POLITICS

Ramaphosa's SONA 2018: Initial responses

President's address generally welcomed, concerns raised by some over EWC commitment

AfriForum says true significance of 2018 SONA will only become evident once Ramaphosa honeymoon ends

In response to the 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA) just delivered by Pres Cyril Ramaphosa, AfriForum stated that it will only be possible to judge its contents properly once the President’s political honeymoon comes to an end and the real meaning of his references to, amongst other issues, transformation and land expropriation become clear.

After the political instability that characterised the start of 2018 in South Africa, Pres Ramaphosa obviously made an effort with the SONA to unite a splintered audience. In the process he even spoke a few words of Afrikaans and acknowledged the language and cultural diversity of the country’s communities.

He especially focused on economic recovery and growth. He honestly identified most of the country’s most serious problems, such as the unacceptably high youth unemployment figures and the crisis situation in state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Unfortunately the President provided very little clarity on the very issues that are plunging the economy into uncertainty and are deterring investments in South Africa. There were fleeting references to these issues, including land redistribution, national minimum wages, transformation and free tertiary education, but exactly how these programmes will be implemented, remains to be seen. Especially disconcerting, was the extended applause that followed his reference to land expropriation without compensation.

Other crisis situations, such as the decay in education and insupportably high crime figures were mentioned in passing and oversimplified “solutions” were offered, including the building of more schools, training of more teachers and a better trust-based relationship between the police and communities. Much more decisive action will however be required against, inter alia, the paralyzing role played by unions in schools, dysfunctional education departments, the creation of crime-prevention strategies and effective combatting of crime to make a difference in these key areas.

Promises and idealistic statements abounded. However, only time will tell whether the optimistic atmosphere that Pres Ramaphosa tried to create, will be sustainable and result in positive outcomes.

The SONA therefore once again emphasised the need for a strong, independent civil society and civil organisations in order to keep politicians accountable for their promises and actions, and – if the latter were to fail – would even be able to step in to create a safe, sustainable and prosperous future themselves.

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Agri SA

EMPHASIS ON ECONOMIC GROWTH, ATTRACTING INVESTMENTS AND JOB CREATION HITS THE RIGHT NOTES, BUT…

The State of the Nation Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa was a frank admission of the challenges negatively impacting on the morale of South Africans and the drivers which are critical to take our nation forward.

“Agri SA therefore wholeheartedly supports the economic solutions outlined in the State of the Nation Address to turn the country around and to create a future of hope, social cohesion and prosperity for all” Dan Kriek, President of Agri SA stated.

Significant emphasis was placed on the need to create jobs, advancing transformation and establishing an ethical, caring and service orientated state fraternity at municipal level, provincial and national level. Agri SA also welcomes the announcement to clamp down on corruption in state departments as well as the private sector.

We enthusiastically applaud the practical steps outlined to ensure policy certainty, reduce government departments, grow the local economy, attract investments, boost the manufacturing sector and grow the small business environment, Kriek added.

The establishment of local economic zones, the review of SARS and state-owned enterprises, appointment of the right people as well as implementing a wide range of social and economic interventions in the small business sector, agriculture, mining, tourism and other sectors are also welcomed. Agri SA pledges its co-operation to ensure the achievement of all the outcomes related to these plans.

Prioritising the economy and the role of entrepreneurs was also a key feature of the address. Agri SA therefore calls on the President to seize the opportunity and exploit the goodwill on offer from local and international investors. The emphasis on promoting partnerships between business, labour, government and the public is to be welcomed as well as the plans outlined to develop our young people.

However, such a bold vision cannot be tarnished by excluding anyone or a particular community. The plans announced by the President should be inclusive of all the people of South Africa regardless of race, colour, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, age or physical constraints.

The National Constitution demands of all of us to build a united and non-racial society and to nurture the talent and honour the contribution of all our people. South Africa remains a highly divided nation and it is through honouring the dignity of every South African, inclusivity and mutual respect that this divide can be bridged.

However, Agri SA is highly concerned with the contradictory statements related to acknowledging agriculture as the biggest contributor the past quarters in terms of economic growth and job creation, whilst in the same breath calling for the expropriation of land without compensation. Not only does it subvert the letter and spirit of Section 25 of our National Constitution, but it also entrenches the perception that the governing party has no regard for the founding principles of our newly founded democracy.

The question also remains: From whom will land be expropriated and to whom will it be given? Such populist statements will do more harm than good and contradicts the underlying theme of the State of the Nation Address to grow the sector through investment to unleash its fullest potential.

Agri SA therefore appeals to the President to rather desist from such populist rhetoric and to engage with the commercial agricultural industry to find amicable solutions to the land question.

Agri SA is developing its own land transformation plan that will be commercially driven and will aim to increase national production significantly without having to change the constitution – Omri van Zyl (Executive Director) added.

“Undermining the notion of private ownership and still expecting the private sector to enthusiastically embrace partnerships between themselves and the state will not happen” van Zyl added.

It is through win-win partnerships and policy certainty that the vision of a safe, productive and content South African society can be realised.   

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Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

Action must follow a great speech

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation welcomes the general tone and content of President Ramaphosa’s maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“Earlier this month, the Foundation, as part of the Future South Africa coalition, called on Mr Ramaphosa to ensure that this year’s SONA address restores the ‘dignity and decorum of the House’. We believe that he has delivered on this,” said the Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton.

“It has been a refreshing change to have a SONA without walkouts, without security personnel removing members, without signal jamming and most importantly, without a president whose words, especially about tackling corruption, rang hollow,” he said.

