The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] notes the tabling of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to the Joint sitting of both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, by President Ramaphosa last night.
The tabling of the SONA by President Ramaphosa occurs in the context of high levels of unemployment, poverty, deepening income and social inequality, deindustrialization, stagnant economy and low levels of investments into the economy.
In his speech, the President indicated that his administration will focus on the following priorities as a response to the prevailing challenges that confront the country:
- Overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic
- Massive rollout of infrastructure
- Substantial increase in local production
- Employment stimulus to create jobs and support livelihoods
- Rapid expansion of our energy generation capacity
As NEHAWU, we are deeply disappointed by this underwhelming and empty SONA, which continues to turn a blind eye to the elephant in the room – the neoliberal austerity macroeconomic policy, which continues to militate against the achievement of all these priorities identified above.
We are deeply dismayed and annoyed by the fact that the President has missed an opportunity to roll back the austerity measures such as fiscal consolidation, reduction in head counts in the public service, massive cuts on social spending in health, education and other essential services. It is these austerity measures that continues to undermine our social cohesion as a nation as they are responsible for social instability and ever growing violent social protests.
We note with disappointment and anger the continuing agenda to privatise all our network industries as announced in this SONA and the failure to find long lasting far reaching solutions to our ailing State-Owned Enterprises. As NEHAWU, we reject with contempt it deserve the implementation of misguided Treasury proposals, which were rejected by all Alliance partners and were never engaged with at the National Economic Development and Labour Council [NEDLAC].
We are deeply disturbed by the absence of an overarching strategy to ensure security of energy supply. The continued unbundling of ESKOM is an embarrassment that continues to undermine our economic recovery and reconstruction.
Equally, we find it unacceptable, that the President has failed to pronounce on the implementation of the basic income grant to ameliorate the ever deteriorating conditions of our people.
We are also perturbed by the fact that the President continues to thank front-line workers for the sacrifices they have made in the fight against COVID-19 but is not reversing the decision not to honour the last leg of Resolution 1 of 2018. We view this as disingenuous and an attack on collective bargaining and the rights of workers.
With ever-growing vacancies in the Public Service and worse in the public health system, we are disappointed that the President has failed to come up with clear time-frames on the implementation of the National Health Insurance [NHI], the filling of vacancies and the rebuilding of a deteriorating public health infrastructure.
This SONA lacked substance and vision, it was an exercise to please big capital, international agencies and international investors, to the detriment of the poor and the working class. The President has failed to inspire the nation towards a broad based economic development agenda, progressive social policy as he continues to rely on outdated, orthodox inspired policies which continues to arrest our countries’ economic development.
As NEHAWU, we were expecting the President to provide bold and decisive leadership including a coherent plan that would take us on a path of recovery, broad based reindustrialisation and growth. Unfortunately and regrettable this year’s SONA lacks decisiveness, boldness and leadership.
Lastly, we call upon the progressive mass democratic movement to work with all other progressive forces for a popular front against neoliberal austerity, privatisation and corruption for a progressive peoples centered economic policy agenda.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat