2022 State of the Nation Address Debate by Hon Qubudile Dyantyi ANC - MP
Theme: “Defending our democratic gains to build a united and prosperous South Africa”
15 February 2022
Topic “Uniting all South Africans behind a social compact in building the Nation”
This year as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the launch of our Constitution it is important to reflect upon 3 key principles encapsulated in the preamble i.e. Nation building, Social Cohesion and Unity. These principles are critical for a social compact to rebuild, renew and unite our country against the triple challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment. How do we define these constitutionally entrenched principles within our historical and current context? In a speech to the National Assembly by former President and then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki on 29 May 1998 he defined nation building as;
‘’ … the construction of the reality and the sense of common nation hood which would result from the abolition of disparities in the quality of life among South Africans based on the racial , gender and geographic inequalities we all inherited from the past.’’
He further says, ‘’…A major component part of …nation building is defined by and derived from the material conditions in our society which have divided our country into 2 nations - the one black and (rich) the other white” (and poor).
From the above there is a clear alignment between our constitutional values and the ANC’s vision which is to build a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, national democratic and prosperous society. This alignment is not co incidental, it emanates from historical ANC policies and principles of Pan Africanism and human rights such as the African Claims Charter (1943), the Freedom Charter (1955) and the Harare Declaration (1989) amongst others.
I complete this grounding about the importance of our constitution with candid words of retired Judge Albie Sachs, in a lecture delivered at UCT in 1991, titled, “Perfectibility and Corruptibility”. I quote:
“We realised at the time that we needed protections against ourselves, against the tendencies of power not only to marginalize the weak, but to corrupt the powerful”
A Nation that confronts itself, that questions more about what it is doing, how it is doing it and why it is doing it, that learns by doing and learns from that experience, is one that will develop and grow.
The politically rich State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the President has sparked rigorous debate, and is a reflection that it was indeed the content of the Address, that the debate is acknowledging.
We entered the debate speaking of a social compact, mindful of the fact that we don’t all share the same perspective about it. What has been reaffirmed by most speakers, is that we have a very serious socio-economic situation, which requires us to unite and work together behind a plan and in a social compact to substantively address this situation.
Speakers had no shortage of ideas or plans, even if some where far removed from the SONA, and each speaker sought to convince the next on the correctness of the orientation of their input. Of course, we have had some strange interpretations of SONA, without authority or evidence but that is the nature of a debate on SONA. What is important is how we emerge from this debate, what we have to do and how we will do it.
In the University of Life, a set of questions comes back to those who claim they have the definitive and absolute answer. On whose authority do you speak, where do we find in what you say authority, and what does this authority add in dealing with the national contradictions we face.
In a Constitutional democracy authority derives from the Constitution of a country, that which brings us together. The intention of our Constitution is to bring about social justice, social cohesion and nation-building. We have a responsibility to build a nation based on the Bill of Rights, and we have an equal responsibility to bring everyone into this cause, to construct a country that we all want. To promote that which binds us together rather than that which divides us.
If we use this principle as our point of departure to resolve our socio-economic conditions, developing a new consensus in a social compact, we will begin to draw together far more easily.
On listening to the different political parties none stated that they don’t want a constitutional democracy and all stated that the current socio-economic conditions are unacceptable and unsustainable. Parties went further and stated that fundamental reforms are needed to revive economic growth. It may have been expressed differently but all call for change.
A new consensus based on what we broadly agree, which is the current conjuncture, is achievable and in our grasp. As the President indicates “a consensus that is born out of a common understanding of our current challenging situation and a recognition of the need to address the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality”.
This means that the livelihoods of the poor, their employment opportunities, and prospects for employment and their capacity to roll back poverty and destitution should be prioritized. This principle includes the orientating macroeconomic policy to address economic growth, so that it takes place within an overarching strategy of job creation with specific and dedicated support for the youth.
South Africa therefore needs a new consensus that embraces the understanding of the need to redistribute wealth and assets for the greater good of the entire Nation both currently and in the future. It means dealing with the structure of the economy and ensuring far greater ability for the masses of the Nation to acquire assets to sustain themselves. The implementation of economic structural reforms, is not limited to the regulatory environment. Dedicated measures, many of which are in place, are required to support economic growth, support to businesses and cooperatives, with special focus on informal, survivalist and microenterprise activity.
The extent of the need requires the implementation of a focused structural reform agenda, a clear and stable macroeconomic framework and industrial policy interventions that are implemented through the sector master plans, a combination of interventions that collectively achieves scale and contributes to employment.
In essence the call for 2022 has 4 major interventions to which the social compact has to apply itself. These are:
- Publicly funded employment
- Support to companies to increase private sector employment
- Support to enable productive livelihoods and
- Expanded social protection.
These initiatives must result in a New National Employment Policy that supports the employment centred framework and retains the employment standards that the ILO has credited us with. In other words, and this is where challenges start, interested parties seek to arrive at a social compact with conditionalities and this is where progress will then begin to stall. Political and Economic history is littered with good intentions but an inability of the stakeholders to work together in the interests of the majority as they cling to their sectional interests.
I raise this because unless we are honest and frank with how we at times are the biggest stumbling block to progress, we are destined to repeat the same political and economic history mistakes. Let us remind one another, today we have over 20 million people who either don’t bother to register to vote or who don’t exercise their right to vote. Fewer people vote than those who don’t and this should wake us up to a fundamental right in the Constitution that our people have decided to walk away from.
The challenge starts when we attempt to define the Problem Statement, why it is the way it is, and what causes us to continue to reproduce unemployment, poverty and inequality.
If we do not honesty answer the Problem Statement, fault lines will begin to appear in a new social compact. A new consensus of what is wrong is not difficult. A new consensus on what caused it and what has to be done is more challenging.