Balton praised President Ramaphosa’s commitment to “ethical behaviour and ethical leadership”. “This must be followed up with decisive action at all tiers of government against officials, politicians, business people, individuals and families who are corrupt and embroiled in the state capture project.

“The Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture provides the starting point in revealing the details about the establishment of the ‘shadow state’. At the same time, we acknowledge the President’s reassurance that law enforcement agencies will continue their work simultaneously. In this regard the Kathrada Foundation is elated that action against the Gupta syndicate has commenced and we hope to see Ajay Gupta and others in Court and hopefully in jail shortly thereafter.

“We welcome the President’s emphasis on the fact that law enforcement agencies should be free from outside interference and should pursue those implicated in corruption without fear or favour,” he stated.

Balton added that the Foundation particularly commended the President on his intent to establish a commission that will restore the credibility of SARS.

“After ten years of ‘misgovernance’ under the Jacob Zuma administration, the country currently faces crippling poverty, unemployment and inequality, an upsurge in racial and ethnic tensions, entrenched patriarchy, crime, disfunctional state owned entities, problems in the healthcare and education sector, a water crisis and poor service delivery. These issues were raised by the President in the SONA and require urgent attention,” Balton said.

“We are mindful though, that dealing with the myriad challenges is not an overnight process. Destroying institutions is quick and easy, but rebuilding takes a long time. However, we believe with the appointment of competent and ethical individuals at the helm of key ministries and SOE’s, there can be a turnaround. We would therefore urge President Ramaphosa to ensure that skilled and honest people are part of his Cabinet and that those who are ineffective or implicated in state capture are axed and brought to book.

“We acknowledge President Ramaphosa’s commitment to improving the public service and government administration, but note this requires programmes that enable civil servants to refuse to comply with orders from any of their superiors which are illegal, unconstitutional or unethical,” he said. “Had this been in place, we would not have had the Life Esidemeni saga.”

President Ramaphosa was the first chairperson of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Board, which he served on from 2008 to 2014. “We are confident, that having been part of the Foundation, which aims to build a truly non-racial society, President Ramaphosa’s work will be guided by this principle in a fundamental way. His speech today highlighted that systematic racial inequality still exists and must be tackled, and that transformation be prioritised. He also emphasised the need to unite South Africans across all barriers around a common vision and build a sense of nationhood, while at the same time celebrating our diversity,” Balton said.

“President Ramaphosa’s appointment could come to symbolise government’s commitment to reversing the damage done under the Zuma years if the actions required to stamp out the erosion of good governance are taken with speed. The mood of optimism must not be allowed to dim again.

“We applaud President Ramaphosa for setting out a vision for change and renewal, and we wish him the courage, tenacity and decisiveness to take the decisions needed to move the country forward.”

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COSATU

COSATU’s response to SONA   

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted and broadly welcomes the State of the Nation Address presented by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday evening, 16 February 2018. We now look forward to seeing further details on this vision in the budget and departmental plans.

a) On creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods.

We are pleased that the SONA focused on the economy and we welcome the commitment to reindustrialise, boost manufacturing, grow exports, skill workers and create jobs for the millions of unemployed. We applaud the commitments to hold the long promised jobs and investment summits and the inclusion of labour in government's economic teams.

Since 2016, we have been urging government to convene a Job Summit and we welcome President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to commit to the convening of this summit at last. Job creation should remain the number one priority of government and we believe the Job Summit will allow us to reconcile our competing claims as social partners and develop a Jobs plan.

Going forward ,we therefore expect the Minister of Finance to announce a radical shift in the government's and Reserve Bank's previously conservative fiscal and monetary policy, to bring it in line with ANC policy to promote manufacturing industry and job creation, rather than its rigid obsession with inflation-targeting.

We also did not hear our government clarifying its plans to strengthen the labour laws ,so that workers are better protected from exploitation, poverty pay, unfair dismissal, and are able to work in a safe and healthy environment.

We are not happy that the president has also not given a clear commitment on what the government is going to do to put an end to the accelerating casualisation of employment, which is leading to thousands of relatively well-paid and secure jobs being replaced by low-paid, insecure jobs, with little or no benefits.

We are also not happy that government continues to ignore the matter of human-trafficking of workers in the form of labour broking, and all other forms of super-exploitation, which have no role to play in a decent-work economy, we want them totally banned.

We still reject the idea of a youth employment subsidy that has benefited employers and that has also further eroded wages and working conditions and also resulted in mass retrenchments of workers once they have reached the age limit for the subsidy.

c) On health care

We welcome the assurance by the President that the government's National Health Insurance scheme is on track and that we remain committed to universal healthcare. We are troubled though by the silence from government on tackling the deplorable levels of service throughout our public health service and in particular the lack of an assurance that all vacant posts be filled as quickly as possible. The ongoing austerity measures by government will have an impact on service delivery.

d) Rural development, food security and land reform

We welcome the President’s commitment to the implementation of the ANC Policy of Expropriation without compensation without compromising food security or the economy.COSATU demands that this policy should prioritise farm workers. All farm workers need to be given title deeds so that they can have access to government services like housing, health, electricity and schooling. We also want these workers to have land to bury their loved ones with dignity and peace and not be evicted and harassed by their racist and exploitative employers.

