NEWS & ANALYSIS

Zuma's return to race engineering

Dawie Roodt offered nothing about putting economy on a different growth trajectory

Eventually, after an hour and a half, Zuma started delivering his SONA speech for 2017. The opposition parties mostly had one thing in mind and that was to disrupt, and they were very successful. And that is likely to dominate most newspapers, not the speech, but the punches.

Sure, all the “points of order” and other disturbances were unnecessary but let’s be honest, there are very few that do not yet recognise the lack of leadership and the non-existing moral values of Zuma. In fact, even his own majority party was mostly quiet when he was called every insult in the book by the opposition. Eventually, the opposition left parliament or was forcibly removed from the house. We have a dysfunctional parliament and it will remain as such until Zuma goes.

Actually, I felt sorry for him. He was clearly much older than a year ago, he was visibly getting tired at the end of his speech and there were a few instances when he had difficulty pronouncing certain words – and they were not even long numbers. But as always Zuma just ignored all the criticism, insults and hullabaloo and uttered his trademark giggle – this man has a thick skin.

As expected, the economy, or at least his idea of the economy, had centre stage. He started off by painting a relatively pretty picture of the economy and as usual, mentioned a long list of questionable achievements by his administration; most of which happened years before. Eventually, we got to the part that we were all speculating about; detail about radical economic transformation.

Now my idea of economic transformation will include policy changes that should put the economy on a different growth trajectory. Things like a massive infrastructural project, a huge education drive, privatisation, or for that matter nationalisation and so on. A change in the way we manage our economy is, in my mind, what is meant with economic transformation.

There was very little of that.

What we got from Zuma was page after page of racial and social engineering suggestions. Just about all his proposals had race at the core. In fact, the existing race-based policies will be strengthened and new race-based legislation and policies will be introduced. And we will get the “resources” for all these schemes, he says. Which actually means that the budget will have to get much more money from somewhere. This can only mean that the budget may be even more punishing in terms of tax increases than what I thought up to now.

What was mostly lacking is the urgency to improve our skills development system – call it education. Actually, Zuma bragged about how education improved here and there. In fact, SA remains at, or close to, the bottom of the pile when it comes to the quality of our education. And without proper education, nobody in this country is going to get empowered…

Also interesting was Zuma’s total capitulation in favour of China. The “one-China” policy was emphasised to such an extent, I thought an invasion of Taiwan was imminent. Which also made me think; is the Russian nuclear deal still on or has China beaten Putin to the nuclear post?

What we have is a dysfunctional parliament and a government which lost its moral depth. And as long as we have Zuma as president, parliament will be violated. Let’s hope he goes soon.

Dawie Roodt is Chief Economist of the Efficient Group.