Years ago, the medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) was an event little noticed by society, as it contained tweaks and minor adjustments to the Finance Minister’s February budget. That, however, has changed of late. With significant shifts in our economic environment – some pre-Covid-19 – the MTBPS was watched with greater interest, as swings in revenue allocations were somewhat erratic and sizable.
Government’s directionless economic planning brings incoherent and inconsistent decisions, which are a concern for investors and ratings agencies. The public is confused and wonders if the president has a firm grip on where the country is headed. One day, it’s a “no” to failing SOE bailouts and the next there’s a massive bailout. One day, it’s a “yes” to more funds for law enforcement, the next signals lower budgets and less funding allocated. One day, it’s a hard-pressed stand to fight public servant salary increases, the next it’s a softer politically interfered approach.
What South Africa needs is stable policy planning and certainty for investment, growth and job creation. Our nation is like a child that suffers the mood swings of a bi-polar parent. At times, we are buoyed by the work being done by the Zondo Commission, NPA, Hawks and civil society to clamp down on the endemic corruption that has engulfed our country. Then, we are deflated by a lack of leadership and decisions on the economic and policy-making front.
On the corruption-fighting front, we have seen a flurry of high-profile arrests in recent weeks, following years of precious little movement against looters of state coffers. The likes of Thoshan Panday, Edwin Sodi, Philip Truter, Tshifhiwa Matodzi, Andile Ramavhunga, Ernest Nesane, Vincent Smith, Angelo Agrizzi and dozens more are being filed into court rooms. Many other politicians and businesspeople must be feeling rather anxious right now.
President Ramaphosa’s recent call for corruption-accused party members to step aside and for politicians to refrain from doing business with the state appears to be gaining traction. Expectedly, the corrupt cabal continues to push back, but they are starting to slip under the weight of society’s call for accountability. We believe this development will move South Africa forward, and it should remind us of how far we have come over the past two years. Imagine our state of affairs if the likes of Jacob Zuma, Tom Moyane, Shaun Abrahams and Berning Ntlemeza were still occupying their powerful positions?
NEW CHALLENGES TO DRIVE
Over the years, government policies become outdated and ineffective, and need amending. Often, these amendments tend not to come from the inside, but are driven by civil society. Some of these are related to TV licenses (a failing revenue-generation mechanism), driving licence renewal periods (which need lengthening) and irrational bailouts for SOEs (such as SAA, which now requires a consumer boycott).
BAD BEHAVIOUR FROM TRAFFIC FINE AUTHORITIES
Following a fistful of complaints from motorists who have been sent electronic messages informing them of outstanding fines – thus preventing the renewal of vehicle licenses – OUTA has discovered that enforcement orders have been issued by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) for traffic fines, without following due process in terms of the AARTO Act. We are currently challenging their action and have more to report on this here.
THE EVER-PRESENT – YET DEAD – E-TOLL SAGA
Another matter that’s causing anger among Gauteng motorists is the on-going e-toll saga. Some media outlets recently reported on an old story that suggests motorists with outstanding e-toll bills would not be able to renew their vehicle or driving licences. OUTA’s view remains the same as it has since the day we first opposed the e-toll management system and absurd developments, like a R500 fine for every unpaid gantry bill of R3. The public and civil society are tired of government’s games. We assure our Supporters that OUTA remains laser-focused on seeing the end of the defunct e-toll system.
OUTA GAINS TRACTION DESPITE THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
OUTA’s consistent, committed application of its strategy to hold state looters to account has generated marked growth in interactive media and Supporter engagements over the past year. In addition, the work being undertaken in OUTA’s Public Governance division to tackle irrational policies, budget allocations and the failure of Parliament’s oversight mechanisms is receiving much attention and positive traction.
Accordingly, OUTA’s productivity is at an all-time high. The danger in this is staff fatigue and burnout, and, just as is required in the business world, leadership in the civil activism space must be cognizant of these challenges. As much as we would like to tackle everything that comes our way, we simply can’t. Fortunately, our supporter base is stable and on the increase. But if we are to become more impactful, we need yet more Supporters to grow our team of dedicated project managers, investigators, researchers and communications specialists. This is over and above strategic refinement and improved use of systems and technology.
Thanks, as always, to the people who donate to OUTA every month. You are our energy and we hope you are feeling and enjoying ours.