umm Abdillah, Radio Islam Programming | 2015.02.16 | 25 Rabi'ul Aakhir 1436 AH
It would be an understatement to say the nation is feeling deflated after last Thursday night’s State of the Nation Address. This was President Zuma’s eighth state of the nation address to a joint sitting of Parliament. It was marred by the spectacle of scrambled mobile network signals, unruly parliamentarians, a walkout by opposition parties, violent policing and yet another a blegh delivery by Mr President. The good story to tell in SA may be by its dedicated and vigilant citizens and by her formidable constitution - not her petty civil servants, writes umm Abdillah.
From rural farmlands to the townships, there is deep public disillusionment over official corruption and the perception that the riches of the nation are still the property of a few. To the chagrin of many however, none of this means the writing is on the wall for the ANC. Most agree there will be a loss of support, perhaps a substantial one in the next elections, but loss of power seems a way off yet. At best, President Zuma’s administration will still prevail – bar sluggish economic growth, a stubborn unemployment rate, declining tax revenues and rising debt.
An example of a government in progress - to deal with the abovementioned - the ANC has recently re-opened the land claims process and expects to receive close to 400,000 new claims over the next five years. A couple more new ANC laws, especially those of a placing a ceiling on land ownership of a maximum 12 000 hectares (or two farms) for both natural and all forms of legal persons, renders an end to the willing buyer-willing seller method in respect of land acquisition. The 2013 Mining Amendment Bill allows the government to take control of oil or gas fields developed by private companies and pay whatever compensation it pleases. As Thursday night’s SONA, President Zuma lay on the table that land ownership by foreign nationals could now also be prohibited.
According to Rian Malan in Africa in Fact, the journal of Good Governance Africa if we are to lay these ANC laws alongside the EFF’s manifesto it becomes clear that any ideological differences between the parties are less significant than the rivalry between their respective leaders. If would seem the ANC has quietly abandoned the National Development Plan (NDP), a programme whose moderate precepts were warmly applauded by the World Bank, the IMF and foreign investors and is poised to move rapidly leftward, a strategic move that could render Mr Malema irrelevant. If this is truly a deliberate strategy the red overall party have merely held in the ANC in abeyance. Beyond “pay-back-the-money” there’s nothing else behind the door.
So, what’s the good story?
The entire world remains in the grips of the economic crisis despite signs of a tentative recovery. Not only South Africa, but the global economy, especially the most advanced economies still face a number of significant challenges that could hamper a genuine upturn. South Africa has held steady in the face of such global economic uncertainty. This is because SA is widely recognised as having solid fundamentals and sound and effective financial systems.
According to a WEF report aimed at evaluating countries' economic environment and their ability to achieve sustained levels of prosperity and growth, South Africa does well on measures of the quality of its institutions (41st), including intellectual property protection (18th), property rights (20th), and in the efficiency of the legal framework in challenging and settling disputes (13th and 12th, respectively). The high accountability of its private institutions (2nd) further supports the institutional framework.
South Africa is rated first overall in terms of economic competitiveness out of 38 African countries, according to the Africa Competitiveness Report, which reviews the degree of competitiveness of Africa's economies. Rated as being on a par with innovative countries such as India and Brazil, South Africa is credited as having high-quality scientific research institutions, strong investment in research and development, and a significant level of collaboration between business and universities in research.
South Africa's economy is regarded as "moderately free", being graded as the 74th freest economy of 177 countries. It is ranked sixth out of 46 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Comfortably within the top 20 of the Global Gender Gap Index, South Africa maintains the top spot in the region on political empowerment, holding the seventh position on this sub-index and the fourth on the women in parliament indicator.
South Africa is one of the best countries in the world to live in, according to a global survey of more than 5 100 expatriates. Commissioned by HSBC Bank International, the Expat Explorer survey explores the experiences and perceptions of expats while they work abroad. South Africa was rated as the ninth best country out of 30 to live in, falling in between Germany and Australia.
Johannesburg has been rated as one of the most affordable cities in the world for foreigners in the Worldwide Cost of Living survey, regarded as the world's most comprehensive study of this type. Out of 214 cities on five continents, Johannesburg was found to be almost three times cheaper than the most expensive city, Tokyo. The survey, convened by Mercer, measured the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.
The parliament shenanigans and media hoopla may produce showers of sparks, but does the outcome really matter? Were 95% of South Africans affected by what happened last Thursday night? It may simply be a case of the show goes on. According to market and opinion research company Ipsos at the end of 2014 almost half (46%) of adult South Africans were of the opinion that the president was not doing his job well. The circus at the SONA’15 was at best a self-regulating medium. Soon enough the old guard of voters will see enough to deflect ANC hegemony and we can self-govern more effectively. Our constitution and infrastructure are formidable and protective. Even if we are to rah rah about foreign investment into SA, the policy still needs to be legislated through Parliament. The good story is that citizens remain aware, hard working, vigilant, and circumspect.