Mmusi Maimane. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Mmusi Maimane. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

SA is a nation in crisis and there is a lack of leadership to grapple with the problems facing society, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said in the National Assembly on Thursday.

Maimane was speaking during a DA-proposed debate on the unemployment crisis and began his speech by deploring the violence against women and foreign nationals, which he linked to almost four out of 10 people being unemployed. The unemployment rate was climbing but there was no action by the governing party, he said.

Figures released by Stats SA for the second quarter of 2019 indicated that the official unemployment rate increased 1.4 percentage points to 29% compared with the first quarter of 2019. About 71.5% of those unemployed have been looking for work for a period of a year or longer with unemployment among the youth (15—24 years) standing at 56.4%. The expanded rate of unemployment, which includes those who have stopped looking for work, is about 38.5%.

“We have a leadership crisis. Our country is burning and our people feel they have nothing left to lose because the government cannot lead them,” Maimane said.

“It cannot agree on policy, it cannot implement whatever is agreed upon, it cannot hold anyone accountable — there is simply no action.”

The ANC could not, for example, agree on finance minister Tito Mboweni’s economic recovery policy, he said.

“This government has not been short on ideas. What it has been short of is action. We must act. We must have the courage to make tough choices.”

Instead of coming up with policies that would boost investment, the government came up with investor unfriendly policies such as National Health Insurance, national minimum wage, nationalisation of the Reserve Bank, BEE and prescribed assets.

Maimane outlined the DA’s proposals for an economic recovery. This included breaking up Eskom, selling off SAA and undertaking a government-wide spending review. A jobs and justice fund should also be created to redress the destruction of the wealth transfer brought about by apartheid. People should also be given titles to property and shareholdings.

Labour and employment minister Thulas Nxesi said the government was resolute about addressing the crisis of unemployment and outlined policies aimed at promoting industrial and economic growth, developing small businesses and implementing the youth employment service.

ANC MPs highlighted the strides made by the government during the past 25 years in redressing poverty and providing for people’s basic needs. The governing party said it did not support the DA’s neoliberal policies to privatise state-owned enterprises and noted the failure of the private sector to implement employment equity. The ANC government, they said, was committed to job creation and was making progress.

EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu said most of the unemployed in the country were black, and that this was due to the continuation of “socioeconomic apartheid”. He decried Mboweni’s economic recovery discussion document as “pure nonsense”. It would worsen the jobs crisis and would not improve economic growth, he said.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za