Despite scathing criticism by opposition parties that this year’s State of the Nation Addess (SONA) failed to impress, one political analyst believes President Jacob Zuma has been frank about the economic challenges facing the country.
According to political analyst Abdul Waheed Patel, based on consultations between big business, the Minister of Finance and the President, Zuma has in fact lived up to expectations.
“From opposition political parties there was quite a lot of criticism of the President, and I think that that is the nature of politics,” Patel notes.
During these consultations a number of specific issues were raised, issues that the President addressed in the SONA, declaring a number of specific interventions.
Unpacking the SONA on Friday, Patel said a greater sense of urgency is required when dealing with wages for workers, stable commodity prices, and unemployment.
Asked about the EFF’s campaign to have Zuma impeached for violating the Constitution over the Nkandla scandal and the chaos following the axing of finance minister Nhlanha Nene, Patel said the political environment has changed considerably over the years.
“Politically, as a country, it’s important that we understand the cards that we have been dealt – the president was never going to resign, and he was never going to explain why he chose to remove the Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene,” Patel stated.
Patel asserts that such accountability would have been “political suicide”.
Patel further notes that as citizens we have to accept that the President did not address issues that many may have hoped to have clarified.
“The economy clearly took centre stage.”
The president, Patel stated, clearly addressed the manner in which the persistent issue of racism needs to be dealt with – among other things – which he therefore deems to be “quite balanced.”
Patel further stated that due to the current malaise in the country, it was important that economy was focused upon. Since, the economy greatly impacts; the Government, the private sector, workers, and consumers.
“The effect of the financial sector, specifically the resignation of the Finance Minister, significantly impacted the economy,” Patel explains.
He further notes that “[the economy] was a significant unease that needed to be addressed.”
The volatility of the market is not good for ordinary people, Patel explains.
“Money and capital is fickle. When it feels vulnerable, it retreats, and reacts with volatility,” Patel states.
This volatile reaction of the economy emphasizes the fact that though government may not agree with every aspect of the market, it is essential that it acknowledges the impact of political decisions on the market.
“As the head of state, it is fitting to hear the leader reaffirm the centrality of the constitution, especially in times when there are questions as to whether or not he perpetually takes decisions that are in violation of the constitution,” states Patel.
Patel further notes that the acknowledgement that Government has not delivered on the issue of land claims is critical to the SONA .
The SONA touched on a number of tangible commitments that subsequently laid the foundation for the 2016 Budget Speech, due to take place on the 24 February.
In the budget speech, Patel concluded, it should be expected that the commitments made by the President in the SONA will be unpacked; specifically how these initiatives will be funded and the process of implementation across Government.