The policy should also be accompanied by training and government support in order to assist the new farm owners to use their land productively, in order to expand employment and produce food. The struggle was about the land and we demand our land back.

e) The fight against crime and corruption

COSATU welcomes the government’s commitment to fight crime and the stabilisation of the institutions like the NPA and the commitment to fight against corruption. This is in line with ANC policy to "ensure efficient functioning of all anti-corruption structures and systems including whistle-blowing, blacklisting of corrupt companies, implementation of laws to ensure exposure of, and action against, private sector corruption, and quicker processes to deal with any corrupt civil servants and public officials".

The president needs to ensure that law enforcement agencies lead the fight to rid the country of the cancer of corruption, price-fixing and tender abuse,

We are comforted by the President’s reassurance that we are not going to drop our guard in the battle against crime and corruption but we need to see more action.

On SOE’s and government

We applaud the commitments to clean up the chaos and looting at our SOEs and the need to ensure their financial sustainability. We believe this can be done without privatisation. We commend the commitments to overhaul the SOE leadership and put anti corruption measures in place. The President's intervention and commitment to fix the mess at Sassa is a breath of fresh air. We also welcome the plan to restructure the bloated cabinet but we do not expect worker’s jobs to be compromised

We are not happy though that very little was said to about fixing our transport and energy crises. We look forward to a Cabinet reshuffle that will help give government its badly needed facelift by firing all those corrupted and incorrigible ministers who have contributed to the looting and collapse of the state over the years.

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Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane

SONA 2018 presents hope, but no urgent plan for change

There were great expectations for tonight’s maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The President set out a vision of unity for the country that all South Africans warmly welcome. We pledge our support in building one nation, with one future, which is in the interests of all South African.

Beyond the fine words of renewal and new found unity, he unfortunately did not fulfil the expectations of the public with a clean break from the Zuma era, and a total change from the current tried, tested and failed ANC policies that have brought our nation to this point.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan for South Africa is too much of a continuation of the Zuma era. There is no major policy reform, only some tinkering with the current policies that have not brought change to the lives of our people. There were too many conferences and summits announced, and not enough clear plans for fixing the problems.

Our country needs a brave new beginning and total change from the past decade and not more of ANC rule – not more meetings and talkshops. The reality is, while there has been a change in leadership in South Africa, the material conditions of ordinary South Africans have not changed.

The President quite correctly articulated the number one challenge our country faces – youth unemployment. Yet, our young people want immediate action and total change – not more plans to make plans, and more talkshops. This is the type of passive policy that has kept our young people trapped for so long.

We welcome the President’s announcement of a Youth Employment Service initiative, which will place unemployed youth in paid internships. This is a step in the right direction, but not enough to ensure access to jobs for all young people in South Africa

What we need is a string of legislation that will change the economic environment, and make it easier for young people to find work. This must fundamental alter the way we approach the creation of work. ANC policy will not, and cannot, address our crippling youth unemployment crisis.

While we have a basic education system that continuously fails our children and jeopardizes their futures, Ramaphosa found it unnecessary to address this and announce any meaningful reform. This was a failure by Ramaphosa, and shows more of the same from the ANC.

The intention to pass the MPRDA into law in the next few months is a huge misstep by Ramaphosa. The DA will object to this piece of disastrous legislation which will only bring uncertainty and volatility into the mining sector, and will act as yet another stranglehold on this job-creating sector.

Ramaphosa also failed to address illegal immigration, and how to better protect our borders.

Land reform is a justice issue, and must be addressed with urgency. We agree with the President around the empowerment black women via land reform. This must not just be for the few, and we cannot in good conscience support the regressive policy of redistribution without compensation.'

Ramaphosa's intention to cut the size of cabinet is a long overdue move, and we welcome this. We need to cut the fat in government and ensure we have a lean, efficient national government.

Lastly, we welcome the announcement of free higher education for those who cannot afford it. This must be done in a sustainable manner that does not bankrupt our nation.

South Africa needs immediate and total change. 9 years of the Zuma Presidency has set our nation back, and unfortunately President Ramaphosa did not show tonight that he is able to bring the total change we desperately require.

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FF Plus leader – Pieter Groenewald

SONA full of promises, but execution will be placed under magnifying glass

17 February 2018

The emphasis that the new State President, Cyril Ramaphosa, last night placed on the issue of land expropriation without compensation has unfortunately cast a dark shadow over the first promising State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The principle of expropriation without compensation is extremely negative for the economy and for foreign investors, regardless of how it is implemented, and the FF Plus will oppose it in every possible way.

The many promises that were made with regard to growing the economy and the plans to address unemployment also sound good, but it was not spelt out where the government will find the money to execute these plans, particularly if statements about expropriation without compensation are scaring off prospective investors.

Therefore, the FF Plus says that the time has come for words to be backed up by deeds and that President Ramaphosa must prove to us, over the next few months, that his words are not just empty promises.

The President also emphasised the National Development Plan (NDP) and he undertook to decrease the number of state departments, which would inevitably mean a smaller Cabinet. In this regard, he must show that he really is serious about the matter by cutting back the excessive Cabinet as soon as possible.

Ramaphosa is known for saying what people want to hear, but then the reality is often quite the opposite.

He says, for example, that he wants to establish a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission to look into the fourth and even the fifth industrial revolutions that are at hand. In South Africa, however, the reality is that we are still struggling to covert to digital television, whereas he is already talking about the fourth and fifth industrial revolutions.

President Ramaphosa also promised strong action against issues such as corruption and state capture.

