Prominent economist Duma Gqubule has described President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday evening as uninspiring.
Gqubule said Ramaphosa’s speech also lacked practical steps for addressing unemployment and growing the economy.
“We had an average of 2.7% GDP growth under Mandela, 4.1% under Mbeki, 1.9% under Zuma, and 0.5% under Ramaphosa. If we exclude two years of lockdown, we had 1.1% growth. The economy was collapsing before the pandemic. The recovery was one of the worst in the world. Nothing in Sona will increase growth,” said Gqubule.
Wishy-washy about unemployment
He also pointed out that Ramaphosa was wishy-washy about the real crisis of unemployment in the country.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa spent almost two hours saying nothing about the unemployment crisis. There are 6.7 million ‘Tintswalos’ who are unemployed. And [there are] 8.7 million who are not in education, employment, or training (NEET). Since he became president, the number of ‘Tintswalos’ has increased by 873,000,” he explained.
Ramaphosa used his final state of the nation address of the sixth administration to recap on his party’s success. He used the story of Tintswalo, an imaginary young girl born in 1994, to highlight the strides made by the ANC-led government in improving the lives of the poverty-stricken.
“The story of the first 30 years of our democracy can be best told through the life of a child called Tintswalo, born at the dawn of freedom in 1994. Tintswalo and many others born at the same time as her were beneficiaries of the first policies of the democratic state to provide free healthcare for pregnant women and children under the age of six,” he said.
He also went to town promising investment opportunities that will create massive jobs. This he said mainly in the renewable energy and automotive industries.
Part of state capture ‘inner circle’
Azapo’s president, Nelvis Qekema, said: “Without any shame, the president reminded the nation that ‘perhaps the greatest damage [to our constitutional democracy] was caused during the era of state capture’. What he did not say was that he was the second-in-command during the so-called ‘state capture’ era.
“The corruption was taking place under his nose. Further, in his capacity as the deputy president of both his party and the country, he was the leader of the ‘War Room’. [The War Room] that pretended to address the self-created problem of load shedding. The less said about the US dollars hidden in mattresses and furniture, the better,” he said. He was referring to the Phala Phala farm scandal.
Plight of township economy
Qekema bemoaned that the government has failed to protect spaza shops. He said these were under siege from competition by shopping centres in the townships and villages.
“You would have expected that a ‘developmental state’ would harness, protect, and develop the stokvel and taxi economies. [Particularly] in the townships and villages,” he said.
Ramaphosa’s green energy drive
Driving new jobs in the green energy and automotive sectors will be high on the government’s agenda in the next five years. This according to Ramaphosa in his Sona speech.
“With our abundance of solar, wind, and mineral resources, we are going to create thousands of jobs. [These are] in renewable energy, green hydrogen, green steel, electric vehicles, and other green products,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa pointed to the Northern Cape as having optimum solar conditions. He said these have attracted billions of rands worth of investment.
Special economic zones for green energy
“We are going to set up a special economic zone in the Boegoebaai port to drive investment in green energy. There is a great deal of interest from the private sector. [They want] to participate in the boom that will be generated by hydrogen energy projects,” he explained.
Mpumalanga will be one of the provinces earmarked for special attention. This is besides the province supporting electric vehicle manufacturing in the country. The project is supported as a catalyst to grow the automotive sector.
“We have decided to give special focus to regions like Mpumalanga to enable the creation of new industries. Also new economic opportunities, and sustainable jobs,” said Ramaphosa.
Mpumalanga is heavily reliant on coal production to drive jobs and the economy. Fears are rife that the switch to renewable energy will lead to mass-scale joblessness.
The province is home to 80% of the coal production in the country. This includes 12 of the coal-fired power stations located in the region. The government has since embarked on a just energy transition plan. This is to ensure that coal mining communities are not left behind.