Ordinary South Africans are not very interested in the State of the Nation address, as they feel the president’s “good story to tell” has run dry. With a dire energy crisis and struggling economy, President Jacob Zuma will be under pressure to restore the confidence of the country, when he delivers his annual speech at Parliament on Thursday at 7pm. The president’s speech is seen as a report card of government’s progress over the past year. Zuma will also reveal how his government plans to tackle key issues affecting South Africa.
In a street poll conducted by VOC News on Thursday morning, it was clear that citizens feel negative about the state of the country. Joblessness and the soaring cost of living expenses have left young people feeling despondent about their future. Some locals VOC News spoke to said government and the police were failing in the fight against crime.
A factory worker in Salt River, Gafsa Nichols, said the clothing and textile industry has been hard hit because of the slump in the manufacturing sector. This was largely due to increase in Chinese imports, high input costs and retrenchments.
“Many of us get put on short-time because the factories are not doing well. We work long hours for very little money. I cannot survive in this day and age,” said 43 year old Nichols.
Dorien Blom, a retail assistant at Evolution Clothing, said President Jacob Zuma should not make empty promises about increasing employment and put words into action.
“One of my main issues is that there is a lack of funding for small businesses. I would also like funding to be available for people who wish to work while studying,” he said.
David Sibagile believes black people are still disadvantaged 20 years after democracy as they do not have access to land. Government’s land distribution and rural development programmes were not moving fast enough.
He also raised the issue of the exploitation of mining workers, while mining corporations made billions in profit and revenue. Sibagile said he was also concerned about race and identity, in light of the recent increase in race-related violence.
Steven Paulsen believes the president must come up with a concrete plan to deal with Eskom’s “disruptive” power cuts.
“If public transport was better people, we wouldn’t have to utilise our cars to get to work, blocking up the traffic,” he added.
Wonga May, hotel workers in Salt River, pointed to youth unemployment, education fees, university admission, and the quality of education.
Her colleague, Elton Renuer, said: “I would like Jacob Zuma to speak about how people who earn R3500 monthly can qualify for RDP housing but the person who earns over R7500 can’t. In order to apply for a home loan at the bank you have to earn over R9000. So what do the people who earn in between those amounts do? We cannot apply for housing.”
A shopper who wished to remain anonymous asked that the president be “honest and frank” about the challenges facing the country.
“Paint the real picture of the state of the country. Sugar coating how well we are doing as a democratic country is not doing us any good. We need to face reality, South Africa is struggling. I don’t feel we are better off 20 years after democracy.” VOC (Nabeelah Mohedeen)