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SONA 2016: Careful optimism

by Andrew Rissik | Feb 12, 2016
  • South Africans, and no doubt all the ratings agencies alike, witnessed another fantastic spectacle in the South African Parliament last night. It was a well-choreographed battle of wills that resulted in the EFF leaving parliament after heckling the president. Thankfully, no police were needed this time.
    I watched the address with my family; and when your teenagers tells you they are too embarrassed to watch then you know just how low the credibility of the ruling party has sunk. Despite this, Jacob Zuma managed to touch on some encouraging themes. Once he had finished the customary waffling we have now come to expect from SONA speeches, the President dived into a few meaty capitalist economic promises. 

    When the President dealt with the issue of wasteful expenditure, I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that only those who are guilty of perpetuating and benefiting from the culture of waste clapped uproariously when he mentioned that he would be tackling this issue. Sadly, very few in South Africa will fully believe our state President will follow through on these promises. 

    I almost felt sorry for Zuma as he stood there, isolated and vulnerable, reading a document he did not write and most certainly would not have fully believed in. But, in December when the notorious Nene scandal broke, Zuma showed his hand and sealed his fate. He may remain in office, but he is no longer in power. His sycophants may fall with him if he goes, and perhaps Malema is right: Last night may have been their last red-carpet appearance in the chamber.

    The past few months have been a period to stress-test both our governmental institutions and the Constitution. The head of state’s death grip on power and impunity appear to be slipping; there is no doubt a glimmer of hope that our country may be more robust than we all thought a month ago. 

    The Rand has strengthened after the SONA 2016 delivery, as it should have. I am certain that it is extremely undervalued at the moment and that the last slide was 100% attributable to our government’s antics. This puts the ruling party in a unique position to assist in helping the Rand recover its lost ground. 

    All that is left to do now is wait and see what our new (old) Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan presents on 24 February, when he delivers the Budget. This, I feel, will be the real test. If an impressive speech is delivered by Minister Gordhan, half the job will be done. However, we will need to see follow through and commitment from the entire bloated cabinet. Reigning in the fat cats who have been eating out of the public purse for so long is not going to be easy, but it has become wholly necessary.

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