AMCU responds to SONA 2023

Summary: The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is very disappointed in the latest State of the Nation Address (SONA) by State President Cyril Ramaphosa. The Union bemoans the fact that the State President, once again, sought to appease private sector interests at the expense of the majority of poor, particularly black citizens of this country. AMCU makes proposals as to what should have been addressed in the SONA, while analysing the current problems in our country. The Union emphasises the need to protect SOEs in order to set a social wage for the most vulnerable citizens of our country, while also calling for constitutional amendments regarding the electoral system and a move to a federal state.

“The only purpose of this SONA was to appease White Monopoly Capital and assure them that everything is OK”, said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa. “All that they [the sitting government] want to do, is to dismantle all SOEs [state-owned enterprises] to make way for private sector and business interests. SOEs are there to protect the poorest of the poor, and enable the State to provide basic services to the people”, he said.

“We need to protect the SOEs, as they are the only institutions that are designed not to chase after profit, but to provide the social wage to the most vulnerable of citizens”, he added.

“All they want to do is speed up the process of starting up their renewable energy businesses. This SONA has absolutely nothing to do with us, the citizens of this country. We must be under no illusion that this administration will change the plight of South Africans, and in particular the black majority. It [the SONA] was just a waste of money and nothing will change”, Mathunjwa said.

“Why are they so quick to appoint a minister for electricity, to fast-track their business strategies, while they cannot restructure key departments like education, health and the police?”, he asked.

“As we have said so many times before, this country has to be reset for any change to be brought about”, Mathunjwa said. “Firstly we need to urgently amend the Constitution and the electoral system so that the people themselves can elect their president, and the people themselves can put a vote of no confidence – as the people and not via party lines”, he said. “If we don’t do this, and deal with the criminality we experience at all levels in this country, we will see this country plunged into civil war”, he warned.

“We have said it many times, that we need to amend the constitution to change our political system to a federation of states or provinces. Then each state or province can have its own legislation, and some states or provinces could for example have capital punishment to address crime”, he said. “We cannot have this blanket approach of all of us being dependent on the same national point of view. We need to resent this country”, Mathunjwa said.

“South Africans are feeling the pinch. The majority have never tasted the benefits of democracy. Due to poor governance and porous borders, South Africans stand last in the queue while they were the ones who bore the brunt of oppression in this country”, said Mathunjwa.

“The nation must get very worried when a state president announces a national state of disaster, and parliamentarians clap hands and ululate. How can leaders of a Country in crisis, celebrate the declaration of a state of disaster? It is even alarming considering that this is a man-made disaster and not a natural disaster. We wonder if the clapping by parliamentarians for this national state of disaster is based on fresh opportunities to loot state resources through relaxed regulations as experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic”, he said.

“We note the appetite to restructure Eskom and even establish a National Transmission Company with a separate board. The President failed to take the nation into confidence on the reasons for Eskom failure save for referring to legacy issues. We are sceptical of the proposed solutions to respond to the energy crisis”, he added.

“We see the introduction of a new ministry under the Presidency, the Minister of Electricity as another opportunity for cadre deployment. This is another expansion of a cabinet that is already bloated, aged and tired. It is frankly an indictment against the President himself, for his failure to confront the poor performance and lack of leadership in his current cabinet, between the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy on the one hand, and the Minister of Public Enterprises on the other, by side-stepping these centres of power in creating a Minister of Electricity”, he said.

The State President made numerous announcements of billions invested in various sectors of the economy, including the Just Energy Transition (JET) which is purported to invest R1,5 trillion in the economy. There were citations of investments in the so-called green economy and electric cars.

“Our question is, whose technology is this?”, Mathunjwa asked. “Where is this technology manufactured? South Africa continues to export jobs and we continue to be a market for first world technology. It was going to be very important for the SONA to indicate how much of this technology and electric cars will be manufactured in South Africa and how many jobs will be created in the process”, he added.

“It was very sad to see parliamentarians clapping hands for social grants. Where is the dignity of South Africans who are made to live on menial handouts?”, he asked. The SONA stated that 7,8 million South Africans are receiving social distress grants. “This is a disaster as these are able-bodied people who could be in employment were it not for the increasing unemployment levels”, said Mathunjwa.

“It is very worrying to hear in the SONA that 25 million South Africans are receiving social grants. This is a classic failure of the State to create jobs and grow the economy for more people to work and earn a living”, he said.

The State President proudly announced investments in construction, digital technology, localisation and human settlements. However, there were absolutely no corresponding announcements on the direct benefits to South Africans and the number of jobs to be created.

“If they cannot even employ hundreds of qualified doctors and thousands of graduates, how on earth would they even be able to create employment for the semi-skilled millions in our country?”, Mathunjwa asked. “This is pure hypocrisy”, he said.

“We also note that the SONA never addressed the issue of mining, and more specifically how our mineral riches can be utilised to benefit the majority of South Africans”, said Mathunjwa.

“Also, the SONA never addressed the issue of illicit financial flows. We have said it many times, that the Zondo Commission [of Inquiry into State Capture] is but a drop in the ocean. What about these multinational companies who have looted our resources and taken money out of the country for centuries? What about all the illicit financial flows and tax evasion by these looters?”, he asked.

“The sad reality is that our infrastructure is depleted. Nothing is working. Thanks to this constitution we have given hollow democracy without economic power to the poor, while we have guaranteed a socialism for the rich”, Mathunjwa said.

“The main problem of this country is that we don’t have an agenda, and this agenda should be industrialisation and beneficiation, coupled with socio-economic development. Until we stop export raw materials and start creating real value inside our country, we will never be able to develop ourselves”, Mathunjwa concluded.


For interviews: Joseph Mathunjwa (AMCU President)