If he is indeed serious about addressing these problems, he must not only take action against state officials, but also against corrupt politicians – he must ensure that all the rotten apples are removed from the basket as soon as possible.

Ramaphosa further emphasised job creation, specifically for the youth, and nation building. The reality, however, is that Affirmative Action (AA) discriminates against white youths as well as other minority groups in the country, like coloured people, and that makes his promises sound hollow.

If he really is serious about nation building and job creation, AA must be abolished.

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NEHAWU

NEHAWU RESPONSE TO THE 2018 SONA

Saturday February 17, 2018

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] note the tabling before the joint sitting of parliament of the State of the Nation Address [SONA] by President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa last night.

As NEHAWU, we join all progressive forces and citizens of South Africa in congratulating the Fifth President of the Republic Of South Africa Mr. Ramaphosa. The workers of South Africa and their families wishes the President well in discharging his political responsibilities.

This year’s SONA brings much needed hope and certainty to a society confronted by high levels of social inequality, poverty and ever-increasing levels of unemployment. The national union welcomes the proposed measures, to take South Africa on a new growth path.

The national union welcomes the commitment and measures to fight corruption and the support to state capture investigation free of interference. A concerted and aggressive fight must be waged against corruption, the usage of state resources for narrow political gains and the plundering of the state resources for self-enrichment. As NEHAWU, we commit ourselves in working with the President and his collective in fighting the scourge of corruption. 

For some time now, NEHAWU has been at the forefront in calling for the following:

- A jobs summit to deal with the job bloodbath that has been under way in our country;

- A financial summit to deal with the transformation of the financial sector;

- Speedy implementation of the National Health Insurance [NHI] and the comprehensive social security;

- Reindustrialization of the South African economy;

Economic Policy:

As NEHAWU, we welcome the proposal to appoint a Presidential Economic Advisory Council. We hope that the President will appoint capable and progressive heterodox economists who will assist the country to move into a progressive economic policy making paradigm. We call on the President to ensure that this advisory structure is broad-based and representing the interests of the masses of our people rather the same old neoliberal economists whose prescripts over the years have failed our country.  We are looking forward to the contents of the national budget which will be tabled in parliament next week Wednesday more in particular the fiscal policy framework. 

Jobs summit:

We welcome the proposal to convene both the Jobs and Investment summit. We were the first union to call upon government to convene these summits to curb job blood –bath, capital strike, low levels of investments, illicit financial flows and the transformation of the financial sector. We urge government to move with speed in implementing these proposals.

Manufacturing and Industrialization:

The national union has been at the fore-front in demanding the implementation of a broad-based industrialization program to stem the tide towards de-industrialization, we are however disappointed about the failure to announce measures to strengthen the state-owned pharmaceutical industry, and state procurement of health infrastructure to bring about the implementation of the NHI.

There shall be no successful industrialisation without an intensified and systematic transformation of the TVET sector. The funding crisis afflicting the post-schooling has inadvertently shifted resources away from the TVET to the higher education sector and thus perpetuating the anomalous inverted post-schooling system inherited from the past. Government must embrace the recommendation of the Heher Commission with regard to the need for a massive recapitalisation. Together with the improvements that are necessary in the curriculum and training content, we expect the prioritisation of the TVET sector in line with the country's industrial policy, Post-schooling White Paper and NDP.

Post Schooling Education Training:

The national union welcomes the proposed measures to bring about free higher education, we are however disappointed about the absence of an overarching comprehensive agenda of transformation and funding of Post Schooling Education. We are calling upon government to speed up engagement processes at NEDLAC.

As NEHAWU, we say “Hands off public sector workers wages and jobs!” We have noted some tendencies towards jobs cuts and attempts to reduce the wage bill. We warn the President that as workers we won’t fold our hands when the state is reversing our hard won gains. As NEHAWU, we would welcome the reduction of ministries However, we want to caution against any loss of jobs as a result. Furthermore, this measures must not lead to budget cuts in terms of the existing programmes which ultimately leads to job losses. Our view is that this should be about the closure of ministries as opposed to departments. The latter must be absorbed or integrated in the related existing departments. We hope this would not lead to a job blood bath of the coal-face public service jobs. Should jobs be lost in this fashion we will fight fire with fire.

Whilst noting the call on public servants to become agents for change the President should have balanced it with the commitment to pay them better in order to boost their moral. Moreover, our view is that President should have expressed his commitment to fill all vacant funded posts as part of his determination that everyone in public service should undertake their responsibilities with efficiency, diligence and integrity including putting our people first otherwise this might not be realised with the shortage of staff in public service as public servants are subjected to perform jobs of three people at the same time which the compensation is for one person.

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OUTA

Thank you, Mr President, now let’s all get to work – OUTA

OUTA welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address as the desperately needed start of a new direction.

“Cyril Ramaphosa has in one speech managed to bring back dignity, hope and clarity to South Africa,” says Ben Theron, OUTA’s COO.

“OUTA is looking forward to being a partner on this journey towards respect for the rule of law, Parliament and other institutions. President Ramaphosa’s speech displays deep knowledge of the problems facing South Africa and his willing to address these head on,” says Theron.

“However, we will not hesitate to fight wrongdoing.”

OUTA welcomes President Ramaphosa’s acknowledgement that the country’s past has been mired in poor economic growth and plundering of state coffers, and the plan for a substantial reassessment of the disastrous state-owned entities, the promise of attention to the National Prosecuting Authority and SARS, and the reminder of the principles of Batho Pele.

