So Now is a good time

As the annual opening of parliament for 2017 draws close we seat up and ready our minds for the State of the Nation Address (SoNA). We meet this day with a lot of pessimism and a touch of excitement, not because we foresee elements of good news, because we know our president is bound to see ‘red’. This does not mean that we are not filled with expectation, hope even. After all what is South Africa if not the land of the hopeful? With our eyes turned away from the number one citizen, we mumble amongst ourselves what we hope will change. It is fitting that as a citizen of this great land we speak on some of the things we anticipate to come up in the SoNA. This year we expect The President to use this occasion to set out the government’s key policy objectives and deliverables for 2017 on land,  education (looking at #FeesMustFall), youth development, sanitary pads legislation.

The national anthem ends of by saying “…in South Africa our land!”  The questions is; is it really? It is concerning that spatial planning and land use still maintain the apartheid divides, any endeavours for restitution takes people far away from central economic hubs which then sees them to still living  in squatter camps to be able to get themselves to work.  This begs a question of why land restitution does not to apply to town and cities (with the exception of Umtata that was restituted to traditional leadership). According to LegalBrief, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) Minister Gugile Nkwinti, indicated that 79% of land is in private hands, 14% in state hands and 7% percent is unknown and the department still needs to analyse by race and nationality. As a country, it is clear that we need to know what percentage of this ill-gotten land is going to be given back not only for commercial purposes but residential use in central points. Where there are mines and industries communities be given clarity on how they will benefit  from the activities happening in their land.

Perhaps the president will be able to give us an indication of how, under his leadership, they have been able to “protect communal tenure to enable beneficiaries of the reform to hold on to land”. We have questions, Mr President;

  • During the  2016 Budget speech 500 Million was set aside for Strengthening Relative Rights (SRR) of People Working the land; how is that working?

  • DRDLR were to start ‘one house one hectare’ utilising state and traditional authority own land to create small holding farmers and agro-processors; what are the numbers currently?

  • According to your 2016 SoNA you were to

Action 37 under Chapter 6 of the NDP; “Rural economies will be activated through improved infrastructure and service delivery, a review of land tenure, service to small and micro farmers, a review of mining industry commitments to social investment, and tourism investments.” Under your leadership, Mr President, we need clarity as a country on how the mining, timber and agricultural industries continues to flourish and as a country we own no part of-  except for your people providing labour. These aforementioned industries had communities that lived on these were displaced.  We need to know how, as a people, we can benefit from this except for the Corporate Social Investment (CSI) by the companies because, let us face it, even CSI is on their terms always. What is needed is not CSI, it is ownership (even if it is in part) of these industries to further this country’s economy and her people. If we assert this is our land then the spoils too should help meet the needs of citizens.

Chapter 9 of the National Development Plan 2030 (NDP) speaks to; IMPROVING EDUCATION, TRAINING AND INNOVATION. It goes further to say; Increase enrolment at universities by at least 70 percent by 2030 so that enrolments increase to about 1.62 million from 950 000 in 2010. The question is; how would this be possible with when you have the majority of South African living in poverty? It is critical to appreciate your administration for opening up Further Education and Training institutions to those who cannot tertiary learning. We also cannot forget the upheaval in universities for the past 2 years and it speak to the growing concern of commodified education that cannot be accessed by those who truly need the hand up. Mr President, have you read the Thuto ke Lesedi proposal by students that shows possibilities when it comes to how higher education can begin the walk to free education.

The possibilities of this happening exist! Look at the amount of wasteful expenditure for the 2016/17 period; this amount exceeds 1 billion rands (according to BusinessTech). Look at how much the mining industry is making off the county’s minerals. There is a responsibility to plough back into higher education’s infrastructure and the human capital that will eventually be the workforce. The children of miners also go to these institutions and that is an additional reason to access fund from this industry. Corporations are direct beneficiaries of tertiary institutions and they need to invest more. There needs to legislation that increases the percentage of contribution to this country’s education.

As we peel off the layers of need, is it not necessary for your administration to lead the conversation of knowledge systems such that as a country we begin to benefit from a decolonised way of working with one another. This can lead to realising one of the NDP goals of “Between 80 – 90 percent of learners should complete 12 years of schooling and or vocational education with at least 80 percent successfully passing the exit exams.”-education that is relatable and relevant to the learner as subsequently tertiary education.

As we discuss the importance of education we cannot forget the girls who are missing school because they are unable to access sanitary ware. We recognise the work that has started in KZN with 3000 school accessing free sanitary pad. It must be said however that periods are part of a female’s life that are not optional and for the sake of education and dignity sanitary ware should be free and easily accessible much like condoms. Mr President, we understand that continuous delivery of pads on a monthly basis may be costly and so we advise the use of reusable pads and sanitary cups. You cannot begin to put a price on dignity and we cannot justify young girls missing school because of periods. As a country, the school drop-out rate is high enough, this cannot be yet another reason. On the SoNA, we expect you to speak on how you will be starting on legislating that we see sanitary ware available as a show of respect for the country’s constitution which speak to the right to education and dignity.

Young people are struggling to access higher education as well as jobs. We have read of those who have given up on looking for a job, yet the country is lacking artisan skills. Why it that as part of development there is no an intentional dedication to building and developing vocational colleges in rural places? Why is the National Youth Development Agency not championing the cause of vocational colleges?  The talk of ticking time bombs and lost generation is a non-progressive, self-defeating narrative because young people are in the informal business sector and starting community development initiative but bulldozed by bureaucracy. Why is it that in the areas that need development the most there are no NYDA full service offices? More to the point,  should it not be every local government youth manager’s office that is able to house the NYDA so that the mandate of the  NYDA is realise and in part resourced by local government?

Let us talk business. Let us talk about your black industrialist initiative in particular. This initiative has a potential to move this country from being a consumer country to being a country. The concern I is the great expense one has to go into just to know if the business is feasible. According to Martin Mngadi he was invoiced R250 000 (by a reputable firm) for a Feasibility study when he wanted to enter into the  bitumen industry, without capital how do young black industrialists start in these industries? The Department of Trade and investment speaks of a cost sharing structure for something of this nature. How genuine is this Black Industrialist Programme if  there are deterrents  even though it is a know fact black South African do not have funds to start or share cost and the financial industry considers them high risk. Please give us an indication of the number of black industrialist who are currently in this programme.

The questions are many and we expect genuine responses from you, Mr President. One person may be writing this but we are a collective of young leaders working hard at answering some tough questions this generation is facing, which you too are painfully aware of. We are not waiting on you but, we are working tirelessly and our hope is that with policies and budget you allow us to drive change. There are those watching silently. 2017 is the year of redemption. If the local government elections are anything to go by, South Africans are not just mumbling amongst themselves- there is a rumbling in the atmosphere that will manifest in the 2019 elections. So now Mr President, is the time to do right by this generation.

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