SONA 2022: Reality Strikes, Common Sense Still Missing

PRESS ARTICLE: President Ramaphosa acknowledges the true state of the nation, but his government is still unwilling to address the root cause

SONA 2022: Reality strikes, Commons Sense Still Missing

“At the length, the truth will out”, William Shakespeare

In late 2021, billionaire investor Rob Hersov caused a furore when he publicly declared that South Africa was governed by ‘morons’. The emperor had been declared naked and South Africa didn’t quite know what to do about it.

This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa all but announced at SONA 2022 that he was naked indeed.

Shortly before the speech, twitter was at its satirical best when one commentator wryly declared “If Cyril was the least bit honest, he would have delivered the SONA from the ashes of the Parliament building”.

Little could he have known that the President had included precisely the same analogy in the actual speech. “For many, what happened in Parliament speaks to a broader devastation in our land.”

ANC Government List of Failings

President Ramaphosa then proceeded to pack out the full repertoire of government failings. Rising unemployment and deepening poverty, an acknowledgement that only the private sector and not the government can create jobs, that the electricity supply cannot be guaranteed and that the railways and ports are inefficient. That water quality is deteriorating, that companies are reluctant to invest in South Africa, and that the economy cannot function properly. That there are too many government regulations, that the criminal acts of state capture have devastated state owned entities, and that the cabinet itself was responsible for mass civil unrest.

After 28 consecutive years of ANC government, that is certainly quite an admission from a president who is also head of the ANC.

What was glaringly absent was the common sense without which these frank admissions of reality are ultimately worthless.

‘Transformation’ Root Cause of Problems

The root cause of every single one of these problems is the same, merit having been displaced by a political agenda. Cadre deployment, Black Economic Empowerment, or Affirmative Action (Employment Equity).

In 1994, the ANC government inherited a grossly unfair and racially skewed society, and it absolutely had to make urgent and far-reaching interventions to address this. South Africa had to be ‘transformed’. Tragically, rather than ‘transformation’ becoming the uplifting nation building project that it should have been, it has become the instrument of our destruction.

South Africa had two choices. Build a society where everyone was equipped to compete on an equal footing and watch with pride as South Africa transformed itself, or build a society devoted to using any means possible to paper over glaring structural inequalities rather addressing their cause.

South Africa dedicated itself to the latter.

So instead of building a world class education system to which all South Africans had access, creating apprenticeships and vocational training schemes, supporting mentorships, and facilitating easy access to capital for aspiring entrepreneurs, we closed teacher training colleges and introduced AA and BEE.

Ramaphosa says Private Sector the Solution

The public sector, where government directly holds the reins, was the easiest to ‘transform’. As the President now acknowledges, it has all but collapsed as a result. The solution, the President tells us, is the private sector.

“We all know that government does not create jobs. Business creates jobs. Around 80 per cent of all the people employed in South Africa are employed in the private sector. The key task of government is to create the conditions that will enable the private sector – both big and small – to emerge, to grow, to access new markets, to create new products, and to hire more employees.”

The problem is that the government simultaneously wants to force the very same version of ‘transformation’ which has destroyed the public sector onto the private sector. In his ‘morons’ speech, Rob Hersov declared South Africa uninvestable, singling out BEE and EWC as the primary reasons why. The National Assembly recently approved the ‘Employment Equity Amendment Act’ which will allow for the introduction of demographic quotas in the workplace once the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) rubber stamps it.

Government must ‘Get out of the Way’

A recent study showed that final year primary school maths teaching students could only score 54% in a primary school level maths test, and only 22% of 10-year-old students nationwide can read for meaning in any language. No quota is going to compensate for that.

The President’s honesty must be applauded, but now his government must get out of the way and stop interfering. He talked about reducing red tape and attracting skilled immigrants. Start by scrapping BEE and AA. In doing so he will also go some way to stop haemorrhaging the skilled labour which we already have, but which is currently leaving the country in droves.

Acknowledging reality is great, but without common sense to accompany it, it is ultimately futile.

Until such times as the rest of South Africa is willing to recognise its folly, the Western Cape must do all that it can to keep the foolishness at bay

It must never be forgotten that the President’s lists of failings have been inflicted on the Western Cape electorate against their democratic will.

Exempt the Western Cape from Race-Based Legislation

The Cape Independence Advocacy Group (CIAG) is calling for the Western Cape to be exempted from race-based legislation on the basis that non-racialism is a founding provision of the constitution, and racial discrimination is expressly prohibited in the bill of rights. Race-based policy is only allowed on account of a constitutional caveat - if it is deemed to be fair.

The CIAG asserts that policies to which the duly elected provincial government is opposed, and which disadvantage the majority of Western Cape citizens, can never pass the constitutional threshold of fairness in the province.

The Western Cape already outperforms South Africa by virtually every objective measure. Cut free from the millstone of ‘transformation’ as currently practiced, the Western Cape can transform itself in an altogether more wholesome and uplifting manner.

What undoubtedly scares the national government the most about this idea, is that once the Western Cape starts charting its own course and reaping the rewards of reality combined with common sense, it will realise that it isn’t just ‘transformation’ that is the millstone, it is South Africa itself.