As is the case in any country, the State must remain at the centre and facilitate a new consensus and social compact. Consciously the opposition in this debate, both in the so-called pre-SONA briefings and in the debate, have tried to drive the narrative that the centre is the market and private sector or some centralised office that will dictate to all, which is typical of the Republican Party leadership style of insurrection against what you don’t like.
Both fail to appreciate that a compact is made out of the people and it is they who must assist to shape its character. When we say people must be their own liberators, we mean this. There are shared responsibilities that we that we have towards one another and for the compact to succeed it requires we pull together.
Our focus must be centred on dealing decisively with hunger, economic exclusion, poverty, unemployment and inequality. Beginning where we live, in municipalities, each municipality must develop a clear local economic development plan. The plan must see how skills can be developed, jobs created and within each ward a hub of entrepreneurial opportunities be created, drawing people into economic activity. At this level the social compact has to deal with lawlessness, where small businesses are held ransom by thuggery for tenders and jobs and where corrupt individuals in SAPS are involved, they must be exposed and charged.
Clearly if we are being called upon to build the social compact to decisively address unemployment and poverty, the contradiction of race, class and gender will arise which takes us back to the need to development the Problem Statement even if those in the social compact are unnerved and would rather move forward on the basis that we address our current challenges only.
As we build a new consensus and a Social Compact, the contradictions, which are in themselves forces for change and development will confront us firstly in the form of the unresolved National Question, the Land Question and the consequences of the structure of the economy which drives an exclusionary pattern of reproduction.
Our essential element is a common history, one of dispossession, struggle and liberation struggle out of which a new nation emerged from the community of origins and the community of cultures. We are a nation as the totality of peoples united by a common fate.
In building the common consensus and social compact it must be informed by progressive values that we find in our Constitution, of non-racialism, non-sexism respect for human rights and democracy. It means defeating backward tendencies, narrow nationalism, racism and patriarchy. What essentially distinguishes a nation from an ethnic group is its political dimension, which is most obvious in a national political movement. Hence a Nation is led it does not operate spontaneously and in this regard the State must lead.
The significance of Nation Building and Social Cohesion for effective social compacting in creating a prosperous society is what the theory of the National Democratic Revolution and our lodestar, the Freedom Charter, must guide. The anti-thesis of this is where the national question focuses on the competition and conflict between and among different ethnic groups or nations and nationalities to control the political power and resources.
Adopting an inclusive progressive civic nationalism that can bring about peace and prosperity, a nationalism in which we weigh, value and incentivise each individual - be it an ordinary citizen or a politician - based on his or her merits not their ethnic identity, with emphasis given economically to the marginalised sections of the society.
In Nation Building we have to look past our ethnicity when we think who we are to, to a higher form of consciousness which considers who we are as a nation, what is the identity that we are developing as part of the African Continent? We should draw upon the multiple outstanding examples of how nations in Africa came together in communities at times of crisis and together lifted the nation. If we know the dangers, we are duty bound not to commit these in building a common consensus and a social compact.
With regards to our particular role as Parliament, clearly the Presidents message is one which will guide governments programme for the year. For Parliament 2022 is going to be an extremely busy year for our Constitutional responsibility of oversight. We have both Commissions and Expert Panel reports that Parliament is going to have to deal with. The quality of our oversight, which has often been the subject of either informed or not informed criticism has to be enhanced.
In the 2022 SONA, we have standout commitments that when implemented will go a long way to respond to the glaring challenges we are facing as a country.
The success of the commitments outlined will depend - yes, on an enhanced oversight drive.
Cde - President - that battalion of Back Benchers in this tribune of the people is ready to play its role - We will occupy the front seats to ensure effective oversight.
In our view, oversight is not opposing the Executive - as many in the executive do.
- Non-partisan exercise
- Follow the money
- Keeping Executive true to its commitments
- It is about ensuring impact
Our task for socio-economic transformation is premised on changing the material conditions of the poor, the majority who are black and women and who are defined in terms class, race and gender. The orientation of our oversight should be geared to get to the essence of challenges affecting the states capability to deliver and respond to what the masses of the people experience on a daily basis.
We have to bring to an end the repetitive reports on poor financial and operational management. Poor outcomes and the impact of expenditure is largely missing in these reports and measured in the midst of a growing unemployment, widening inequality and deepening poverty. Our 6th Parliament has to shift in the remaining period and be characterised by a paradigm shift in the form, content and focus of oversight in order to negate the worsening socio-economic conditions and assist in turning the negative narrative around. Oversight should enhance how delivery is done. Therefore, the weaknesses of the Legislative Sector Oversight model have to be addressed through the introduction of a monitoring and evaluation tool that can assist Committees to focus more on outcome and impact assessment with the necessary indicators. As part of this approach indicators to measure the quality of expenditure need to be spelt out for all Committees. This will change the face of oversight and the incorrect narrative that Parliament is not conducting oversight.
One of the greatest challenges the ANC faces in 2022 is the changing of the national narrative which generally is negative and not well informed. Our oversight needs to assist this process where we debate matters on the basis of facts and evidence led research not prejudice perceptions and attitudes all of which don’t build a Nation.
Evidence and Facts Matter Most:
- Writing an obituary of ANC based on LGE - give facts
- SONA being a Copy and Paste of DA Policy:
- 2009 - Zille
- 2022 - Steenhuisen
- White Supremacy mentality
- Oversight issue
- Understanding of it
- ANC uses majority to block??
- We do not oversight hearsay…
- Compare WCape where they govern…..
- Unanswered PQs
- Interns for Sexual Favours and Abuse of Power
- Cadre Deployment
- Two types of Services