“His comments that those involved in wrongdoing related to corruption will be attended to are extremely motivating, as it is our view that only when we hold the corrupt to account will the message becomes clear to others that corruption and wasteful expenditure will not be tolerated,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s CEO.

“South Africa’s future looks bright, if indeed the many initiatives of growth and opportunities the President spoke of are attended to, such as job creation, youth employment, rural economic stimulation and industrial hubs. The promises to address the dysfunctional mining charter, encourage small business incubation, expand agriculture and tourism, and address crime, are extremely encouraging.”

This was a visionary SONA, which will now take our country forward with renewed energy, hope and nation building.

Rebuilding trust between society and the Government is essential. A key part of that will be a Cabinet reshuffle, as new leadership is urgently needed to implement this vision, starting with the replacement of Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, a key architect of state capture, along with Bathabile Dlamini, Mosebenzi Zwane, Lynne Brown, Des van Rooyen, Faith Muthambi, Nomvula Mokonyane, Bongani Bongo and David Mahlobo.

OUTA welcomes and supports the reminder of the need for transformation of our society, the call for everyone to work together and the reminder of Hugh Masakela’s wonderful song.

“Mr President, OUTA’s team say, we too, want to lend a hand. Send us,” says Theron.

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SADTU

SADTU STATEMENT ON THE STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY NEWLY ELECTED PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA.

18 February 2018

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) heeds the call made by the newly elected president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, during his maiden State of the Nation speech yesterday for all to serve and lend a hand in building this country.

Using the late Bra Hugh Masekela’s song, Thuma mina (Send me), President Ramaphosa made the call and declared his willingness to be “sent” to serve the country.

His humble yet profound speech has brought a mood of hope in South Africa as it seeks to address head on the challenges like unemployment and corruption facing the country. We support the call by the president to end corruption for both the public and private sector.

We welcome the fact that President Ramaphosa has placed job creation at the centre of our national agenda for 2018, especially for the youth.

We are looking forward to the Jobs Summit to look at what the country needs to do to ensure that our economy grows and the establishment of the Youth Working Group that will enable the youth to articulate their views and engage with government at the highest level. This will ensure that the country’s policies and programmes advance the interests of the youth. We hope this will go a long way towards addressing the high levels of youth unemployment.

We are looking forward to the implementation of the National Minimum Wage on 1st May 2018 and call on business to play their role in building this country by complying with the Nation Minimum Wage which is a step towards reducing wage inequality while maintaining economic growth and employment creation.

On education:

The President’s speech has brought much needed clarity on free higher education for the poor and the working class. We urge the youth to make use of this opportunity and make full use of their right to education. However, we lament the fact that this clarity has come at a time when most institutions have already started their academic year.

On the same note, the President’s speech was silent on the issue of students of parents who are the “missing middle” like teachers, nurses and police officers who are regarded as too rich to receive these subsidies but are too poor to afford to pay for their children in tertiary institutions.

We welcome the news that the Funza Lushaka Bursary programme will award 39 500 bursaries for initial teacher education over the next three years. However, we would like to caution that government should ensure that they provide employment to these teachers once they finish their studies. At the present moment, we have thousands of Funza Lushaka Bursary recipients who are unemployed because government has frozen most of the posts.

The issue of development of teachers and reopening of colleges of education is something we should continue to ponder on as education remains our apex priority.

The President should follow up on the professionalization of early childhood practitioners and deployment of more resources to ECD. A firm early childhood development remains a guarantee for the progress of our learners as opposed to reaction through extra classes and winter schools at matric.

On the work of Public Servants

We echo the president’s call on public servants to become agents of change. This is in line with SADTU’s 2014 Congress theme which calls on the Union to restore the character of SADTU as a “Union of Revolutionary Professionals, Agents for Change and Champions of People’s Education.” The President is welcome to visit national departments of Government to engage with senior leadership to ensure that work of government is effectively aligned. However, we would like him to also visit provincial departments to see how austerity measures are making it impossible for public servants to work effectively.

The president should visit schools with overcrowded classes of up to 100 learners in the townships and rural areas. The president should visit hospitals and clinics with no medicine and police stations that are under staffed and with no resources to do their work.

On the promotion of our indigenous languages

We welcome the call by the president on the promotion of our indigenous languages at all our public schools. This call should be supported by the provision of more language teachers. We need teachers with the necessary competency and proficiency to teach our languages. Our languages should be developed to a point of being languages of instruction. Afrikaans and English first language speakers continue to be advantaged as this is the medium of instruction and is their mother tongue.

On NHI

From the President’s speech, one can see that the National Health Insurance (NHI) will soon become a reality. We welcome the announcement that the NHI Bill is now ready to be processed and will be submitted to Parliament in the next few weeks and certain NHI projects targeting the most vulnerable people in society will commence in April this year. Health care and education are not commodities for profit making.

We welcome the idea of reducing the over bloated cabinet and support the president to remove the dead wood in the current cabinet as a matter of urgency.

We commit ourselves to supporting the President by calling on our members to lend a hand to serve the nation by performing their revolutionary task of educating our children and the nation.

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SAFTU

SAFTU Statement in response to the State of the Nation Address

17 February 2018

SAFTU congratulates the newly elected President of the Republic, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa. We wish him well as he ascends to the highest office in the land.

From the onset we must make it clear that we are class opponents to the new President and the ANC he leads, not because of any bitterness but because in policy terms we serving the different class interests. We will engage with him as we do with any other government leader.

