SAFTU response to the state of the nation address

Nothing has demonstrated how the ANC has reached its sell-by date than the speech delivered by its President on the 20 June 2019.

Nothing has demonstrated a President so out of touch with the realities facing our country than the speech delivered today. Twenty-five years down the line we have a President shocked by what he saw during the recent elections. Apparently he never joined all the ANC previous elections campaigns.

Most importantly, the speech demonstrates how the ANC has moved away from its historic mission. The ANC is no longer a left force! The ANC is no longer a party of revolution.  The ANC has become a party of reforms – a centre-right party that has embraced trickle-down economic programmes imposed to it by big business, the IMF and World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programmes. The speech basically was telling the poor to wait for the economy to grow first before the benefits trickle down.

The President then shared his dream with the nation!  However, people do not eat dreams and dreams will not solve the crisis at hand. Our people long dreamed and wrote down their dreams in historic documents, the type of country they would like to live in. We quote just a few of the dreamsn to demonstrate the point.

The Freedom Charter adopted by the ANC outlined the dreams as amongst others:

The People Shall Share In The Country’s Wealth!

The national wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans, shall be restored to the people;

The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;

All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people;

All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions.

The Land Shall Be Shared Among Those Who Work It![edit]

Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land redivided amongst those who work it, to banish famine and land hunger;

The state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers;

Freedom of movement shall be guaranteed to all who work on the land;

All shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose;

People shall not be robbed of their cattle, and forced labour and farm prisons shall be abolished.

In 1969 the ANC dreamt and said:

“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. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the root of racial supremacy and does not represent even the shadow of liberation.”

The speech takes us to the opposite direction of these dreams in every respect. In short, the speech is not a comprehensive economic programme to ensure that wealth redistribution. It is not a strategy on how the wealth shall be shared. There was no programme on how the stolen land will be restored to its rightful owners. It is a speech of meaningless reforms that have simply deepened the crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequalities over the past twenty-five years.

The speech has ditched even the recent ANC conference resolutions such as the demand for the expropriation of land without compensation or the expansion of the Reserve Bank mandate.

The whole speech is repackaging of what President Thabo Mbeki outlined in 2004.

The speech lacks ambition and concrete plans. For example, in response to the catastrophic levels of youth unemployment, which amounts over six million of the ten million unemployed South Africans, the President promises to create two million in the next ten years. The average number of youth that enters the labour market is 180 000 annually. This means there will be 1,8 million new youth entrants in the labour market in the next ten years. The programme outlined by the President seeks to take care of the new entrants and leave the current six million still unemployed.

To take this further the programme outlined by the President does not seek to change the structure of the economy from its current neo-colonial structure which is based on the extraction of the mineral wealth only to export it to overseas countries only to later import it back as finished products. Interestingly the President only raise the need to change this structure as ond of his dreams. There is no concrete steps on how this dream will be realised and there are no steps on how to end the domination of the economy by the finance sector and heavy chemicals. The current growth path is what is reproducing poverty, unemployment and inequalities.

The trickle-down economy approach which the speech advocates centres around economic growth without addressing the need for redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. But this model has dismally failed the black people in general and black working class in particular.

While the speech contains some interesting aspects in relation to the industrial policy but without changing the inappropriate and conservative macroeconomic policy framework of GEAR and the NDP,  these limited initiates will not reverse the deindustrialisation currently underway. The limited package of reforms will remain prisoners to the inappropriate macroeconomic framework, and their potential will never be realised.

The seven priorities are exciting, and we support them. However, the President lacks credibility. We do not have faith that he will stick with these seven priorities.  South Africans must read the 2018 State Of The Nation Address again and see how incoherent this 2019 SONA is. South Africa must also read the President economic stimulus and recovery plan of September 2018 which hardly featured in the 2019 speech. The reason why he avoids speaking about the past promises is that the picture looks very bad. Unemployment, in particular, youth unemployment has worsened, and the economy has shrunk by 3.2%.

SAFTU is not disappointed at all as it never had expectations that the ANC appreciate the extent of the economic challenges facing South Africa.

COSATU and the SACP must explain to the working class why they mobilised them to vote for a government that is implementing such a pro-rich economic programme.

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