Reply to president Zuma's State of the Nation Address 2014

2014-06-19
Dr Pieter Mulder

Speaker,

I want to start with the story of the chief executive of a big organisation who retired. He gave his successor three envelopes.

“When you experience a crisis, open the first envelope,” was his advice to his successor.

After a year there was the first crisis. The new chief executive opened the first envelope. It read: “Blame it on your predecessor.” He did it. It worked and he survived the crisis.

Some months later, with the second crisis he opened the second envelope: It read: “Reorganise” He reorganized the organisation and survived again.

With the third crisis he opened the third envelope. It read: “Prepare three envelopes”

The present economic crisis is not the second or third crisis of this government but the hundredth. You’ve already blamed their predecessors, you’ve reorganised government. You should have prepared three envelopes long ago.

Do members remember the Fitch credit ratings downgrade in January 2013? In the two weeks following the downgrade, foreigners sold R3.2 billion worth of South African bonds. Foreign investors, in that January alone, sold R2.2 billion worth of South African shares. That severely affected our economy and many new jobs were lost?

It is too early to calculate the effects of the latest downgrades but for government it cannot be business as usual.

Everyday on my way to Parliament, I drive past people sitting on street corners, asking me with their eyes for a job. Strong, healthy men and women, with despair and hopelessness in their eyes. They are fathers and mothers who have to support their families. In their own eyes they are failing their families. Sir, we can solve this problem and create jobs. Then, most other problems in this country will be easy to solve. Dignity will return to these men and women

In the SONA, no new original proposals how the economic growth rate could be improved in order to create jobs were made by the honourable president .

Housing and better living conditions for mine workers were proposed to prevent a repeat of the mining strikes. It is important, but it does not address the core problems. Nothing prevents a similar strike in the gold mining sector from starting tomorrow. A proposal in the SONA as to how labour legislation could be amended, would have been positive. Explain to me why labour legislation cannot be amended to provide for secret ballots before a strike takes place? This alone will make a difference.

This is honourable President Zuma’s last term. I have seen five presidents come and go in this Assembly. In their last term, all presidents worry about their legacies. It is normal.

Zizi Kodwa, ANC spokesperson says the president will in this term be emphasising economic freedom and land issues. Honourable President, you are making a mistake if you think you that you will suceed in this, as your legacy, in the next couple of years. You are setting yourself up to fail.

In 1948, before I was born, the Afrikaners came to power in South Africa. The 1948 election was not about white against black, but was an Afrikaner vicotry over the English – and specifically a pro-British approach. As a young man I argued with my father for hours that the Afrikaners had political power but not economic power. That we should be freed from the Oppenheimer’s grip on the economy. Just like a certain young member argued here yesterday. The reality is that the Afrikaners never obtained economic power. We could establish our own institutions, such as Volkskas and Sanlam, but could not gain control of the economy without destroying everything. If you are setting this as your goal, you are setting yourself up to fail.

What could succeed and become your legacy is the successful establishment of new infrastructure. With less state interference and new infrastructure, the private sector will create the growth and job opportunities that we need. That is why the emphasis on infrastructure in the SONA is welcomed, although the FF Plus is worried that the government does not have the capacity to carry out everything.

Of the 400 members elected in 1994, there are only 12 of us left in this house.

This is good and bad.

Good -- because new members bring new ideas.

Bad -- because we need experience and continuity.

Let me give an example: Yesterday, snide remarks were made here about Afrikaans and white people. When we started here in 1994, only English and Afrikaans were spoken without any translation services.

Which party fought to have all eleven official languages, as prescribed in the Constitution, spoken in this Assembly? The Freedom Front Plus. Go and read it in Hansard.

Why? Because we know that one’s dignity is repaired when your language is recognised. (It took nearly ten years before we succeeded in this.)

I accept that the honourable member that went off against Afrikaans, knows that the majority of Afrikaans-speakers are not white.

I am more worried about Zulu and Tswana-speaking children in English private schools who can no longer speak Zulu or Tswana or are ashamed to speak it. Let’s have a debate about this or about the Freedom Charter which says:

In the third section: “All people shall have equal rights to use their own language and to develop their own folk culture and customs;”

And: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white”