🔒 Premium: Cyril’s SONA – Steenhuisen nails it: talk is cheap, money buys the whisky

It would be really difficult to top DA leader John Steenhuisen’s assessment of last night’s State of the Nation Address. So I won’t try. Republished below, it’s a more fruitful read than the well-intended verbiage delivered in the Cape Town City Hall last night by the SA president.

Steenhuisen is spot on by suggesting Cyril Ramaphosa said all the right things in his most important keynote of the year. Mostly by finally realising his party’s economically insane policies must be ditched, and, belatedly admitting government works best when it is a facilitator, a referee – not when it tries to be the interventionist arbiter of economic success.

Where this newfound appreciation of reality fits into the ANC’s oxymoronic Developmental State model is a mystery. Maybe Ramaphosa and Co are figuratively sobering up. Maybe they will realise that talk is cheap but national wealth, like the money to buy whisky, only comes from efficient execution.

We’ll get a better idea whether last night’s apparently fresh wind is more than hot air when the annual Budget is presented Tuesday week. I can hardly wait.

More for you to read today:

DA leader John Steenhuisen’s response to Ramaphosa’s 2022 SONA nails it: Talk is cheap, it’s money that buys the whisky

President’s address “could easily have been a DA speech … but we caution all SA’s to hold the applause.” 

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen delivers the Democratic Alliance’s “The Real State of the Nation Address” at the Speaker’s Corner on February 08, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. This comes ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address which will be delivered on February 10th at City Hall. (Photo by Gallo Images/Die Burger/Jaco Marais)

By John Steenhuisen, leader of the Democratic Alliance.

The bulk of the President’s State of the Nation Address this evening could easily have been a DA speech, and he should be commended for at least saying some of the right things.

However, he has made the right noises in the past too, only to go missing when they had to be implemented. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so we caution all South Africans to hold the applause until these announcements become actions, if they ever do.

His realisation, decades too late, that “government doesn’t create jobs; businesses create jobs…government must create the conditions that will enable the private sector” is a considerable departure from his party’s central control-obsessed approach to the economy and jobs. And he is entirely correct in this new assessment. But until he walks the walk by significantly reforming labour legislation and by downsizing his bloated public sector with its thousands of millionaire managers, that will just remain talk.

Similarly, his admission that “there are too many regulations in this country that are unduly complicated, costly and difficult to comply with – this prevents companies from growing and creating jobs” is precisely what the DA has been telling him for years. It is why the DA-run Western Cape has a very successful Red Tape Reduction Unit. If the President is serious about streamlining bureaucracy, he should send some of his ministers to the Western Cape on internships.

His announcement of a separate electricity transmission entity – part of the break-up of Eskom – is also something we have been calling for for many years. So too his solemn promise to finally auction off broadband spectrum, which has made an appearance in every SONA of recent years. And his announcement that labour legislation for SMEs will be relaxed must certainly be welcomed.

The irony, of course, is that the DA hasn’t only been saying these very things for decades, we’ve even brought Bills to the House to assist government in achieving these goals. Bills, in recent years, such as our ISMO energy reform Bill and our Ease of Doing Business Bills, our Red Tape Impact Assessment Bill, our Public Investment Corporation Amendment Bill, and our Small Enterprise Ombudsman Bill. All of which were summarily shot down by the ANC in Parliament.

It is time the President took a leaf from the DA’s book on getting things done. But to do so, he would also need to get rid of almost his entire cabinet and he would need to walk away from cadre deployment for good. Because until then, all of this will just be talk.

Judged by the words alone, this is a commendable SONA. But words mean nothing until you put them into action. And so we will reserve our assessment until we see movement on all these issues.

But we would like to remind the president that if he is indeed serious about pushing through economic, labour and energy reforms, he can count on the DA’s support. If not, we’ll do it without him in 2024.


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