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DA and FF+ voice skepticism about Sona

Sapa

President Jacob Zuma is set to deliver his State Of The Nation address this year on Valentine's Day, but the DA made it clear they won't send roses.

President Jacob Zuma during 2012's State of the Nation address. (Gallo)

Speaking from a statement titled "Zuma's Sona Record: Big Ideas, Little Detail, No Action", Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said that Zuma's presidency had "been characterised by inaction, political expediency, and scandal".

He had "kow-towed" to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in an effort to get himself re-elected as ANC president, and had spent last year focused on "factionalism, cronyism, and ANC machinations".

Responding to a question on whether she though 2013 might be better, she said Zuma appeared more concerned with "staying at the top of the pile" in the ruling party than with running the country.

"As President Zuma delivers his fourth State of the Nation address [on Thursday], many South Africans have little confidence in his ability to deliver on what he promises," Mazibuko said.

Most of the key pledges he made last year "barely got off the ground, or have not been given effect at all".

Economy
Turning to the economy, she said Zuma's 2012 plan to address South Africa's infrastructure backlog through 18 major projects had been "slow off the ground", with little progress.

His government's policies, the ruling party's "aggressive rhetoric", and Cosatu's "bullying", had also scared off investment in the country's mining sector.

"The mining sector is now shedding jobs and failing to attract investment," Mazibuko said.

Party colleague and caucus chairman Wilmot James said Zuma's call last year for school teachers to be "in class, on time, teaching for at least seven hours a day" remained a pipe-dream.

"He continues to allow himself to be bullied by Sadtu [the South Afrca Democratic Teachers' Union]," he said.

The recent backing down by government on declaring teaching an essential service was a case in point.

On combating corruption, DA chief whip Watty Watson said Zuma's government had failed to regulate the business interests of state employees.

"The draft public sector integrity framework, apparently before Cabinet, has not been adopted, while Chancellor House continues to be allowed to tender for big contracts, despite it being an investment arm of the ANC," he said.

The DA called on Zuma, in his address on Thursday, to show leadership, "put South Africa's interests ahead of his political career", and provide clear deadlines for implementation of promises made.

"To put South Africa back on the track to economic growth, job creation, and optimism, he must tackle the major challenges of unemployment, crime, a failing education system, corruption, as well as become the key defender of the Constitution."

But Mazibuko said Zuma's record spoke for itself.

"This isn't a president of action and delivery. It is a presidency more concerned with political game-playing and maintaining the support of 4000 ANC delegates," she said.

FF+ voice expectations
Meanwhile, Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Mulder said that Zuma must use the address to bring South Africans certainty and hope for the future.

"Unemployment, slow economic growth, lack of foreign investments, and corruption are some of the most serious crises in South Africa at the moment. The government sends confusing messages on all these terrains (sic) which have to be corrected," he said in a statement.

The consequence of these confusing actions was uncertainty about government's policy directions and negativity about the future.

"When a minister threatens to withdraw mining licenses, and it appears as if government doesn't know how to act against violent protests, it frightens foreign investors away."

When government made strong comments against corruption, but there were daily reports about ANC leaders and public servants committing corruption, voters doubted government's seriousness about combating corruption.

"When government increases wages in the middle of the agricultural season with 52%, it leads to great job losses instead of greater job creation in rural areas," said Mulder, who serves as deputy agriculture minister in Zuma's Cabinet.

He said Zuma, in his address, needed to assure his audience that investments and property rights in South Africa would be safe, and that his government was prepared "to again look at economic measures which at present are dampening economic growth".

The president also needed to make a clear statement and demonstrate "daring new thinking" on job creation, economic growth, labour legislation, and combating corruption.

Mulder called for greater economic freedom for the private sector and intensive infrastructure development by the state.

"This was the winning recipe in other developing countries and the president can give hope by moving in that direction," he said.

Zuma is set to deliver his State Of The Nation address from 7pm on Thursday. – Sapa

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