Cyril Ramaphosa’s Response to SONA Debate: Quality over Quantity.
By Neo Sithole
The president released his response to the State of Nation debate. Covering a wide range of issues and challenges the country faces in outlining the seven priorities of his administration, guided by the manifesto of the African National Congress, what seems to be lacking is a wholistic approach on quality instead of quantity.
Referring to the Freedom Charter, the first citizen moves to remind South Africa’s that the document ‘remains the foundation of our shared vision of a just and equitable South Africa’ and is what underpins our constitution. Articulating that while the Freedom Charter was extraordinarily ambitious, those that believed in it did so by looking past their dire circumstancestoward a country that is fundamentally different and articulated a dream that many thoughtimpossible.
The seven priorities of government as provided by the first citizen are; Economic transformation and job creation, Education, skills and health, Consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services, Spatial integration, human settlements and local government, Social cohesion and safe communities, A capable, ethical and developmental state, and A better Africa and World. However, with the current state of government in South Africa, actual effectiveprogress in these areas may be just as ambitious as the principles in the Freedom charter.
Currently, the largest chasm the country faces is the lack of employment as a result of a disturbingly stagnant economy. The two million jobs planned to be created will not cover the close to 8 million jobs needed. However, the employability of youth against a shrinkingjob pool birthed by damningly low education standards and inadequate teaching and training facilities.
The national student crisis cripples the pronouncement of expanding TVET colleges and ensuring programs that meet the needs of industry, and placing the Departments of Higher Education and Science of together in an effort to harness substantial scientific research capacity. Currently National Student Financial Aid System is battling to sustain the 300 000 approved students, a relatively small number considering that there is close to one million students registered across the 26 public university and roughly 700 000 registered at higher education training colleges. Access to education and training institutions remains a hampering factor in producing trained, versatile and employable individuals.
The points on plans to consolidating social wage through reliable and quality basic services also weighs too heavily on the amounts of people being financially supported by the state, and not the quality of support. The improvement in paying SASSA beneficiaries from 31,000 to 7.8 million by allowing the national post office to administer payments does display the states capacity to provide services on a massive scale but the quality of the grants and services provided remains to be handled. The amounts provided by SASSA, in the case of pensioners who receive R1800, is not able to realistically support beneficiaries to live adequate lives.
Spatial integration, human settlements blueprints are possibly the most difficult to actively address. The housing backlog at the end of 2018 reportedly stood at 2.3 million houses and grows at 178 000 houses annually. This backlog leaves a number of low-income areas heavily populated without relief.
Repairing municipalities, which is local government’s engine of service delivery and community support is also on rocky ground. Almost ironic in its timing, the Auditor General released its 2017/2018 municipal audit report, while 57 municipalities are in the process of being stabilised and supported a dismal 18 of 278 municipalities received a clean audit. Amongst the more worrying findings of regression in municipalities, as well as increased hostility in the audit environment, the sub-par quality of financial statement and financial handlings places the10,000+ municipal infrastructure projects at risk.
Image from Auditor General South Afirca.
Community cohesion and safety efforts in the face of limp law enforcements, crawling economy and unresponsive municipalities may be mute, because without lively law enforcement to deal with crime, an economy that includes and uplifts the youth, thus reducing the need to engage in crime as a means of survival, and municipalities that function effectively in providing for the communities they are located in crime cannot be reduced.
Government silence on Zimbabwe’s currency change and enduring electricity problems despite the president’s aspirations on a better Africa is another point of concern.
South Africa has displayed its capacities to support its citizens in some cases, however, lack of focus on the quality of support granted, as well as governance structures and implementation in plans, puts massive halt on it displaying itself as an ethical state and stunts rapid development.