What is encouraging is that class and policy differences will now be debated on their merits instead of their obfuscation by personal and corruption scandals that were such a feature of the Presidency of Jacob Zuma.

Before we engage on some issues let’s remind the workers of the scale of the challenge as a result of total mismanagement of our economy by apartheid and the abysmal record of the ANC to address these challenges.

What is the real state of the nation today.

JOBS, the right to work and the economy

The most shocking statistic of all is that unemployment, poverty and inequality have all got worse since 1994. The official unemployment rate, which excludes those not looking for work, was at 20% in 1994, the 18th highest in the world, but 27.7% in 2017, few days ago it dropped to 26.7%, the 6th highest in the world.

The job-loss bloodbath continues daily. The latest news is that 2,863 construction workers are to be retrenched by Aveng. They will join the 9.4 million unemployed, of whom 3.3 million are under 35. These millions have no source of income except hand-outs from employed family members, money from piece jobs or begging in the street.

The most serious job losses are in manufacturing industry, which not only hits those directly affected, but has a knock-on effect on other workers and the future of the whole economy.

This is the real state of the nation

POVERTY

30.4 million South Africans are living in poverty, with almost 14 million living in extreme poverty, says StatsSA. Black Africans remain the majority of the poor, with 46.6% affected, followed by coloureds at 32.2%, with less than 5% percent of Indians and 1% percent of whites living in poverty.

In 2015 one in three South Africans lived on less than R797 per month, or half of the country’s 2015 mean annual household income of R19,120, with more women affected than men, and children and the elderly hardest hit.

The number living in poverty increased from 27 million in 2011, to 30 million in 2015. Inequality as measured by the Gini Coefficient has risen since 1994.

This is the real state of the nation

INEQUALITY

South Africa holds the unwanted distinction of being the most unequal society in the world. It takes 4.5 days for the best-paid executive at Shoprite to earn what temporary farm workers earn in their lifetime, if they live up to 50 years, says an Oxfam report on inequality.

Oxfam also revealed that “about two-thirds of South Africa’s wealth is held by the top 1% and about 90% is held by the top 10%”. In 2017, 82% of all growth in wealth went to the top 1% and the bottom half saw no increase at all At work

As well as soaring unemployment, the workers’ share of national income, – the gross value added by workers’ labour – was 57% in 1993, but declined to 49% in 2008 and remained just below 50% up to 2013.

This has been been made worse by the casualisation of labour, outsourcing of work, use of labour brokers and replacing full-time jobs with part-time. More employers are using so-called ‘self-employed contractors’ like the Uber drivers to avoid any of their responsibilities under the labour laws and many are trying to limit or even scrap sectoral collective bargaining.

New amended labour laws will threaten to undermine workers’ constitutional rights to withdraw their labour by dictating how unions must consult their members and even allowing for compulsory arbitration which could be used to force workers back to work, and treat them as little more than slaves.

Worst of all workers still have to endure the exploitation, abuse and violent assault of employers like the Springs farmer and his son who forced a worker to swallow faeces, beat him, racially insulted him and attempted to drawn him in a septic tank.

Far too many other employers still imagine they live in the years of apartheid and can treat their workers as slaves, transport them herded on to the back of trucks and evict their families from their homes when they retire.

This is the workers reality, this is the real state of the nation.

At SCHOOL and UNIVERSITY

About the 41% in just one year’s intake, either leave school with no academic qualifications at all or had to repeat one or more times.

The young people who leave school, and those who failed Matric, have virtually no chance of getting anything but the most insecure, casual and underpaid employment. Most will swell the ranks of the 3.3 million young people who are not in employment, education or training.

The crisis has its roots in the heritage of colonialism and apartheid, when the white ruling class saw no need to provide education and training for the African majority.

The scandal is that after 24 years of ANC rule, so little has been done to change this two-tier education system. They have abolished the formal racial segregation of schools and there has been a big growth of no-fee schools. Yet the gulf between conditions in the under-staffed, ill- equipped and under-funded public schools for the overwhelmingly black poor, and the private schools with their beautiful buildings, spacious playing fields, laboratories and libraries is even wider, and the racial divisions remain.

A survey in which students, reading skills were tested in the language with which they are most familiar, show that 78% of Grade 4 students in South Africa failed to meet the lowest literacy benchmark of the study. Out of 50 countries around the world, South Africa ranked lowest

In the hospitals and clinics

The murders of at least 143 mentally ill patients, whose care was outsourced from Life Esidimeni to private establishments, gave us a horrific glimpse into the inhumanity of the two-tier heath service delivery. Those with money can buy top-class medical care, while the poor majority risk their lives in under-funded, under-staffed and squalid hospitals and clinics.

Three years after the long-promised national health insurance scheme was announced, we have only pilot projects and they are threatened by budget cuts which may lead to insufficient funds to pay their staff.

On the land

It is scandalous that 24 years after the ANC came to power in 1994, its leaders have done virtually nothing to implement the transfer of stolen land. In 1994, 87% of the land was owned by whites and only 13% by blacks. By 2012 however, land reform had transferred only 7.95 million hectares into black ownership, equivalent to just 7.5% of formerly white-owned land.

In 2012 Minister for Agriculture, Gugile Nkwinti, told Parliament that only around 10% of commercial farmland has been redistributed or restored to black South Africans since formal apartheid ended. So whites still own most of the country’s land.

CRIME & DRUGS in the communities

Angry protests in poor communities have become so frequent that they are often only referred to on the radio in traffic reports, warning motorists to avoid areas where residents are burning tyres or throwing rocks. They have been mainly over poor or non-existant service delivery, though more are now about the terrible levels of crime, gangs and drug abuse.

