(Video)COSATU State of the Nation Expectations Statement

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has high expectations for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation on Thursday 9 February. Workers and society at large are battling to cope with a 43% unemployment rate, rising levels of debt and an economy struggling to emerge from a deep recession. 

These are made worse by ten(10 )hours of load shedding a day, a deteriorating passenger and freight rail network under siege from criminal syndicates, rampant levels of crime and corruption, and dysfunctional municipalities unable to provide basic services. To restore hope, the SONA needs to present a clear program and set clear implementation benchmarks and timeframes.

The government also needs to account for the implementation of the 2022 SONA commitments as part of building society’s confidence.

The economy cannot grow, and unemployment cannot be reduced with continuous loadshedding. The Lekgotla recommendation for the declaration of a state of disaster needs to be officially implemented.

The government needs to ensure Eskom has all the resources and authority at hand to reduce load shedding, ramp up targeted high impact maintenance and bring on board new generation capacity. They also need to slash Eskom’s debt burden and plug its fiscal holes, and tackle the corruption and criminality crippling Eskom.

Similar interventions are needed at Transnet and Metrorail, which are key to growing the mining, manufacturing, and agricultural sectors as well as to the urban economy. Equally government needs to come with clear turnaround plans for the Post Office, SABC, DENEL and other embattled but once thriving SOEs.

The economy needs a stimulus package from both the public and private sectors. Schemes like the Bounce Back Scheme and the Infrastructure Programme need to be resuscitated and expedited respectively. The progressive commitments of the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan need to be implemented honestly and diligently.

Whilst welcoming the reduction by 3% in unemployment in 2022, no society can sustain itself with a 43% unemployment rate. It is critical that government assist the unemployed, and in particular the youth, to enter the labour market.

The Presidential Employment Stimulus Program needs to be doubled in the February Budget Speech to accommodate at least 1 million participants, and then 2 million by the October Medium Term Budget Policy Statement.

The Special Relief Dispensation (SRD) Grant has been the source of relief to millions of unemployed persons. The administrative glitches that have bedevilled it need to be resolved to ensure all unemployed persons receive it. This needs to be raised to the Food Poverty Line and utilised as a foundation for the Basic Income Grant.

The alarming deterioration of municipalities needs to see concrete action from COGTA, SALGA, Treasury and the law enforcement organs. Their free fall implosion is costing thousands of workers their jobs as companies are forced to close when municipalities no longer provide basic services. 

The chaos in local government is bleeding Eskom R57 billion and rising. Particular attention is needed to the provision of clean and accessible water. The backlogs in water infrastructure need to be sorted out or it will plunge the nation into another unaffordable crisis.

The government needs to announce clear interventions to ramp up the fight against crime and corruption. These need to include the reversal of the deeply concerning decline in SAPS and NPA personnel numbers. The South African Revenue Services needs to be empowered to undertake lifestyle audits of politicians and senior state managers.

Law enforcement organs and judiciary needs to be well resourced to fight corruption and serious crimes.

The South African government needs to fix its relationship with public servants.  A state cannot be productive if nurses, doctors, police officers and countless other hard working public servants feel aggrieved that their employer is outsourcing the bill for state capture and corruption to them and pickpocketing their meagre wages to balance the books. It is untenable that while public servants are drowning in debt government bureaucrats are spending billions of rands on half baked ideas.

The President needs to know that this SONA will have political consequences because the public will be giving their verdict in 15 months time. What happens in the next few months will be watched closely by workers and South Africans in general.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (COSATU National Spokesperson)

Cell 060 975 6794