SONA and it’s empty promises to SA youth

Dumisa Mbuwa

It is no secret – few South Africans have been vested in anything Jacob Zuma had to say in the past 10 years as president, particularly in his annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Parliament.

It was only when the ANC’s children (born out of wedlock) – the EFF, started chanting and wailing while he was talking, that South Africa finally paid attention. Unfortunately, just like most black South Africans love for action movies; many were drawn to the drama of SONA. Much less, the misleading content of what the chiefly captured President had to say.

In 2016, the Fees Must Fall Movement shook the nation to its core and militantly demanded the government to take heed to South Africa’s embattled youth. Zumasowed the seeds of progress by stating in SONA 2017, that various policies and programs had been put in place to ensure that higher education was more accessible to working class families and that an emphasis would be placed on artisanal jobs for unemployed youth.

The rate of youth unemployment has been steadily increasing with Zuma’s expansion of cabinet ministers, commissions, and state-paid legal fees. His speech will have to address youth unemployment, which is now approaching 60% and how 2018 will differ from 2017.

While Zuma will not say anything new in his 10th SONA speech, other than making hollow promises, we can at least be assured that, in relation to the youth, he will have to elaborate on Free Education. As well as, on the ANC’s Roadmap To Zimbabwe, i.e. Radical Economic Transformation, which is as evasive, and delusional, as Jacob Zuma lying about being captured by the Gupta Family.

Especially when of the 9.3 million unemployed South Africans (8.3 million of them being black), 6 million are young people and170 000 are university graduates.

At the heart of youth unemployment, is the ANC’s desperate need to transform South Africa into a socialist country like the failed Cuba or most recently, Zimbabwe. Thus in 1994, upon their ascension to power, the ANC radically transformed South Africa from a manufacturing and capitalist-economy, to a welfare and poverty generating, service-economy.

We see this all over South Africa. Especially in cities like East London where there are more government buildings (like Home Affairs or SASSA), state agencies, political party offices, car dealerships, empty factory buildings, deserted railways, dilapidated hotels, fraudulent “independent” schools and shopping malls. Yet, there are less factories and real-income, job creating businesses.

Most of the factories left after 1994, downsized significantly and thereby retrenched a lot of (black) workers or were intimidated by trade unions, which have no interest in job creation. Instead, trade unions are more interested in hampering economic growth and job creation, especially for the youth. You cannot even get a blue-collar job at Daimler Chrysler (EL) or Nestle without a bachelor/ post-graduate degree or a very good trade union connection.

Meanwhile, the majority of young, black South Africans are stuck in townships wondering where to get R60, in order to hastily catch a taxi, print or email their cover letters and CV’s, at despotically expensive internet cafes.

While many others are looking forward to visiting their peers; in order to share a loose cigarette on notorious street corners and muse about late friends who were killed, raped, robbed or stabbed nearby. Some lament and understandably envy (the millions of) those who migrated and succeeded in “bigger” cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Now, around 1979 –1985 (before international sanctions), the racist Apartheid government “relaxed” its oppressive laws (having failed socio-economically, especially after June 1976). And had a clear focus of “integrating” blacks into (racially prejudiced) South African economy. As well as vigorously reinvested in manufacturing, training and education.

During this time, unemployment was around 9-12%. This was in addition to a black middle class that had been doubling (15%-30%) since the 1960’s. Comparatively, black students progress in universities was higher in the 1980’s than today’s black students who are barely able to complete a university due to struggles with English, university material, finances and poverty.

Today, since there are no more (real-income) jobs for young people, the chances of being employed in South Africa are higher only if you are a university graduate. Consequently, we are now faced with dishwashers, waiters, cleaners, janitors, cashiers, customer assistants, street-corner managers, waste managers and street cleaners who are mostly university graduates.

In the Eastern Cape, other than being the impoverished and marginalised mother of Gqom music, the #HireAGraduate trend emerged from black university graduates. They could not understand why after studying so hard, and getting a university education being the ultimate key to success – yet were unemployed.

Especially those on Teaching and Social Work scholarships; who were either impeded by the South African Teachers Union (SADTU) from getting formal employment in local schools or indefinitely stood-up by the black sheep of South African government departments – The Department of Social Development.

Thus, free education without access to jobs is as meaningless as the Zimbabwean dollar. It is only a matter of time before the South African economy no longer survives on government fiat money (declining Rand), in order to boost the unsustainable, inflation-driving cost of free university education.

Simultaneously, the quality of education continues to wither. You don’t have to look further than the Department of Basic Education; which fails more black learners than the ANC’s QedaniMahlangu’s responsibility for the 143 deaths of black mentally ill patients at Life Esidimeni.

It is against this background that the South African youth cannot expect anything new from Jacob Zuma’s speech, other than a celebration of 23 years of colossal ANC failure; coupled with an exhilarating performance from the EFF.

Unless, ANC president – Cyril Ramaphosa recalls Zumaand subjects him to legal persecution. Thereafter, Ramaphosa would need to shrink the size of the governmentand reinvest in manufacturing and free-market based capitalism in order to create jobs. Emphasis will have to be placed on improving the standard and quality of education, especially in Technical, Vocational and Training (TVET’s).

This should be in conjunction with a non-racialist, nation-building, socio-economic focus that aims to rebuild a truly prosperous future for all South Africans, especially young people.

Until then, this will be another SONA with empty promises for South Africa’s Youth.

References available upon request




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