President Zuma’s 2015 SONA ‘failed to tackle issues head on’: Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber

FEBRUARY 13, 2015

In its response to President Jacob Zuma’s 2015 State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber said it was generally dreary and did not provide a clear picture of how government was planning to tackle issues affecting businesses and civil society in the Nelson Mandela Bay.

"The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber echoes the sentiments expressed across the country that this was a lacklustre State of the Nation address that failed to tackle issues head on," the chamber said in a statement.

“The immediate and genuine concerns of the citizens of this country were not addressed in the direct manner we believe is warranted by the country’s current energy challenges, and organised business believes this year’s SONA should have held more signs of a fundamental shift in support policies for business and economic growth and development.

“With disappointment at the background of chaos against which the address was delivered, we make our comments… The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber acknowledges:

  • The nine-point plan outlined by President Jacob Zuma, which recognises many of the key areas that will ignite economic growth in our country. This is an important step for government to take, especially in the face of the IMF’s downscaling of the world’s GDP growth forecast, and slow economic growth in South Africa.
  • The intense focus on electricity and Eskom’s power generation and stability. This is an absolutely critical focus, and we emphatically insist that government must be transparent and work together with industry to find solutions in this area so vital to the economy.
  • The role that government has played in establishing renewable energy sources as a critical area. We believe, however, that more focus is needed to bring expedient independent production online, and to reduce the often insurmountable obstacles and red tape that prevent these projects coming on-stream.
  • The focus on the generation of nuclear power as part of the Integrated Resource Plan. We wait to hear further announcements regarding the plans that will be put in place.
  • The opportunity for South Africa to gain 15 000 megawatts of hydro-electric power through the Grand Inga Hydro-electrical Project partnership with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • The infrastructure support extended to municipalities, including four district municipalities in the Eastern Cape. This will benefit the development of the rural economy.
  • The continued focus on the Automotive Investment Scheme, as well as the Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme. We welcome this continued support of the anchor sector of the Eastern Cape, and hope to see these programmes continue to play a role in unlocking future automotive investment.
  • A focus on reviewing current visa conditions. We particularly wish to draw government’s attention to the expat skills that the country is struggling to retain due to visa complications that prevent them from continuing to make a positive contribution to our economy.
  • The focus on small business is especially welcome, through the initiatives related to 30% of procurement allocation by the State and State-owned enterprises.
  • The investment and partnership of the National Youth Development Agency with the Industrial Development Corporation and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency which has focused on assisting youth-owned enterprises.
  • The focus on water as a key area for development and growth in the economy. The Umzimvubu Water Project in particular is vital for the Eastern Cape. With regret, we note that this has been planned for and spoken about at length. However, the plans are yet to come to fruition, despite our great need for it to unlock the rural economy of the Eastern Cape.
  • The focus on the conservation of water as a scarce resource. Every drop counts. Many millions of Rands go literally down the drain due to lack maintenance and crumbling water infrastructure, coupled with a severe lack of education about water conservation. If we are to effect a change, it is imperative that we educate people about the use of water, and change both habits and attitudes towards this scarce resource.
  • The budget allocation of R9 billion to the maintenance of provincial roads. We trust that the appropriate allocation will be made towards the rebuilding of the critical Addo Road as a vital link for the citrus industry.
  • The development of technical and vocational campuses around the country. This will set the foundation for the training of more artisans, and enable us to put the nation to work for the economy.
  • The intense focus on the ocean economy through Operation Phakisa. The Business Chamber believes there is immense opportunity for Nelson Mandela Bay as the only city in the country with two ports. We have the opportunity to unlock the maximum potential of our coastline through Operation Phakisa, and look forward to unpacking the possibilities. We would like to hear more from government about this, and insist that they both consult and partner with the private sector and civil society to avoid the discontent brought about by, for example, the issue of the Algoa Bay fish farm.
  • The intense focus on rooting out corruption wherever it is found in the public service. We encourage government, through its anti-corruption institutions and legislation, to not let the work of either to be undermined.
  • The Back to Basics programme, especially at the level of local government. As demonstrated by the work of the Nelson Mandela Bay Civil Society Coalition, we concur with the focus of this programme on good governance, effective administration, the placement of competent staff, ensuring accountability and cutting wastage. We are dedicated – through the Civil Society Coalition and through the activities of the Chamber – to partner with government in ensuring that this does indeed happen in Nelson Mandela Bay. We continue to advocate for the same.
  • The continued economic co-operation with our partners in the BRICS countries. We already see the benefit of the BRICS relationships in the Eastern Cape through a pact of co-operation with our sister city of Ningbo in China. We are grateful for the frameworks developed, and look forward to developing new partnership linkages with the balance of the BRICS countries as relationships grow.

"The intense focus on electricity and Eskom’s power generation and stability. This is an absolutely critical focus, and we emphatically insist that government must be transparent and work together with industry to find solutions in this area so vital to the economy," the chamber said.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber expresses concern regarding:

  • The implementation of new foreign land ownership laws alluded to in the State of the Nation address. We raise a question regarding how this will be implemented against existing foreign ownership, and how this will impact future foreign investment. We also request further insight into the possible impact the maximum land ownership law will have on commercial farming. This is a concern for the agricultural economy, and we believe that the possible detrimental effects on foreign direct investment should be carefully considered.
  • The indication of the building of further Integrated Public Transport Systems in other cities, while Nelson Mandela Bay languishes with a non-functioning IPTS that has had a detrimental impact on business and the community at large.
  • The celebration of the building of schools, while the Eastern Cape still deals with mud schools. We hope to see the programme of building lead to school environments conducive to learning. Our biggest concern in this area, however, is the much-needed focus on the teaching fraternity and the upskilling and reskilling of teachers in maths, science and technology. High-calibre teachers are desperately needed if we are to equip our children for the growth sectors of the future economy.