By tradition, after the State of the Nation Address leaders of political parties represented in the National Assembly are asked for their reaction to the President’s speech. Notwithstanding level three lockdown regulations, the hybrid joint sitting of Parliament created an opportunity for the media and Parliament TV to ask them for their comments.

 Democratic Alliance – Mr John Steenhuisen

The speech was good, bad and ugly. I think the good is the extension of the Covid-19 relief grant. For many citizens this is a lifeline that has been keeping food on the table. It is good that it is extended.

The bad, the President spoke about reforms this evening, he has not tabled a single one in Parliament. He did not give an indication when his Bills are coming to the House, labour reforms he is talking about, when are they going to see the light of day. He can talk about reforms, he can keep them on a piece of paper in a drawer in the Union Buildings, until he brings them to the floor of Parliament, he is not going to get them passed. There was nothing new tonight about concrete reforms to rebuild our economy to move away from the destruction.

Last, the ugly is the complete failure to deal with Eskom this evening in any comprehensive way, hanging on to state control of the entity, not talking about the break up that was promised two SONAs ago. No talk about the other SOEs [state-owned entities]. He didn’t mention SAA [South African Airways] once. This is a huge problem. We’ve got a R300 billion hole in our balance sheets and yet not a word about these state entities. Then job creation, nothing new on job creation. We’ve got millions of people who lost their jobs and are without hope.

Economic Freedom Fighters – Mr Floyd Shivambu

Our preliminary observation is that there is nothing fundamentally new. There is nothing different from what he said, which was not said before and that amounts to insanity because insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

What is the state of the economy in South Africa currently? We have got more than 10 million people who do not have jobs, two million of those lost jobs during the lockdown period. Even before the lockdown, the economy was growing negatively, there was no expansion of the industrial sector, there was nothing that was beginning to bring hope that people were going to get out of poverty. Poverty is deepening because poverty is linked to unemployment.

Inkatha Freedom Party – Mr Mkhuleko Hlengwa

The IFP welcomes the interventions. They are consistent with what we said. We said there needs to be short term interventions in so as the Covid-19 impact is concerned. But the management of these funds has been a dismal failure and this speaks to the heart of the collapse of the Department of Social Development, among others. Also, in the UIF [Unemployment Insurance Fund] you have to look at those issues seriously, because UIF has said there is no money.

But moving to what the President has said tonight, it felt like we were in SONA 2020, SONA 2019. We have heard these things before. It sounded like a pitch for a President who was gunning for reelection. The outsourcing of the management of the state to agencies that he wants to speak about, there’s no need for a water agency when you’ve got a Department of Water and Sanitation amongst other things.

On the issues of employment that the President spoke about; people still don’t have jobs. I’m not sure where these jobs are coming from . . . Speaking about NYDA [National Youth Development Agency] and young people that he was referring to, there’s no board in the NYDA and so it brings into question the legitimacy and the credibility that the Presidency was advancing tonight.

Good Party – Mr Shaun August

Last year, the President put master plans in place. This year, the President is saying, we have put the master plans in place. We spoke about economic recovery plan in October last year, we are now implementing it. We have monitored the implementation of certain plans as Good Movement . . . So, we can see that some of the master plans have been implemented and some have not. We need to fast-track those that have not been implemented.

We are happy with discussions on corruption and the fact that the President is putting crime fighting units together. He needs to stop corruption. South Africans need hope. We want to emerge out of this tunnel of the Covid-19 pandemic as a new nation, as the President has called on all of us South Africans to rise.

Freedom Front Plus - Mr Petrus Groenewald

The President is clearly living in a dream world. He is still talking about dream cities and smart cities, but the people on the ground are experiencing unemployment and they don’t have jobs.

The President also sticks to his expropriation without compensation and it doesn’t matter what plans he put on the table, when it comes to the rebuilding of the economy and even land reform and the farming community, as long as he continues with expropriation without compensation, you will not get the results you want.

African Christian Democratic Party  – Rev Kenneth Meshoe

The President has very good ideas, but implementation is always the problem. We also expected him to apologise for bringing in a million vaccines that cannot be used. Now we are not sure whether that money is going to be thrown down the drain or whether they are going to recover that money. We expected him to at least say something like that.

Al Jamal Party – Mr Mogamat Hendricks

I don’t think those plans will ever address the concerns of the people. You know we’re going to rely on wind power and we are going to rely on new methods which must be tested. I don’t think South Africa is ready for that. The President has shocked the nation by stating that there will be further deterioration and will be short of so many megawatts and the President has not given us any assurance and peace of mind that the promises he made with regards to Eskom will improve.

Pan Africanist Congress – Mr Mzwanele Nyhontso

There is nothing new to what the President said. He said what he has been saying for the past two SONAs. As long as the land question is not addressed, there will always be a problem. As long as the economic structure has not been changed, a real liberation will remain a pipe dream. As long as the 80% of land and the economy is still in the hands of the few white people, real freedom remains a pipe dream.

The truth is that the problem in this country is corruption. The problem is that the same people who tell us about recovery plan is the same people who stole, even the money that was meant to fight Covid-19.

