The Black Sash calls on President Jacob Zuma to demonstrate decisive leadership when he addresses the Nation on Thursday night. The centerpiece of his speech needs to provide us with details of a comprehensive plan to eradicate poverty and income inequality, and create the millions of decent jobs we so desperately need in South Africa. The Black Sash is not looking for two flimsy paragraphs lamenting the problems, or more empty promises to fix them soon. We want to see pages and pages of concrete, bold and credible plans to tackle our biggest national crisis - poverty.
Recent development indicators compiled by President Zuma’s own National Planning Commission show that inequality has worsened (the richest 20% of our population get 70% of total national income), living standards are unacceptably low (with 49% of the population living on less than R524 per month) and infant mortality far too high (44.7 deaths per 1000 live births). The President needs to tell us how he is going to address these harsh realities of poverty and inequality that tragically continue to characterize the lived experience of most people in our country, eroding our fragile gains as well as our social cohesion.
The President must also reassure us in his ‘State of the Nation’ address that he is committed to a decent work agenda. Even the five million jobs he wants to create over the next decade will not adequately address poverty and inequality if they do not offer households security and a decent quality of life.
The Black Sash also hopes President Zuma will set out the time frames for the long awaited pension, health and unemployment insurance reforms, in order to bring cohesion to our fragmented social insurance systems and build a comprehensive policy based on solidarity of rich to poor, healthy to ill and employed to unemployed.
In this year of local government elections, the President must also account for the yawning gap between government claims of infrastructure accomplishments and people’s daily experience of inadequate access to basic services. He needs to show decisive leadership in tackling the problems caused by the division of revenue as well as corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, tender fraud and administrative inefficiencies that cripple so many of our municipalities, denying people their right to water, sanitation and other essential services.