The State of Nation 2016 was dominated by President Zuma explaining government’s economic plan. President Zuma delivered his speech after Congress of the People (COPE) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were ordered to leave parliament after chanting “Zupta Must Fall”. President Zuma had little to say on small business, as compared to wooing international investors. The two most important extracts from SONA2016 are:
The department of small business development was established to provide such targeted support to small business. Economic transformation and black empowerment remain a key part of all economic programmes of government. One of our new interventions is the Black Industrialists Scheme which has been launched to promote the participation of black entrepreneurs in manufacturing. We urge big business to partner the new manufacturers including businesses owned by women and the youth, as part of broadening the ownership and control of the economy.
I announced programmes for the revitalisation of agriculture last year. We introduced the Agri-Parks programme, aimed at increasing the participation of small holder farmers in agricultural activities. Construction has begun in at least five agriparks, which are: Westrand in Gauteng, Springbokpan in North West, Witzenberg in Western Cape, Ncora in the Eastern Cape and Enkangala in Mpumalanga. The agricultural programmes must empower women farmers as well. Allow me to introduce the winner of the Female Entrepreneur of the Year 2015, Ms Julia Shungube, from Nkomazi municipality in Mpumalanga.
There is some action on these fronts, and must be welcomed. However, the comprehensive and deliberate drive to create conditions for small business to thrive is something that President has not delivered on. A good start would for the President to make clear that all businesses are equal in their engagements with the state, and not that some persons have favorable access. Whether Zuma likes it or not, international investors are looking more at his personal relationship, than whether the lights remain on or the roads are tarred. Confidence among entrepreneurs requires clear statements that the economy is not rigged to benefit the connected few. In 2011, we argued that Zuma faced a vision test. As it stands, I do not think he has passed this test during SONA 2016.