SONA 2021: Uninspiring and lacking believable action
“What South Africa didn’t need to hear as it faces its worst crisis since democracy, were old recycled promises and the confirmation of actions that are expected from the State and nothing crow about,” says Wayne Duvenage, CEO of OUTA. “We needed inspiration and leadership that can build public trust in our State’s ability to take meaningful and decisive action to turn our economy around. SONA 2021 did not provide this.”
At this critical juncture in our country’s history, some of the pertinent aspects we needed to hear were:
That Ministries of energy and communications have been given clear, hard deadlines on deliverables so we will see new renewable energy and embedded generation on the grid, the high demand spectrum will be opened up and digital migration will take place. Immediately.
That Government will focus on rolling out infrastructure and programmes to provide communities with access to free and reliable internet access.
That civil society, business, academia and professional health bodies are being pulled together to establish a concrete, detailed and practical plan to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine strategy.
That SAA staff receive their full severance packages, and a plans to see the winding down and closure of the airline will be finalised in the next few months, and that State funds will no longer be used to prop up non-core and vanity projects such as airlines which can be better served by the private sector.
That the value of every SOE will be assessed with a clear plan presented for those to be closed, sold or amalgamated, within six months. And that this assessment includes an SIU list of those to face prosecution for corruption and maladministration.
That the collapse of local government is regarded by Government as a most serious threat to the future of this country and that a civil society led intervention will be structured to provide input and participation in the delivery of a raft of practical and implementable solutions.
That all procurement processes will be absolutely transparent at every stage of the tender and purchase cycle, to improve civil society’s oversight role on all infrastructure development, to reduce the cost of infrastructure build and service delivery, which is often at costs double to triple that which the rest of the world pays.
That the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (now six years in the making) will be rolled out within months, by a credible team who will implement recommendations from the Auditor-General’s reports and commissions of inquiry reports, with an emphasis on best practice methodologies to tackle corruption.
That the Presidency, Treasury and Ministry of Public Service and Administration have identified all in the public service who have dishonestly done business with government, claimed Covid-relief or other grants, or in any way benefitted illegally, and a clear plan will be rolled out within months to hold all perpetrators to account.
That cadre-deployment will no longer be tolerated and all state employees who don’t have the necessary qualifications for their respective roles will be phased out of office.
That our bloated Cabinet will be reduced by a further 20% in the 2021/22 budget year.
That government employees and politicians may not have access to government funds to defend themselves on corruption charges.
That SARS and the SIU will have their budgets doubled, linked to the requirement of identifying and prosecuting big-ticket tax evaders, and the seizure of illicit gains looted from the state are prioritised.
That no salary increases will apply to any positions within the state for the next two years.
That the public procurement bill will get to Parliament this year to ensure better transparency and advance the fight against maladministration and corruption.
That tax increases will be averted as the government focuses on cutting its size to find the needed funds whilst increasing service delivery and its performance.
That the Parliament will adhere to the Constitutional Courts deadline to change the Electoral Act to ensure that independent candidates can stand for national office and the Presidency.
Sadly, this year’s SONA listed a few achievements that were far short of spectacular and what the public expected of their Government. The President’s address was by and large very disappointing and there appears to be a general view that little was mentioned regarding new solutions designed for substantive positive outcomes.
Voice note by Wayne Duvenage here.