Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane called President Cyril Ramaphosa's latest State of The Nation Address fanciful with lofty dreams, but unimaginative in terms of how Ramaphosa seeks to realise his vision.
Maimane was speaking at the National Assembly in a joint sitting to debate the State of The Nation Address. Ramaphosa’s address, last week Thursday, highlighted seven principles and five goals for the next decade to improve South Africa’s socio-economic prospects.
Maimane said Ramaphosa’s allusions to a bullet train, skyscrapers and new age cities in South Africa were life affirming aspirations, but the country's reality was too unequal for any of it to be attainable.
"It cannot be a South Africa for some and not a South Africa for all. The stats released last month paint a dire picture. It is a picture of unemployment of 32% and a picture of an economy that has contracted," said Maimane.
Maimane did not pass up the opportunity to speak against the imbroglio of the South African Reserve Bank, where African National Congress (ANC) officials flirted with policy uncertainty by claiming that the governing party agreed to expand the central bank’s mandate.
"We need a bold plan, the right plan, the right budget and the right people. We don’t need to debate about the mandate of the Reserve Bank. It is already in the Constitution. We need to get down to the work of doing what we were elected to do," Maimane said.
Maimane said government’s responses to the fourth industrial revolution was too late to make a significant impact in buffering South Africans from the labour market disruptions to come.
"Honourable members, giving school children smart tablets is not the fourth industrial resolution, it is the third industrial revolution. We should be preparing our children for jobs that don’t yet exist. We should be equipping children for coding, digital design and programming," he said.
Maimane said it was the responsibility of government and Parliament to “rethink policies that did not work in the last decade” and make tough decisions, instead of comforting themselves by dreaming.
"These are tough decisions. That’s why it hasn’t happened. So, instead, we talk about dreams, faster horses and, as some on Twitter would say, Wakanda. Our nation is in trouble, but we can change it by building a resilient nation with well-equipped people," he said.
Wakanda refers to a fantastical African country made famous by the movie, Black Panther.
In response to Ramaphosa's seven principles, Maimane proposed seven reforms, namely: reform state-owned entities, introduce charter schools, ditch National Health Insurance, change labour law, reduce the size of Cabinet, extend property ownership and ensure a professional police service under provincial government authority.