In many poor townships like Marikana in Cape Town, criminal gangs are terrorising the neighbourhood and killing any who get in their way. The main victims are the youth, who, with no chance of employment or higher education, are attracted to drugs and gangs to try to escape from the despair, only to end in a deeper trough.

This is the real state of the nation.

Crime and discrimination against women

For 16 day towards the end of every year we discuss the appalling levels of violent and sexual abuse of women and children, then largely forget about it for the rest of the 349 days.

One in five women have suffered physical attacks. The figure is even higher in the poorest communities. This reality was tragically brought home by the brutal murder of our NUMSA comrade Thembisile Yende while working at Eskom.

21% of women over 18 have been violently abused by their domestic partners, 25% have experienced gender-based violence. More than 100 people are raped every day and the Medical Research council estimates that half of South Africa’s children will be abused before they reach 18.

Yet, in 2009, according to the police’s own statistics, the conviction rate for for rape was 11.5%. Other estimates in 2014 put it is as low as 10%.

This has perpetuated a culture of impunity. Too many men feel justified in using violence to enforce their will against partners and children, and women in general.

This is the real state of the nation

CORRUPTION and CRIME in the boardrooms

The biggest crime in the nation is the corruption, fraud and racketeering which has spread to state-owned enterprises, public officials, government ministers, private businesses, government minsters and the president himself.

While SAFTU welcomes the steps by the Hawks and Assets Forfeiture Authority in the Free State and the new Eskom Board, far more needs to be done before we shall see public money being used for the public good and not to line the profits of the corrupt.

But the fight against corruption and crime must not be confined to just one president, one family and a coterie of cronies or just in the public sector, but against those involved in the all the private companies who are now being exposed as fellow-culprits and accomplices.

This is the real state of the nation.

The main reason for this disaster is the ANC government’s neoliberal economic policies which, as Professor Sampie Terreblanche has written, were agreed upon at “secret meetings between the ANC and big business — behind the high walls of Harry Oppenheimer’s estate and at the Development Bank of Southern Africa” These meetings, he wrote, “laid the foundations for the continued beggary of the majority”.

This deal led first to the misnamed Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy of 1996 followed by the National Development Plan, whose chief architect is the ANC.

These free-market, pro-business policies led to the exact opposite of what they promised – slower growth, less employment and redistribution from the poor to the rich. It has disastrous consequences in every of area of the life of the majority.

This is the real state of the nation

Workers analyze society informed by their realities, material conditions of the class to which they belong. We never allow the emotions of the day to inform how we view political events.

Wearing these working class spectacles we now begin to analyze President Cyril Ramaphosa State of the Nation Address.

We welcome his commitment to decisively deal with corruption, inefficiencies and the backward culture of the government, which is not geared towards servicing the people. In particular we are very pleased by the following steps that he announced.

1. Complying with the Constitutional Courts decisions and lower court decisions is essential part of our hard won constitutional order that will help fight against predatory state.

2. Reviewing the size of the Executive. President Zuma had used the Cabinet as a weapon to distribute patronage and hence it kept on expanding to the current unmanageable inefficient elephant that cannot deliver any coherent programme.

3. Reviewing the management of the tax authorities. In our view the starting point must be the immediate dismissal and the arrest of SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane and his cronies including ruthless pursuance of tobacco smugglers, those moving an estimated 23 billion US dollars annually and trade transfers.

We offer to be partners of President Ramaphosa in this fight so that we can help root out corruption from the face of society. Will will give him praise when he implement what he promised, but will be his critiques should he fail to act decisively against the scourge of corruption. We however warn, that the root cause of corruption is the very system of capitalism that has helped make him a multi billionaire whilst marginalizing 55% of the population into poverty.

SAFTU is however not pleased at all about the economic programme he articulated. In fact the SONA represent the old wine in new bottles. It’s the old neoliberal programme that has spectacularly failed to deliver a better life for all for 24 year now.

Outside the announcement that land shall be expropriated without compensation which we warmly welcome, and that free education shall be rollout in the next 5 years, which whilst we welcome as a significant step forward even not meet in full demand for free, high quality, decolonized public education from Grade R to tertiary level, the speech as a whole is business is usual.

There is hardly anything new coming out of the SONA in policy terms. We heard is what we heard going way back to the Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma presidency. This underlines the correctness of the SAFTU National Congress analysis and statement that categorically states that it is the ANC policies that have betrayed the working class and its own historic mission not any single individual.

SAFTU’s departure point is the ANC own Morogoro Conference resolution of 1969, which confirmed that:

“In our country — more than in any other part of the oppressed world — it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy… Our drive towards national emancipation is therefore in a very real way bound up with economic emancipation.”

We emphasize outside the promise to expropriate land without compensation which is itself subjected to all manner of qualifications which may give the leadership a back door to escape, the SONA is not a comprehensive redistribution strategy that will decisively address the huge wealth disparities we inherited from apartheid and colonial era.

The speech lacks bold policy initiatives to address the structural unemployment, poverty and inequalities inherited from our colonial past. There is no attempt to address the structure of the economy and to end its domination by the mining, finance and heavy chemicals complex.

Without addressing the structural fault lines of the apartheid and colonial economy, we are afraid the beautiful and 

excellent presentation skills the President displayed will come to naught. People don’t eat beautiful words, our people are in need of decent jobs that will take them out of the poverty trap.

