Those who dominate the current public discourse would have us believe the two terms of President Jacob Zuma have been characterised by incompetence.
They would have us believe President Zuma presides over a corrupt government and an executive hand-picked not on the basis of competence and achievement, but for its ability to kowtow to outside “interests”.
With one condemnatory sweep they dismiss eight years of governance and stewardship of this country by the African National Congress (ANC) and its President.
The achievements of the Zuma presidency have been numerous, and have been attained despite an extremely trying economic climate.
In measuring the actual performance of the successive administrations with President Zuma at the helm, it would be more accurate to “judge” on actual, measurable performance.
President Zuma delivered his inaugural State of the Nation address (Sona) on 3 June 2009, at the start of the global economic downturn, when the contagion of the collapse of the US financial sector quickly extended to financial markets around the world, including that of South Africa.
As the World Bank notes in a December 2008 report, “growth is expected to slow down, which is a risky proposition for South Africa and for Africa as a whole”.
Zuma assumed office as the world was entering a recession whereas his predecessor was governing during an economic boom.
Despite this, in his first Sona he announced 10 priorities his administration would focus on as outlined in the 2009-2014 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) – all the while “taking into account the constraints posed by the economic crisis.” Attached to each commitment of that five-year plan was detailed project plans with targets and critical milestones.
It is the administration of President Zuma that established a Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation to assist the President in the exercise of executive authority, and in line with the Constitution’s objectives and aspirations.
Through this ministry, not only has strategic planning been streamlined, but government’s plan of action is measured through outputs, strategic activities and metrics, and implemented through service delivery agreements.
Through this same ministry, members of the executive are held accountable through performance instruments, using established targets and output measures.
A year later President Zuma would constitute a National Planning Commission (NPC), a special ministerial body to develop a long term strategic vision for South Africa. In 2012 the NPC produced the National Development Plan (NDP) this country’s first ever long-term blueprint for eliminating poverty, reducing inequality and growing the economy.
During his 2009 Sona he said:
“For as long as there are South Africans who die from preventable disease; for as long as there are workers who struggle to feed their families and who battle to find work; for as long as there are communities without clean water, decent shelter or proper sanitation; for as long as there are rural dwellers unable to make a decent living from the land on which they live; for as long as there are women who are subjected to discrimination, exploitation or abuse; for as long as there are children who do not have the means nor the opportunity to receive a decent education; we shall not rest, and we dare not falter, in our drive to eradicate poverty.”
Again, and if we are to use his above-mentioned pledge during the 2009 Sona as a yardstick, two successive Zuma administrations have delivered.
The President promised in 2009 that government would implement measures and policies to speed up economic growth and transform the economy to create decent and sustainable livelihoods.
In line with this commitment we now have an Industrial Policy Action Plan and National Infrastructure Plan. In addition, the New Growth Path Framework Plan produced by the Department of Economic Development is geared towards improving the performance of the South African economy, boosting investment and creating jobs.
The President promised in his inaugural Sona that his administration would introduce a massive programme to build economic and social infrastructure. It has been under President Zuma’s leadership that the National Infrastructure Plan was developed and adopted, and the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee (PICC). Most importantly, the PICC has developed a 20 year planning framework that extends beyond any single administration, in order to avoid a stop-start approach to infrastructure roll-out.
Under the PICC 18 catalytic Strategic Integrated Projects (SIP’s) have been developed that cover social and economic infrastructure around the country – from human settlements, to broadband infrastructure, to water and sanitation services, to ports and railways, to energy and electrification. South Africa is one of the top ten investment destinations for renewable energy thanks to the Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPP) introduced by this administration.
Building new infrastructure and upgrading already existing ones has been a focus of both President Zuma’s administrations; earlier this year former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that government would spend R50 billion to fund both national and provincial economic infrastructure requirements.
This massive infrastructure spend hasn’t just supported our integration into the economies of the continent, but it has also created jobs and strengthened the delivery of basic services to our people.
In 2009 when President Zuma assumed office, 82.7% of South African households were electrified. In 2013 this figure stood at 85.4%. Ninety percent of households are connected to piped water and 78% of households have access to adequate sanitation – up from 72.4% when President Zuma assumed office.
Significant strides have been taken in broadening access to education during President Zuma’s two terms. The numbers of people with no formal education or low levels of education has steadily decreased and now stands at 16.2%. Grade R enrolments have doubled between 2003 and 2011 and the national matric pass rate stood at 78.2% by 2013 – and is steadily improving.
In his inaugural Sona in 2009 President Zuma promised that the state would improve access to higher education for children from poor families. In 2008, the year before Zuma assumed office, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) provided funding to the tune of R2.4-billion. By 2014 this figure was R9.5-billion, excluding additional funding provided by the Department of Higher Education and Training.
In 2009 President Zuma promised that his administration would drive job creation through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). Since 2014 the EPWP has created more than two million work opportunities.
By far one of the greatest successes of President Zuma’s administration has been in the field of healthcare. Life expectancy has increased from 56.8 years in 2009 to 59.6 last year. This can be attributed to this government’s interventions to combat tuberculosis, HIV/Aids, and the reason why South Africa is cited for international best practice by the United Nations Aids Programme (UNAIDS). It has been under this government that steady progress is being made on the roll-out of the National Health Insurance (NHI), and that the first post-apartheid health sciences university – Sefako Makgatho, was established to train our health professionals for meeting the needs of our population.
The administration of President Zuma presides over the rollout of one of the largest social security nets in the world – the only thing that stands between millions of people and abject poverty. In 2009, more than 13-million people received social grants. Today that figure stands at more than 17-million men women and children.
Contrary to the narrative being driven by certain sectors of society around the perceived failures of the Zuma administration, having achieved all of the above despite prevailing economic conditions, is no small feat.
Whether it is providing policy and legislative certainty and clarity around economic developments, rolling out infrastructure, supporting small businesses or transforming our economy to make it more inclusive, the successes of President Zuma’s first and second administrations are well-documented.
Far from engendering a “no confidence” vote, all right-minded South Africans with an interest in dispassionate and factual evaluation of this government’s performance should have every confidence that this country is on the right track under President Zuma. DM
Edna Molewa is chairperson of Cabinet’s international co-operation, trade and security cluster, and Minister of Environmental Affairs
In other news...
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Harrison Ford suffers from a fear of public speaking.