GOOD Statement by Brett Herron,
GOOD Secretary-General & Member of Parliament
8 February 2024
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address in Cape Town tonight sought to calibrate the gains of the post-apartheid society, which cannot be denied, with the widely held belief that South Africa should have done much better.
There has been undeniable progress in the form of subsidised housing, connections to basic services, social grants, and access to education and health care.
But a free house is not necessarily an affordable house. Housing built on the outskirts of urban areas, as it was under apartheid, far from opportunities, services and amenities, is not affordable. It is a poverty trap. And, an electricity connection doesn’t necessarily make electricity affordable.
We can’t just celebrate our democratic freedom and constitutional values without addressing the fact that many South Africans continue to inhabit the extreme margins of society – socially, economically, environmentally and spatially – where apartheid placed them.
Continuing segregation deepens inequality and concentrates the socio-economic symptoms of concentrating poverty on the outskirts of our urban spaces.
We agree with the President that the “dream of 1994 must stand at the centre of the society we want to build”.
We commend him for upholding the values of the Constitution as the blueprint for our national ideals. We need capable and ethical leadership to make the constitutional principles real for all, not the regression of reverting to past battle-lines that some opposition parties are proposing.
It is true that South Africa has weathered storms not of our making – including the global economic crisis of 2007/8, climate change-related disasters, and Covid 19.
We note, however, that these events were also forced on other nations that have made better progress than we have in navigating themselves to recovered economic growth, increased global trade, reduced unemployment, lower cost of living and lower interest rates. Many have recovered, and we should have too.
We welcome the commitment to public investment in infrastructure, and the acknowledgment of the role public infrastructure can play in liberating our economy and creating employment. We also welcome the commitment to the development of the green economy, and energy transmission infrastructure. We cannot procure more renewable energy, as we should, without the grid capacity.
We lament that the President’s speech fell short of formally announcing a Basic Income Grant. The R350 monthly payment to millions of the country’s most marginal citizens is an indignity when you consider it’s less than half the amount of money that the government says people need to feed themselves.
We were disappointed that the address made no commitment at all to social security overhaul.
A Basic Income Support is the foundation on which we can build a stable and effective economy which embraces a green economy, high speed rail, water infrastructure, logistic infrastructure Programmes. We can’t build a sophisticated economy on a unstable social structure.
Brett Herron, GOOD Secretary-General & Member of Parliament
Cell: 082 518 3264
Janke Tolmay, GOOD Media Manager
Cell: 073 367 1223