Reaction to state of the nation address - (3 February 2006)

The State of the Nation address was in essence an overview of 12 years of democratic governance and a reminder of where we come from. This illustrated the optimism that many South Africans feel today as opposed to the reservations that many held a decade ago.

The economic proposals made represent nothing new, and are on whole sensible. However, these worthwhile policies fail due to a lack of implementation. Infrastructure development to the tune of billions means little when - as has happened in the past financial year – the provinces fail to spend half of the large budget allocated towards this policy. We support the President's focus on skills development, but see no significant movement yet on the part of government to ensure that the many skilled South Africans - here and abroad – are employed and receive proper salaries.

The entire State of the Nation exercise has however been tainted by what it has said and not said about corruption. The speech made a brief reference to corruption, little more than a platitude, whereas the decision to invite a well-known suspect of corruption as an honoured guest to Parliament speaks loudly in contradiction of government's much-vaunted fight against corruption. That invitation has undermined the credibility of the President and Parliament, especially since Travelgate, Oilgate and the Deputy President's extravagant holiday remain unresolved issues. At the very least we would have expected the President to tackle these matters head-on in his speech, emphasising the message that corruption and abuse of taxpayer funding will not be tolerated, irrespective of the culprit's status or connections to the high and mighty.

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