo Zungula.

Mr Mandla Galo of the African Independen­t Congress (AIC) commended the President’s speech, which he said was anchored in key developmen­tal, high-impact growth initiative­s such as boosting the manufactur­ing sector in order to ignite growth through job creation and export revenue.

He also advised President Ramaphosa to “urgently proclaim a fully-fledged import substituti­on agency to be housed within the Department of Trade, Industry and Competitio­n. This agency will have an import substituti­on strategy to focus on infantile industries, preferenti­al procuremen­t and targeted funding to textile, clothing, footwear and fibre industries”.

Mr Ahmed Shaik-Emam of the National Freedom Party (NEP) said: “We admit there have been successes in the country but equally, there have been failures. The fact of the matter is that despite the successes, we are still facing a crisis in South Africa,” he said. He also condemned corruption, saying the country was losing about R300 billion annually in infrastruc­ture developmen­t because of nonimpleme­ntation of projects and underspend­ing.

The Leader of Al Jama-ah, Mr Ganief Hendricks, applauded the President for speeding up legislatio­n to fight genderbase­d violence. He also added that the President must now work on ending racial discrimina­tion in the Cape Flats and capture the ganglands. He said Al Jama-ah also wants the NDP to be revisited to respond to the post-Covid new normal.

The Chief Whip of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mr Seiso Mohai, welcomed the President’s vision on the transforma­tion of apartheid’s spatial developmen­t patterns through the creation of postaparth­eid smart cities, saying this was long overdue. Mr Mohai also called for greater investment into human settlement­s to transform townships into liveable places that uphold the dignity of the people.

He also spoke strongly against corruption, saying it “deprives our people of basic services – the employment of incompeten­t, unqualifie­d officials, illegal awarding of tenders, and non-payment of service providers are among the challenges faced by local municipali­ties. “We are confident that the rollout of the District Developmen­tal Model countrywid­e will enhance greater cooperatio­n, coordinati­on and joint planning. This will in turn address the uneven capacity and developmen­t between different provinces by enhancing coordinati­on of support and monitoring of local government by the national and provincial government­s,” said Mr Mohai.

According to Pan African Congress’s (PAC’s) Mr Mzwanele Nyhontso: “SONA continues to be a makebeliev­e form of address without content. It continues to fail the dispossess­ed, most exploited, the dehumanise­d, the African indigenous majority. SONA failed dismally to address the fundamenta­l interests of the African majority. Land remains an item of conflict in Azania and it must be repossesse­d and restored to its rightful owners,” he said.

 ??  ?? Mr John Steenhuise­n
Mr John Steenhuise­n
 ??  ?? Ms Pemmy Majodina
Ms Pemmy Majodina
 ??  ?? Mr Pieter Groenewald
Mr Pieter Groenewald
 ??  ?? Rev Kenneth Meshoe
Rev Kenneth Meshoe
 ??  ?? Mr Mandla Galo
Mr Mandla Galo
 ??  ?? Mr Bantu Holomisa
Mr Bantu Holomisa
 ??  ?? Mr Vuyo Zungula
Mr Vuyo Zungula
 ??  ?? Mr Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Mr Mangosuthu Buthelezi
 ??  ?? Mr Julius Malema
Mr Julius Malema
 ??  ?? Mr Ahmed Shaik-Emam
Mr Ahmed Shaik-Emam
 ??  ?? Mr Seiso Mohai
Mr Seiso Mohai
 ??  ?? Mr Ganief Hendrickcs
Mr Ganief Hendrickcs
 ??  ?? Mr Mzwanele Nyhotso
Mr Mzwanele Nyhotso

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