Sona for the ordinary citizen

Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Listening to the 90-minute speech to Parliament on Thursday were South Africans from all walks of life, each hoping to hear of actions being taken that will improve their daily lives, provide jobs – and for too many of them – lift them out of grinding hand-to-mouth poverty into a safer, more secure world.

What they heard was four top national priorities: the top one was defeating the coronavirus pandemic.

In the President’s words: “We must defeat the coronavirus pandemic; that is the primary aim in all we do. And second, we must accelerate our economic recovery. Third, we must implement economic reforms to create sustainable jobs and drive inclusive growth. And finally, we must fight corruption and strengthen the state.”

Sounds good. Heard some of it before. Encouraging nonetheless, especially that bit about economic reform and encouraging the private sector.

Except if you were a small businessman or an architect or someone wanting to modify his or her house to accommodate an ageing parent or two.

In other words, the state of the nation address (Sona) sounded fine, not exciting but okay, but containing little that heralded real change, either on the near horizon or being implemented right now.

So, here is a short imaginary Sona for the small man or woman living and working in a town, village or city. The royal “we” will be used for form’s sake.

“Job creation, whether short or long-term, whether sustainable and pensionable, daily paid or piecework, we now make a national priority, which we place entirely in the hands of the private sector. Knowing as we do that only private-sector jobs are funded by success in the marketplace, as opposed to jobs created by the state which are funded by taxpayers’ money.

“Therefore, all new appointments to local, provincial or state authorities, including SOEs are to be stopped for five years, beginning immediately.

“Trade union membership is voluntary and cannot be imposed on any individual or any workplace without incurring severe penalties.

“Work stoppages may now only take place with the approval of the high court only if motivated by work safety issues or non-payment of statutory UIF, pension and provident fund dues. State employers are included as are police officers, school teachers, soldiers and all civil servants at local, provincial or national level including SOEs.

“Safety and security is a national priority. Citizens can anonymously report late arrivals of police at crime scenes. Officers taking more than 20 minutes must submit explanations. Bail conditions for those charged will henceforth be strengthened and suitable accommodation for those who cannot pay will be provided.

“Buses, trains and taxis are vital to the national economy. Any attacks, robberies or intimidation of passengers or drivers will be severely punished.

“Municipal permits for building works however small must henceforth be expedited and limited to delays of a maximum of one month before approval is granted. All other official permits are now subject to this rule.

“Any municipal officer of whatever rank if found guilty of corruption of any type, size, or significance, will be banned from ever working again for any local, provincial or national authority, including state-owned enterprises.

“Those found impeding railway lines and roads with dwellings will be removed, once with no charges being laid. Second offenders will be severely punished. Vandalism of railways property will attract the same severe penalties.

“Scrap metal dealers found to have purchased rail lines, or copper wire for smelting or for any other purpose will be subject to confiscation of all materials involved and subject to a fine of between R50 000 and R10 0000. Those reporting such crimes will receive R30 000 on conviction of the guilty and given a new identity if required. The balance of monies recovered will be used to repair the damage.

“Thank you for listening. God bless South Africa.”