DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Expect more of the same spin and empty promises when President Cyril Ramaphosa takes to the podium to deliver the state of the nation address (Sona), says DA leader John Steenhuisen.

Ramaphosa’s address on Thursday will be keenly watched by the markets and ratings agencies seeking clarity on policy and reform amid the crisis engulfing most of SA’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs), not least Eskom and SAA.

Steenhuisen was delivering what he called the “alternative Sona” in Cape Town on Wednesday.

“Our parliament has, once again, become a place of fairy tales and spin — where the ruling party will do all it can to present a sugar-coated version of the past, present and future, and hide the ugly truth from the people. Tomorrow, in parliament, you will hear from President Ramaphosa his account of the state of the Nation. And it will be a master class in spin,” said Steenhuisen.

“If you’ve never witnessed one of his Sona speeches, you may be forgiven for going into this one with naïve expectations. But I sat there and listened to him in 2018, I sat there and listened to him last year, and I know exactly what is coming.” 

He said Ramaphosa will very likely be dishonest in his assessment of the crisis SA finds itself in.

“No, it will be an hour of downplaying the bad and inventing the good. Of cherry-picking stats to show we’ve somehow turned a corner, and of whimsical dreams of an SA he knows in his heart he has no hope of achieving,” Steenhuisen said. “Last year it was hi-tech cities and speeding bullet trains. What will it be this year?”

The DA leader said he had traveled across the country over the past two weeks to get a sense of the situation on the ground.

“And all the people I spoke to have two things in common: one, they are all, in one way or another, victims of this government. Victims of its failure to deliver services, victims of load-shedding, victims of unemployment and victims of the daily crime that government cannot protect them from. And two, they don’t dwell in their victimhood. All the people I spoke to were resilient and resourceful. They were hustling to get by in the face of indescribable obstacles. They were surviving despite this government,” Steenhuisen said.

Steenhuisen said SA’s problems require pragmatic solutions, not rocket science.

“For starters, we must immediately consign the practice of cadre deployment to the dustbin of history. If the president wants a capable state, he must put his money where his mouth is and build one.”

Furthermore, said Steenhuisen, SA doesn’t need a monolithic, state-run energy company. He called for the selling off of Eksom’s coal-fired stations to settle its debts.

“But let them still manage the grid. Let us open up the market to full competition. Let households, companies, mines and municipalities generate and sell power. Then let us do the same in the education sector. The state is clearly struggling to provide quality education for all, and particularly in disadvantaged communities. Let us welcome the help of all who can assist,” said Steenhuisen.

“And finally, the government must accept that the best role it can play in creating jobs is that of a facilitator. Beyond creating an enabling environment, it should get out of the way and let business do most of the heavy lifting.”

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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