Rochelle de Kock and Mkhululi Ndamase
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma gave a “rose-tinted view” of South Africa, choosing to focus on successes rather than interrogate the country’s challenges, political analyst Dr Joleen Steyn-Kotze said yesterday.
Delivering his final address for his five-year term, Zuma glossed over the challenges, remained tight-lipped about the scandals that have bogged down his term and boasted about the successes, saying there was “a good story to tell”.
Steyn-Kotze said: “It was a rose-tinted view of where SA is in 2014. He spoke of the successes over the past five years but failed to engage about some of the glaring challenges. On education, he spoke about Grade R enrolments that have improved, but did not follow through with how many of those pupils dropped out along the way.
“He was happy with the matric pass rate, but did not touch on the whole debate about the 30% pass rate.”
Zuma had boasted about 3.7 million jobs created over the past five years, but he did not mention that not all those were permanent, sustainable jobs, she noted.
“There have been so many scandals in his cabinet during the past year especially and he did not even touch on one of them. Him talking about how government is eradicating the bucket system in poorer provinces like the Eastern Cape and Free State was again with a rose-tinted view.
“It demonstrates the growing disconnect with the real grass-root issues on the ground … I really expected a lot more and I felt he played on the ANC’s election manifesto a lot,” Steyn-Kotze said.
Independent political analyst Kelvin Knowles said Zuma was his “own best praise singer. I think the speech was balanced and I expected him to gloat because it’s election year and he has an electorate to attract.
“Besides the five key issues, the two things that stood out for me were the emphasis on youth and job creation for the youth, as well as his focus on the mining sector. That was a clever thing to do because that’s where he needs to gain more support and he was really driving it through to the electorate,” Knowles said.
He added: “He could’ve been better by actually speaking about contentious issues like the e-tolls and rising fuel costs.
“I would have also liked to see more pragmatic steps mentioned to address the challenges in local government.”
Both the DA and UDM in the Eastern Cape felt that Zuma’s promise of fighting corruption would not bear fruit as he himself needed to account for the R240-million of taxpayers’ money used to build his Nkandla homestead.
The UDM’s Eastern Cape leader, Mongameli Bobani, said: “He talks about public servants being arrested for corruption, but he did not say when he would be investigated for all the money spent in Nkandla. We knew he would come up with promises but nothing ever happens. There is nothing that his ANC is bringing except misery.”
DA MPL Bobby Stevenson said Zuma boasted about successes achieved during the tenure of former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. “We all agree life is better in South Africa than before, but not under his administration. He is taking us backwards.
As far as job creation is concerned, we have lost 1.9-million jobs since 2009.”
COPE councillor Mzwandile Hote said “there was nothing new”.
UDM president Bantu Holomisa said Zuma had merely “painted a rosy picture” of a country that was on fire.
Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said: “It was clearly an election speech, with a refrain of ‘we have a good story to tell’ right through.”
Nelson Mandela Bay Black Business Forum president Litemba Singapi welcomed Zuma’s announcement that the government would continue to assist black-owned businesses, but said the money should be spread out and not only benefit a few. “He spoke about six million jobs for the youth. It should be small businesses that should create these jobs. However, we are not getting help with the financing of these businesses.”