Thursday February 08, 2024

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] recognises the significance of today’s State of the Nation Address [SONA], this marks the final SONA of the sixth administration under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The President used the theme “Leave no one behind” in his 2024 Five-Year Review and today, the President echoed many of the facts outlined in the review by detailing the achievements of the sixth administration in terms of economic growth and job creation, fighting corruption, improving social and health conditions, community safety and finally, investing in infrastructure.

The 2024 SONA takes place in the context of multiple socio-economic crises facing our society, our people are confronted with extreme levels of poverty, unemployment, inequality and the associated manifestations, such as crime, corruption and endemic violence. Our population has grown to 60.6 million people, 28% of the population is aged younger than 15 years (17,01 million), and we are facing a youth unemployment rate of over 60% with many young people not being able to enter the doors of learning. NEHAWU does however note the relative successes of the Presidential Employment Stimulus, unfortunately the magnitude of the challenges facing young people still leave millions of young people behind.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of public healthcare workers sacrificed their lives in screening, tracing, provision of care, treatment and support to our communities. The cadre of Community Healthcare Workers were at the forefront in the battle against the pandemic, yet their permanent absorption into the National Department of Health is yet to be undertaken, despite the stated policy commitment to do so. The President missed an opportunity to properly pay homage to these and other workers in the public healthcare system who were in the frontlines in combating a pandemic that threatened our very existence. The President missed an opportunity to intervene in the current woes facing over 850 graduate doctors who cannot find placements, or the burnt-out nurses, doctors and staff who need support through the filling of vital vacancies in our public hospitals and clinics, both urban and rural. The President failed to concretise his commitment to ensure that the National Health Insurance (NHI) bill is signed into law. The vague reference the President makes to the eventual incremental implementation of NHI is extremely disappointing.

NEHAWU regards the successes claimed through Operation Vulindlela with scepticism. The mismanagement of our water infrastructure has led to a number of cholera outbreaks in our country, crumbling or ill-maintained infrastructure has led to deaths, water shortages and scarcity. The state’s response through emerging public-private partnerships and agencies is not going to solve incapacity in government to manage and maintain our key water resources. South Africans pay some of the highest rates for broadband than any other country in the world, unlocking monopolies and tighter regulation of these corporations to ensure greater access to the internet is earnestly needed. The fight against monopolies in the economy was one of the key policy planks in the mandate of the sixth administration.

As NEHAWU, we are extremely concerned with the state of the ports and freight-rail in South Africa and the dilapidation of infrastructure. Widespread corruption and mismanagement have hollowed out these vital state resources, the consequence of which is the reversing of many developmental gains we have made in the past thirty years of democracy. NEHAWU rejects any form of private influence over these key assets, this includes water, electricity generation and other infrastructure and public services.

NEHAWU views the Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill as nothing more than a pathway towards the privatisation of ESKOM. The reality is that the introduction of independent private power producers has not solved load shedding. NEHAWU believes that the provision of electricity for our people should never be based upon the profit motive. It is disdainful that the President is so confident in reiterating the state’s full implementation of the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET-IP). NEHAWU fully supports the decarbonisation of our economy as but one of the means to mitigate the calamitous effects of climate change. As part of COSATU, we have outrightly rejected JET-IP, the social compact that the President purports to rally society around seems only to serve private interests and business. The President mentioned a new fund of R240 billion required for the JET-IP project. NEHAWU would like to know where these funds will come from? Thus far, billions in Dollar denominated loans (not grants) have been committed to JET-IP, this commitment to an unjust JET-IP is very alarming.

NEHAWU notes and welcomes the introduction of the increase of the National Minimum Wage, the increase from R25.42 to R27.58 from 01 March 2024 is positive, yet a large portion of employers remain stubbornly non-compliant, especially in rural and peri-urban areas. NEHAWU believes that the SONA must alter its idealistic notion of tabling claims of achievements and rather speak to what will be expected in the upcoming budget. This includes the expansion of the Social Relief of Distress grant and government’s commitment to establish a path towards the introduction of a Basic Income Grant.

NEHAWU notes the massive strides in the funding of poor and working class students. National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for students in universities and TVET colleges was increased from R21 billion in 2018 to nearly R50 billion in 2023, this includes the funding of 580 000 students in 2018 to 1.1 million students in 2023. The reality however is that many universities have undergone independent assessment reports into the state of affairs. These reports have revealed grave weaknesses in governance and high levels of maladministration and violence. Hundreds of thousands of matriculants are unable to find placement in a university or TVET colleges, millions more are unable to find work once they complete their tertiary education qualification, this is a recipe for widening poverty, unemployment and inequality.


Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat

Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Lwazi Nkolonzi (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 081 558 2335 or email: