A SONA Like No Other…

GOOD Statement by Brett Herron,
GOOD Secretary-General & Member of Parliament

7 February 2024

Despite what some parties will argue when they debate the State of the Nation next week, South Africa is a significantly different country to that of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

The real trouble we face lies in the extent to which the democratic state has proven incapable of using the fruits of democracy to nourish those who were cast to the margins under colonial and apartheid governments.

There has been insufficient redress for the social and economic exclusion of the past, and insufficient improvement in the quality of life and dignity of people of colour – and women.

The daily horror of gender-based violence and femicide reflects a society with a profoundly troubled and unhealed psyche.

We are not living up to the progressive ideals in our Constitution, to the point that some blame the Constitution for our ills.

We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. What we need is capable and ethical leadership, not the regression of reverting to past battle-lines that some opposition parties are proposing.

Economic Growth

What South Africa doesn’t need to hear from the President is more hollow plans, however well-intended.

Our country is awash with plans, but we haven’t managed to plan our way out of the economic growth crisis at the root of most of the unacceptable conditions the people of South Africa face.

Our economy, which should be the pride of the continent, is instead holding Africa’s economy back.

The African Development Bank’s (ADB) Economic Outlook 2023 reported a positive and stable outlook for our continent, with a projected rebound to 4.3 percent in 2024. The bank projected that 18 African countries would experience growth rates surpassing 5 percent in 2023, increasing to 22 nations this year.

However, “Growth in Southern Africa is projected to decelerate by 1.1 percentage points, from an estimated 2.7 percent in 2022 to 1.6 percent in 2023… The projected sharp decline in 2023 largely reflects continued growth weakness in South Africa, the region’s largest economy and trading partner, from an estimated 2.0 percent in 2022 to 0.2 percent in 2023, as it grapples with the impact of high interest rates and persistent power outages on economic activity.”

The President must address the economic growth crisis.

We need to ramp up our public investment in infrastructure (a plan first announced in 2010), and provide access to funding to stimulate entrepreneurship (the subject of numerous plans since 1994).

According to the World Bank we can halve our unemployment rate by achieving the same level of entrepreneurship as our peer countries.

Energy

The energy crisis is a severe constraint on economic growth.

The Risk Mitigation IPP Procurement Programme introduced in August 2020, was intended to procure 2000MW to meet the immediate electricity supply gap. A good plan, but three years later by November 2023, only five projects totalling 353MW were under construction.

The President must address how our IPP procurement programmes can be fast-tracked and how we can refine procurement processes so that successful bidders can reach legal and financial
close and commence construction a lot faster.

South Africa plans to continue operating its coal-burning fleet of power stations for the foreseeable future, but the fastest and least expensive way to add new generation capacity to the grid is through renewable energy projects.

The addition of renewable energy sources to our current fleet of coal-burners must be tackled with deliberate intent to create opportunities to grow employment in the green economy, re-skill the coal workforce and prepare for a just transition.

We can realise these objectives by integrating the procurement of renewable energy sources with the need to prioritise industrialisation plans, localising manufacture, and identifying manufactured products suitable for export.

Poverty crisis

Approximately 18 million South Africans live in extreme poverty. South Africa has moral, ethical and legal duties to provide a basic level of support for those who earn no income and receive no social support.

The R350 Social Relief of Distress Grant does not meet half the food poverty line of R760 per person per month. This is a further erosion of the dignity of millions of people totally excluded from the economy.

We’d like to hear from the President that he has instructed the Minister of Finance to make difficult choices and prioritise implementing a basic income support programme in this year’s budget.

This new grant should get as close as possible to the lower bound poverty line (R1058 in May 2023).

For the past year GOOD has campaigned for a R999 Basic Income Grant. We can afford it if we cut out waste and excess.

Unfinished business

Instead of vigorously addressing the constitutional imperatives of land reform and national unity, the majority of people remain detached from the land, and apartheid criminals who did not receive amnesty from the TRC have not been held accountable for their crimes.

We said we were adopting a restorative approach to justice, but in truth justice has proven elusive in the democratic landscape – and impunity reigns.

We have a duty to the families of the victims of heinous apartheid crimes (besides the nation’s soul) to prosecute the perpetrators, and we have a duty to address the original sins of land dispossession and forced removals.

Public land belongs to the people of South Africa and must be used for public good.

If we continue to undermine our duties to restorative justice we shouldn’t be surprised when citizens lose faith in our democratic processes.

Media Enquiries:

Brett Herron, GOOD Secretary-General & Member of Parliament
Cell: 082 518 3264
Email: bretth@forgood.org.za
 
Janke Tolmay, GOOD Media Manager
Cell: 073 367 1223
Email: janke@forgood.org.za