/ 8 February 2008

‘We’re all part of the State of the Nation address’

As President Thabo Mbeki delivered his State of the Nation address in Parliament on Friday, ordinary South Africans told the Mail & Guardian Online they were concerned about crime and unemployment, but didn’t expect the government to get to grips with these problems.

Justice Manamela (36) said in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Friday that his chief concern was crime. ”I don’t know what his address will be on. I don’t want to listen to him,” he said.

”To me, he is not a good president. He is doing nothing. He has to create jobs, and there is too much crime. There are so many foreigners here who do crime. If I was president, I would first of all create jobs and check on the state of hospitals and schools — if they are OK. And recruit more policemen to fight crime.”

Verlesca Adolph (23) said her main concern was unemployment. ”There is a high increase in unemployment, as well as HIV/Aids. I don’t think that Mbeki will do anything much. If I could, I would give each person a job and each child must be educated to the best that they can be.”

Judith (26), who did not want to provide her surname, said if more South Africans could secure employment, it would help reduce the country’s rampant crime rate.

”If you could get jobs and accommodation, it will solve the crime problem. There are lots of foreigners and Johannesburg is overcrowded. If people got jobs, there would be no problems. If I could be president … Oh my God, what a difficult question!

”If you take it from my situation, I don’t like what I’m doing, but maybe I am good at doing other things. So I would create clubs and groups who were maybe good at sewing, to make things to sell outside the country and in the country. This would bring in foreign currency, which brings wealth to our countries.”

Nigel Pryse (75) said: ”The president is never in this bloody country, so he doesn’t know what is happening, therefore I don’t really care what he has to say. I just think that there has been too much emphasis on the wrong things just by the ruling party just to get votes. Nobody takes note of the basic things like the fact that a couple of years ago millions of rands in debt were written off by Eskom because the government had said so, and now look where that got us.”

He added: ”I will not watch the address because President Thabo Mbeki is a crook; all politicians are.”

Nomsa Ncube (21) said her ”number one” concern was load-shedding.

”And then there are the never-ending issues like HIV/Aids and poverty. What I think that we must realise [is that] that the president is not a miracle maker and we must not expect him to make miracles but rather address us on the progress that we have made as a country and what areas we still need to work hard on. We all form part of the State of the Nation address because we contribute to the things that he speaks about as priorities.”

Helen Martins (42) said she expected Mbeki to say ”pretty much the same things that he said last year” and that it was ”just talk”, adding: ”There are too many in-house disputes within the government and the truth is that all the issues that face us are priorities … where do they start?”

Tumelo Motsieloa (25) said: ”Eish … the president has a lot of things to address, hey. I think that one of the things that we are taking for granted is the traffic and road conditions in the country. The government must analyse the population growth and realise that we need more roads and other measures to deal with this issue.

”Another issue is our economy, which is a potential disaster. He should put us at ease about this issue because many of us are paranoid about the economy, with Eskom and all.”

Krinesh Govender (29) said he was emigrating soon, so he didn’t have much to say, other than that ”the power cuts have been a problem”. He said: ”South Africa is a great country, I am just moving out of the country because I am following my wife.”