We wish to make the following examples to demonstrate that the speech is regurgitation of old policies that have failed dismally in the past 24 years.

1. The statement that the economy has created jobs is the old insult to the workers facing the job loss blood currently underway. It’s a statement used from Thabo Mbeki error right through Zuma and now Ramaphosa. It’s a statement meant to hide the crisis by counting the small numbers of jobs created without looking at the rising unemployment as a result of job losses. We back to the Zuma days of denial of the problems facing the working class.

2. The statement that there were 3,8 million work opportunities created is directly stolen from previous Zuma speeches. We never said we wanted work opportunities. The ANC promised our people decent jobs and not the insulting

Extended Public Works Programme jobs that pay our people are meagre R800 a month. Even in the so-called new deal, these workers will be paid an insulting R11 an hour. Let us emphasize every person employed through the EPWP lives in poverty! SAFTU demands that the people employed perpetually in the EPWP must be absorbed in the municipalities and be paid a living just like all other workers. More often these workers perform duties that should normally be performed by the municipal workers.

3. 17 million people on social grant does not represent a victory but a monumental failure of the government to create an economy that will get all the recipients of the social grants in meaningful employment.

4. Disappointingly the President is joining his predecessors is joining Zuma in celebrating the improved pass rate without making any commitment to address the public education fault lines. He said nothing about the inferior public education that continues to throw an estimated (41%) learners to the streets either who leave school with no academic qualifications at all or had to repeat one or more times. President Ramaphosa says nothing about the scandalous situation where after 24 years of ANC rule, so little has been done to change this two-tier education system. They have abolished the formal racial segregation of schools and there has been a big growth of no-fee schools. Yet the gulf between conditions in the under-staffed, ill-equipped and under- funded public schools for the overwhelmingly black poor, and the private schools with their beautiful buildings, spacious playing fields, laboratories and libraries is even wider, and the racial divisions remain.

A survey in which students, reading skills were tested in the language with which they are most familiar, show that 78% of Grade 4 students in South Africa failed to meet the lowest literacy benchmark of the study. Out of 50 countries around the world, South Africa ranked lowest. The speech is typical of the previous ANC choosing to play propaganda games at the expensive of confronting the apartheid fault lines.

5. The jobs summit is no innovation at all. There has been three jobs summits since 1994 and they never solved anything. Instead job losses, poverty and inequalities have worsened. The jobs summit without addressing the real fault lines will change nothing.

6. President Thabo Mbeki had a series of economic advisory councils. There is nothing knew in what President Ramaphosa announced with such vigour.

7. The 30% procurement target comes directly from a commitment made before by President Zuma. It was never implemented. We hope this will change.

8. The national minimum wage of R20 an hour for bread winners, R18 per hour for farm workers, R15 an hour for domestic workers and R11 per hour for the EPWP workers in an insult that SAFTU has committed to resist to the last drop of our blood. We call on the ANC to withdraw this insult before May Day 2018 or face a national general strike.

9. Whilst we want all the individuals placed in the State Owned Enterprises removed and replaced with competent people, we wish to warn that President Ramaphosa must not exploit the period of honey moon to sneak tendencies of the past days of unilateralism and big brother. There was no consultation with labour unions when the Eskom Board was removed and replaced. We have made a call that labour must represented their interest in the SOEs board including the PIC. Instead if the example of Eskom was to be replicated, business people only will be appointed.

10. The promise to speed up and reverse deintrialisation. We have heard that from Zuma before. Without changing the macro – the fiscal and monetary policies particularly shifting resources to support the promised renewed industrialization, this commitment shall ring hollow.

SAFTU will continue to educate workers and the public at large that the Ramaphosa presidency will not be substantially different from other presidencies that simply failed workers and worsened their unemployment, poverty and inequalities.

One of the lessons we learnt from Harry Gwala is that in a class divided society, is always check who are clapping hands when you speak! Check who is praising you and giving you a standing ovation.

We acknowledge that ruling class is ecstatic about the speech and the fact that their class colleague is on the helm of the country. The media which is still owned exclusively by the ruling class is heaping praises and is helping to get our people to forget about the real crisis of society.

We in SAFTU will not be fooled.

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UASA spokesperson Andre Venter

SONA: A load of positive energy released by Pres. Ramaphosa

UASA extends its sincere congratulations to Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa on the delivery of a much needed State of the Nation Address.

We welcome his statement that all South Africans must take action to improve the country and the way it is run. The time of sitting back and criticise is over. This should be especially salient for those who have been elected and appointed into positions of responsibility.

We are particularly impressed with the following points:

-  Board members of state-owned companies to be qualified and experienced in their fields

-  Separation of the duties of board members and the general management of state-owned companies

-  South Africa’s youth to be the centre of the future, predominantly in terms of education and being given the opportunity to prove themselves in their chosen occupations

-  Doubling the tourism industry

-  Mining to be seen as a sunrise and not a sunset sector, with the mining charter to be finalised in a manner that promotes investment and job creation

-  The Job Summit initiative, Investment Conference, and Black Industrialist Programme

-  Corruption to be rooted out on all levels

Many of the initiatives referred to by Ramaphosa are already in existence, and UASA trusts that these will be built upon with a new fervour and honesty in the best interest of South Africa and all its people.

The positive energy released by the President’s leadership provide South Africa Inc. with the golden opportunity to reach out and to build a prosperous future for all living in the country. We have hope for the future. Let us all seize the moment!