A mona about SONA


For a second year running President Jacob Zuma has delivered a largely insipid, anodyne State of the Nation Address. Unlike last year, however, his speech contained a nod to the South African National Defence Force.

“We applaud the work of the South African National Defence Force, which has on average deployed over 2000 military personnel in peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudan and the Central African Republic, Zuma said in a single sentence towards the end of his address in a paragraph titled “Building a better Africa and a better world.”

There were also some words on fighting crime: “We are continuing to improve the capacity and effectiveness of the police in particular the detective services, forensic analysts and crime intelligence,” Zuma said. “We have increased visible policing and patrols in identified hotspots. We are making visible progress in reducing the proliferation of illegal and legal firearms. Our courts continue to function better, and the backlog reduction programmes at district and regional levels are proceeding well.”

Zuma added: “The fight against corruption also continues. A Special Anti-Corruption Unit has been established in the Department of Public Service and Administration to handle corruption-related disciplinary cases involving public servants. Progress is being made in many ongoing investigations. About R44 million has been recovered from public servants who are illegally benefiting from housing subsidies, while the cleaning of the social grants system of fraud is also continuing.

We have directed the Special Investigating Unit to probe alleged maladministration or corruption in various government departments, municipalities and institutions. While not pre-judging the investigations, they prove our resolve to combat corruption at all levels of Government and the public service. The Multi-Agency Working Group on procurement led by National Treasury, SARS and the Financial Intelligence Centre is reviewing the entire state procurement system to ensure better value for money from state spending.”

And that’ it. No mention of the Border Management Agency announced in his first SONA in May 2009 or greater detail on policing or defence. As was widely expected and advertised, the main thrust of Zuma’s address was tackling unemployment. “…we have declared 2011 a year of job creation through meaningful economic transformation and inclusive growth. We have introduced a New Growth Path that will guide our work in achieving these goals, working within the premise that the creation of decent work is at the centre of our economic policies.”
But like last year it was largely broad brush-strokes that were light on detail. It was not for no reason Zuma last night said: “I will provide just a broad outline of our programme of action in this address,” in a paragraph on job creation. “Ministers will announce their jobs targets and more specific details per sector, in their forthcoming budget vote speeches,” he added.

Well, let us see what this means for defence, policing and state security. Meanwhile, we can look forward to finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s annual budget and the usual detailed figures on February 23.