South African Communist Party
SACP initial response to the state of the Nation Address
Thursday, 08 February 2024: The SACP welcomes the commendable progress that is benefiting millions of our people as a result of our hard-won April 1994 democratic breakthrough. This includes human rights, homes built and allocated for free, and the massive rollouts of household electrification, water provision, education at all levels, roads infrastructure development, especially in rural areas and townships that were previously neglected, among others.
However, numerous areas of commendable progress since April 1994 are facing a real threat of erosion and some have been rolled back as result of multiple crises.
We note the effort by President Cyril Ramaphosa to be frank about some of the challenges that our country faces, including state capture and corruption, which must be dealt a deadly blow.
The reduction in the rate of poverty from 71.1 per cent in 1993 to 60.9 per cent in 2010 and then 55.5 per cent in 2020 is an important indicator. However, this pace of poverty reduction is too slow, and poverty remains at crisis-high levels. It is a major cause of concern and requires more decisive measures to eradicate.
Nearly 19 million people receive social grants. In the previous financial year, 2022/2023, 8.5 million people received the Social Relief of Distress Grant, bringing the total number of people on social grants to over 26 million. These grants play a critical role in countering the sharp edges of poverty.
The extension and improvement of the Social Relief of Distress Grant is therefore an imperative amid the persisting crisis-high poverty rate and unemployment, which, at 42.1 per cent, affected 11.7 million active and discouraged work-seekers in the third quarter of 2023. This must culminate in a universal basic income grant.
Quality healthcare for all
The progress made in HIV treatment, which has resulted in 79 per cent of those who know their status receiving antiretroviral treatment and 93 per cent of them being virally suppressed, is an important indicator of our efforts to fight the virus and save life. A comprehensive healthcare approach is crucial.
Now the President should move swiftly to sign the National Health Insurance Bill into law to ensure quality healthcare for all. Austerity – the budget cuts that result in under-resourcing of the overloaded public healthcare system, lack of critical healthcare equipment, as well as shortage of medicine in certain situations, specialists and other healthcare professionals – must be reversed. The government must ensure adequate resourcing of the public healthcare system and its expansion to meet the healthcare needs of our people, the workers and poor being the majority.
Economic transformation and employment creation
Economic transformation and development must go beyond the narrow GDP measure, important as it is, to embrace structural transformation and large-scale employment creation to resolve the unemployment crisis, poverty and inequality. The government must attach great importance to industrialisation, including beneficiation of our minerals and primary agricultural, forestry and marine resources in our country.
The automotive manufacturing transition to domestic new energy vehicles production is important, but we need a comprehensive and adequately funded high impact industrial policy.
Radical reduction of inequality
South Africa still ranks as the unequal country. Therefore, black economic empowerment must go beyond its narrow confines. It must empower the working class in ownership terms and thus radically reduce racialised and gendered income and wealth inequalities. While skills development and employment equity are essential, the fact is that they do not suffice to eliminate the economic exploitation of workers, who, together with the unemployed, continue to be excluded from ownership.
Eliminating barriers that impact co-operatives and adequately supporting their development is essential to empower workers through ownership.
Addressing the energy crisis
It is essential to address the energy crisis as a matter of urgency and to forge a just transition that protects existing employment and forms part of the efforts to advance towards the Freedom Charter’s right of all to work through additional employment creation. To be just, the transition should safeguard the livelihoods of communities who depend on the existing networks of the energy economy.
To lower carbon emissions, it is essential for the government to invest in carbon capture technology and storage facilities for the coal-fired power sector. This will both protect existing employment in the sector and create additional employment.
South Africa needs a public pathway that involves state investment on behalf of the people as a whole in new electric power generation capacity, not least in renewable and other clean electricity. This is too important to be left in the hands of profit-driven interests.
The SACP welcomes investment to expand our electricity transmission capacity to address the energy crisis and sufficient transmission capacity for future needs.
The SACP is strongly opposed to the neoliberal structuring of our country’s network infrastructure. We need a public pathway to turn around our country’s network infrastructure, including passenger and freight rail network and its expansion, the ports, road networks, and water infrastructure, among others.
High levels of crime have contributed to the established negative perception that the government is failing to clamp down on criminality and ensure public safety in our communities. Every quarter, the Police Ministry releases shocking statistics from the South African Police Service records.
The crime statistical categories include high levels of murder, attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, assault, robbery, theft, sexual offenses, including rape, and house breaking, kidnapping, carjacking, hijacking, drug dealing, illegal firearms, and illegal ammunition.
We need decisive measures to bring down crime and build safer communities, including a strong focus on women.
Against the apartheid Israeli genocide on Palestinians
We reiterate our support for the government’s decision to refer the apartheid Israeli settler state’s genocide on the Palestinian people to the International Court of Justice.
The SACP welcomes the interim measures by the court in its judgment delivered last month.
We also reiterate our call for an immediate ceasefire and support for the Palestinian people’s just struggle for national self-determination and freedom.