Business Maverick, Politics

Zuma’s 2011 State of the Nation, as it should be

By Stephen Grootes 7 February 2011

Every year around this time we debate the imminent State of the Nation address President Zuma will deliver later this week. While there’s plenty of ink around at the moment on what could be in it, here’s the speech he should make, but won't - version 2011. By STEPHEN GROOTES.

“My fellow South Africans, our economy is not growing strongly enough. We are not creating enough jobs. We have talked and talked about how to create jobs. We have spoken to the unions, to business, to everyone we can think of. We have looked back at history to see how countries developed, how they became industrialised, how they are able to employ so many of their people.

“The time for talking is over. It’s time for action. I have asked my party’s representatives in Parliament to withdraw the new labour bills and the amendments that were before this House. We need to start again. We need to realise that as we are in a mixed economy, it is the private sector that will create jobs. As government, we can help. We can make it easier to get people into work. We need to work with the capitalists, cast ideology aside and do things we don’t necessarily want to do.

“To this end, we will now make it easier to hire. We will introduce a bill next week that will seek to allow companies to hire people who are currently unemployed, without having to put them on the payroll permanently. The workers’ rights to protection from harm in the work place and their right to be paid for what they do will still be respected. But South Africa, it is time to work. If we don’t, we won’t just fall behind, our people will not have jobs and they will starve. From now on, people can be fired for not doing their job properly. We are going to make big changes to the way the CCMA works.

“My friends, I am serious. It is time.

“The New Growth Path is supposed to guide us into the future. It calls for more state intervention in the economy. I realise this is the will of our people. I respect this, but we have to move carefully here. The places with booming economies, where everyone and their children have jobs are in places where the economy is led by the private sector. Even China follows this example. I will not allow us to make mistakes here. We can only grow the role of the state in sectors where there is absolutely no doubt we will get it right.

“I believe that in 10 years’ time we will have created enough jobs, and thus our unions will have more members. The people who get jobs will be able to educate their children well enough to become information workers.

“At the same time, we are going to tell our children, it is not enough to learn to read and write. You must spend time on the Internet, you must learn how the new world works. Our country needs to aim high, we need the next iPad to be developed here. The next big idea must come from South Africa. It will be difficult, but we must do this. To this end, we are going to spend more of our education budget on computers, on inexpensive laptops. We will try to follow the Rwandan example, where every child has a laptop. It’s going to be cheaper than you think. And to make it all work, I commit to turn South Africa into a free wi-fi zome, where, as in the rest of the developed world, the Internet infrastructure is seen to be as essential as water and electricity.

“Since I have taken office, we have made much progress in the fight against Aids. That is welcome. We will continue. We need more money in our hospitals. We need more resources than we can currently afford. But we must also do better with what we have. We are going to get the best managers in the country, from the corporate sector, from wherever we can find them, and we are going to ask them to manage our public health sector. We cannot have doctors working 36 hours a day and then not getting paid their overtime. This is a national scandal. I would like to thank all the doctors in the public health sector who still do their work, despite being treated so badly.

“My fellow South Africans, if you are a pay clerk in a hospital and you can’t be bothered to make sure your doctors are paid properly, you are a disgrace to yourself, to your government and to your nation. If you are a nurse and your patients are not your priority, you are even worse.

“Compatriots, we have more police officers now than ever before. The fight against crime is crucial to our future. But it is one we are winning. We are going to keep making this a priority. But we are also a humane democracy. We cannot have police officers taking bribes or abusing immigrants. We cannot have officers taking the law into their own hands and shooting people. We are going to strengthen the training our police officers receive. We will also beef up the Independent Complaints Directorate. Too many times we hear about police abuses, and nothing is done about it. This must stop.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, as you know we have tried to kick-start land reform. I want to say to you here and now, that nothing is more important to us than our food supplies. We have improved relations with our farmers. They are a national asset and must be treated as such. We must make life easier for them. At the same time we need to say to them that we will not take productive land from them. We will have to think again. As they say, “’n Boer maak ’n plan”. We must all be boers in this country.

“Over the last few months we as a nation, as a government, have made mistakes in our mining sector. Our laws were too complicated and unworkable. This has hurt us and our economy. It cannot be right that someone can own an asset worth over a billion rand simply for filling in a form on a mining right. We are going to change this. We are going to make sure that established international mining companies have their rights respected. Our minister is going to meet with them regularly, she will be accessible to them. If any more mistakes are made in this sector, these firms have the right to contact me directly. And this will be the year we will end the inflammatory mine-nationalisation rhetoric. We cannot throw away foreign investment in this way.

“My friends, for too long political speeches like this one have just been a footnote in the political year. We have lacked the political will to make our plans actually happen. This will not be the case this year. We will make this happen. We have problems, some of our own making. We will stop making decisions for short-term reasons. We will look harder before leaping.

“I bid you good and prosperous night.” DM

Grootes is an EWN reporter.

Photo: South African President Jacob Zuma addresses a news conference after meeting European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at the EU Council in Brussels September 28, 2010. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir


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