Amanda Watson
News Editor
3 minute read
12 Feb 2015
6:22 pm

SONA2014: The good, bad and ugly

Amanda Watson

President Jacob Zuma’s 2014 State of the Nation Address (SONA) was met with predictable cheer by the ruling party, and equally predictable disdain by the opposition parties.

President Jacob Zuma said South Africa should respect Uganda's anti-gay bill. Picture: GCIS.

This year, if Zuma makes it past the threat of Julius Malema promising to disrupt Parliament then as with the plethora of promises in 2014, we can expect more of the same this year.

“The thing about the SONA is it gives broad brushstrokes of a variety of government departments and then put it all together in little sound bites for the speech,” said political analyst Daniel Silke.

“The speech is traditionally a positive one, of course, with a public relations spin on government performance in the past combined with multiple inputs on what could happen in the future.”

The good

Africa Check is a non-partisan organisation which promotes accuracy in public debate and the media and has evaluated a number of the claims made by Zuma last year.

“You will also recall that Census 2011 outlined the successes in extending basic services. The report said the number of households with access to electricity is now at 12.1 million, which translates to 85%. Nine out of 10 households have access to water,” claimed the president.

Africa Check’s verdict was that the president was correct and noted: “According to the 2011 Census the percentage of households with access to electricity for lighting stands at 84.7% and the percentage of households with access to water stands at

The bad

“With regard to social infrastructure, a total of 98 new schools will have been built by the end of March, of which more than 40 are in the Eastern Cape that are replacing mud schools,” said Zuma last year.

Africa Check said at the time it had not happened yet, and was unlikely to in the timeframe promised by the President.

“Education NGO Equal Education pointed out that claims about replacing mud-schools are a perennial feature of SONA and, while the programme to replace mud schools in the Eastern Cape is indeed achieving results (impressive-looking schools are being built), the president’s claim exaggerates the results so far.

The original target was for 49 Eastern Cape schools to be handed over by March 2012. That is almost a year ago. To date, only two have been handed over, and while the DBE says another five are 100% complete, 14 are 90% complete and a further 11 are 75% complete, this makes a total of 32 at or somewhere approaching completion.

Given this, it seems unlikely 40 will be finished by the end of this March. Hence, the best we can say is ‘not yet’ and that it seems unlikely to done when promised,” wrote the fact checking organisation.

The ugly

“We need to respond decisively to the country’s energy constraints in order to create a conducive environment for growth,” said Zuma last year.

Power should trump the address tonight, believed Silke. “I think if the ANC could pull an amazing trick out of its hat tonight with a really constructive suggestion on how to limit or alleviate load shedding, I suspect it would dominate the discourse and could dominate many of the other issues frustrating South Africans,” he said.

“We have set a growth target of 5 per cent by 2019,” said the president after another election win for the ANC last year.

“This now looks to be in fantasy land. We’ve had four or five major downgrades in terms of the GDP expectation and then the credit rating downgrades as well,” Silke noted and added “On the basis of these three downgrades, one could argue regression instead of simply no progress.”

Silke wondered if there had been any real progress. “One could argue there has been commitment in terms of our budget allocations to various departments, aspects of infrastructure development have continued and there have been allocations for this.

“However on the creation of millions of job opportunities there has really been no progress. Unemployment in South Africa is stagnant at the lower levels, there has been no progress on that, and on promises of infrastructure spend and rollout we have seen recent indications this has also largely come unstuck,” he said.

Racism was something which really needed to be addressed, as did issues around xenophobia, which can lead to social destabilisation, Silke warned.

Read President Zuma’s 2014 SONA speech here

Follow the latest SONA2015 updates here.