Time is not on South Africa’s side to address the challenges facing our country. That was clear from the President Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address in Parliament yesterday.
The disproportionate focus on economic growth and development and on job creation is therefore understandable, because without success in these areas our woes are bound to continue or even exacerbate, said Mr Ntantala, President of NAPTOSA.
It seems that the severe time constraints has unfortunately forced the President to take a broad shot at achieving these top priorities. The extensive, and at times exhausting, set of plans, without any real specifics, announced by the President bears testimony to this. One would have preferred to see fewer plans, but ones that could definitely be achieved in the short term, stated Mr Ntantala.
It was brave, but equally necessary, for the President to acknowledge that with only 10 years left for South Africa to achieve its Vision 2030, there is very little to show towards fulfilment of the imposing targets set by the National Development Plan (NDP). It is, however, at the same time sad, and a severe indictment on government, that we have wasted so much time and public resources over the past number of years that we are at a point where the President has to call for the NDP to again be restored “to a place at the center of our national effort”.
NAPTOSA has always believed that the NDP was a well-researched blue print for moving South Africa forward. We therefore fully support the President’s vision to refocus government’s efforts to realise the NDP in the remaining 10 years, said Mr Ntantala.
NAPTOSA was delighted to hear the President refer to the importance of prioritization and implementation, because this is what we have been calling for, for a long time. There is no shortage of policies, but when it comes to implementation we are sadly lacking. We trust that Ministers will take heed and adopt these approaches within their respective portfolios.
The seven priority areas listed by the President, which includes education, commands support, although it is questionable that “A better Africa and World” should be one of them at this juncture. Our sole and absolute focus should be on getting our country on the road to rapid recovery. Once achieved, we can then focus on Africa and the World.
From an education point of view, the most important aspect of the President’s speech was the recognition that a lack of reading skills was undermining our whole education system, even into the far reaches of universities. The Department of Basic Education has largely skirted this issue, but will now have no choice, but to make it their priority. Involving the National Reading Coalition in this very important matter and implementing an Early Grade Reading Programme are welcomed by NAPTOSA – also the view that the entire nation should be mobilized behind a massive reading campaign, because if adults read, children will be motivated too.
NAPTOSA was disappointed that the phenomenon of violence in schools that has reared its head with such intensity over the past months did not receive a mention from the President. Whilst we understand that it should receive the required attention of the Minister, it was nevertheless expected that the President would make an announcement on how it is going to be addressed, because it is no longer a number of isolated incidents, but a real national crisis, said Mr Ntantala.
The fact that around half a million children of school going age with disabilities are not in school is, to say least, shocking. The renewed focus on this group of children is heartening, because no child should be left behind. Locating the co-ordination of disability initiatives in the Presidency sends a clear message of government’s determination to address this problem.
It is sad to realise that we are still saddled with the deep, dark pit of non-performing State Owned Enterprises. NAPTOSA agrees that the one to be saved must be ESKOM, because without electricity the possibility of economic recovery and much needed job creation is doomed. The same probably applies to PRASA in view of the fact that so many of the poor are dependent on rail transport. It is, however, questionable whether further energy and resources should be spent on the SAA, SABC and the like.
NAPTOSA wishes the President and his government well as they embark on what is a daunting task. May we see, by the time the next SONA is delivered, substantial, tangible progress in all the priority areas identified, said Mr Ntantala.
Mr Nkosipendule Ntantala (President) – 072 198 0599
Mr Basil Manuel (Executive Director) - 079 508 6228