/ 19 February 2015

Sona 2015: What Zuma said on the night of chaos

Zuma failed to mention Nkandla
Zuma failed to mention Nkandla

Here are the highlights:

  • He announced that schools must practise the anthem of the African Union in preparation for Africa Month in May. The anthem, Let Us All Unite and Celebrate Together, calls on the “sons and daughters of Africa” to give the continent their best while fighting “for lasting peace and justice on Earth”. A plan, announced by former president Thabo Mbeki in 2008, to institute the daily recitation of a pledge to uphold the Constitution in all South African schools was ultimately abandoned.
  • Sixteen percent of his speech dealt with electricity and the sources of energy that can be used to generate more of it. Yet Zuma offered little new, other than promising unspecified “tougher measures” to deal with cable theft and committing government to energy-efficient buildings.
  • Zuma again committed South Africa to build a fleet nuclear power stations, saying Russia, China, France, South Korea and the United States would take part in “a fair and competitive procurement process” to have the first unit connected to the grid within eight years.
  • He said “proposed laws” would limit land ownership to 12 000 hectares a person and would not allow foreign nationals to own land, but did not commit his administration to definitely implementing them.
  • On top of centralising applications for water and mining rights with environmental impact assessments, Zuma promised the government would establish a “one-stop interdepartmental clearing house to attend to investor complaints and problems”.
  • Thirty percent of state procurement would go to small businesses, co-operatives and “township and rural enterprises”. But Zuma did not specify whether the metric for division would be by value or by number of tenders, or whether every level of government (including opposition-run municipalities and provinces) would be obliged to implement these measures.
  • The smart-card identification documents being rolled out will be available at local banks.
  • He never mentioned the controversy around the upgrades of his Nkandla home, the reason for the current electricity shortage (he has blamed the apartheid legacy), and an apparent resurgence of xenophobia.