State of the Nation assessed in report

Elnari Potgieter, project leader at the SA Reconciliation Barometer; Professor Tim Murithi, head of justice and peace building at the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation (IJR); and Jan Hofmeyer, the IJRs head of research and policy, at the IJRs Peoples Assessment of the State of the Nation media briefing.

Seven out of 10 people in South Africa believe the government is doing a poor job improving the lives of the poor while there is also a need for greater understanding among political parties on policies.

These were some of the key findings released in the People’s Assessment of the State of the Nation report by the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) yesterday, Tuesday February 6, just days before the annual State of the Nation address (SoNA) by president Jacob Zuma in Parliament tomorrow, Thursday February 9.

The State of the Nation address, at the annual opening of Parliament, is an address to the nation by the president who addresses a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

The IJR said the president’s address focused on the current political and socio-economic state of the nation based on government’s assessments and it therefore could not be assumed that the address fully incorporated the views of the ordinary people of South Africa. Consequently it said, there was a gap in that exchange in terms of the articulation of the views of the wider South African society.

This People’s State of the Nation Assessment (PSONA) report seeks to fill this gap by collating the perceptions of ordinary South Africans who were surveyed by the IJR through the South African Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) and also the Afrobarometer.

The findings were released at the IJR’s offices in Gardens where they also hosted a panel discussion. The IJR’s findings focus on four key areas: politics, the economy, society as well as international relations.

Jan Hofmeyer, who is the IJR’s head of research and policy, was one of the speakers at the event. Mr Hofmeyer stressed the need for greater political understanding between parties given the significant challenges in the country.

He said two of the biggest challenges the country faced were poverty and inequality.

The report, which surveyed
2 219 people across the 11 official languages, found that 62 percent of people believed democracy was better than any other form of government – a statistic which is significantly down in recent years according to the IJR.

It also found that 66 percent of the people surveyed thought that the government was not acting in the country’s best interest while only 34 percent had trust in the president.

“Responsible leadership is therefore demanded from across the political spectrum to strengthen and enhance its capacity to serve and empower the South African people,” said Mr Hofmeyer.

He added that the fighting between political parties as well as within the ANC had had a negative impact on how people viewed the system of governance.

Tiaan Meiring, an intern at the IJR in the research and policy unit, spoke about the state of the economy in the country.

He said that 77 percent of people believed the government’s attempts at job creation were “fairly bad” to “very bad”.

It also found 70 percent found that the government was not doing a good job to improve the lives of the poor.

Elnari Potgieter, project leader at the SARB, said the rise of the Fallest movements and their calls for transformation highlighted the issues of access and non-access. She said it was important to get a deeper understanding of people’s “lived experiences”.

She said the survey found that just over 61 percent of South Africans felt that race relations had stayed the same or deteriorated since 1994.

Professor Tim Murithi, head of justice and peacebuilding, stressed the importance of citizens informing themselves of the role other countries played in South Africa’s liberation to get a better understanding of Pan-Africanism.

President Zuma will present the State of the Nation address at 7pm tomorrow, which will be broadcast on various channels. The theme for SoNA 2017 is “The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo: Unity in Action Together Moving South Africa Forward.”

The president will provide an update on the implementation of the programme of action based on the National Development Plan.

The 2017 SoNA will be followed by a debate in the National Assembly and the president’s reply to the debate. Follow the conversation