The President must tell us about the issue of Covid-19 pandemic. I heard him calling upon the nation to support the local business, but I didn’t hear him talking about local medicine or local herbs. So long as he is quiet about those, it is not clear how is he going to recover the economy and fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

National Freedom Party – Mr Ahmed Shaik Emam

The President must address the issue of the cost of doing business in South Africa, the high labour cost and things like high energy costs if he wants the country to be competitive for local manufacturing and export.

The issue of infrastructure development has been going on for a very long time and a lot of money has been put in infrastructure development. What the President fails to talk about is the large amount of money through procurement processes which is lost annually through looting and corruption.

We don’t get value for money there, and we have been expecting him to say something about that. We hear the President saying that 430 000 jobs have been created. He is not in touch with the reality when he says that, because there are lots of people that have been employed that have not even been paid. The unemployment rate has increased to 30.8% he said, but at the same time he’s talking about 430 000 public sector jobs that were created and another hundred and some more thousand. So really, I think the President particularly with his maths, there appears to be a problem.

Now he speaks about water and sanitation and what we are doing, but what I think he is forgetting about, is that municipalities, particularly local authorities, lose up to 40 - 45 percent of water as a result of poor infrastructure and those issues need to be dealt with.

He spoke about the automotive industry and the investment by Ford Motor Company. I’m not sure where he gets this from, because Isuzu has already left the country. When is South Africa going to have its own automotive industry? I expected him to talk about the issues and challenges we have with vaccines and that South Africa will try to manufacture its own vaccine and have its own pharmaceutical industries.

African Independent Congress Mr Lulama Ntshayisa

On the issue of Covid-19, I expected that perhaps he touches of the fears of the South African people that should be laid down. I did not hear him giving any sort of courage following these fears. I said perhaps he will say something about that and then each and every one would be interested in taking this vaccine, because most of the people are not willing at all to take the vaccine because of their fears. I expected him to say something about this Johnson & Johnson vaccine that is going to assist us.

Also, I wanted him to say more about the gender-based violence, but at least something was said. For instance, when he mentioned the three legislations that have been passed in order to defend or to protect our women and the killing of children. He did well on that score, but I thought perhaps there is still more to be done.

On the issue of corruption, we don’t see any results in this fight against corruption. I was expecting him to say something on how he’s going to fight corruption in SOEs.

African Transformation Movement  – Mr Vuyolwethu Zungula

We must be honest and say we can’t trust this speech. It is a repetition of the speeches he has been making since 2018. If you want to ensure that Eskom returns to profitability, you must talk about evergreen contracts. Currently, the price per ton is close to R1 000 or more than, whereas the recommended price is R350. Without addressing that overpayment, you have done nothing to actually stop load-shedding.

On economic recovery, he said nothing. It is not the first time he has been talking about economic recovery plan in response to Covid-19, but we have not seen any results. What we need is to get South Africans economically active. It can’t be that the fate of South Africans it is to line up and sleep outside the Post Office. The President has not given any tangible and practical solutions to get South Africans economically active. Even his talk about SMMEs [small, medium and micro enterprises]; we know that currently more than 80% of government procurement goes to big companies not SSMEs. Therefore, it would be proper for him to say on the issue of economic recovery we have redirected our spending as government, we are spending more on SMMEs.

United Democratic Movement – General Bantu Holomisa

I think we should commend him for being broad and for elevating issues relating to environment and also mentioning that the infrastructure is going to be improved in certain areas, he has mentioned those. But he spoke as if the situation is normal, especially when he promises that there will be jobs.

Remember that currently we have this darkest cloud that is hanging over South Africa that is Covid-19. Therefore, you can say that you are going to create jobs, while on the other hand you have regulations which are actually killing the same economy. But anyway, there are ministers that may come up with details, but so far, I doubt that some of these projects will be implemented. It is not the first time that some of these projects have been announced although these projects have not been implemented. So, I am little bit skeptical about the announcement of certain projects. The Minister of Finance next week is going to say there is no money.

African National Congress - Chief Whip, Ms Pamy Majodina

On the issue of corruption and crime, the President was spot on. We are saying beyond arrests and prosecution, perpetrators must be made to pay back the money and if they don’t have it, the forfeiture unit must take their assets because we want that money.

On the economic recovery plan, which was delivered in this House about four months ago, we were here when the President tabled his economic recovery plan and what we have been waiting for has been progress made in that regard. The President has been very simplistic in presenting progress made since the delivery of the plan in this House. He has given a report which is encouraging on what has been achieved on the implementation of that plan.

Dr Zweli Mkhize – Minister of Health

The trials have demonstrated that they’ve got a 57 percent efficacy and therefore with the results that we have received, we are quite confident that it’s a good vaccine to and it is a once-off dose, which will make it easy for us to reach more people within a shorter space of time.

The President has indicated that we should expect the first batch to come in next week and the vaccination programme has to start. I think the emphasis on vaccination and economic recovery is very important because the main issue now is how do we rebuild our lives and the President went into details on that. That whole package for us is about how we as South Africans must rise after a very difficult year and say, as South Africans, we’ve been able to survive together. That for me was why the message was very important tonight.

Mava Lukani
23 February 2021