Did you see it? The State of the Nation Address 2016, delivered by President Jacob Zuma in Parliament this evening, was nothing if not dramatic.
Delayed by a full hour by MPs from all parties demanding to have their say, when it finally got underway it was without the EFF and those well known rabble rousers from COPE, who led the walkout (shurely shome mishtake? – Ed) in attendance.
The biggest news is that the government wants to reduce the number of capital cities from two to one, by closing down either Pretoria or Cape Town as an administrative centre. (What about Polokwane?)
The local elections got a date – they’ll take place on 18th May – and there was feedback on the plan to build more nuclear power stations. On that note, the President sounded rather more cautious than before, emphasising there’d be no rush into a deal without proper due dilligence.
Good news was shared in that the private sector has invested R194m in renewable energy, a partnership model which Zuma says is how private and public money should work.
There was also a lot of commitments to reducing government waste, including no more lavish meals for MPs after budget debates (there are meals and golf days around today’s event, mind).
As far as the technology goes, Zuma confirmed that the Department of Science and Technology will finalise details of the Sovereign Innovation Fund, created to support local entrepreneurs. He also – for the first time – put a price on the delivery of broadband to rural areas as outlined in the National Broadband Plan, SA Connect.
SA Connect, which is way behind schedule and has been largely ineffective up until now, calls for 50% of schools and hospitals to be connected with minimum speeds of 10Mbps by the end of this year. In SONA, Zuma allocated R740m to connect 8 000 government buildings in eight provinces over three years.
That’s unlikely to get SA Connect back on track, but after two years of no action at all, it might be welcomed as a start. In October, the budget for broadband rollout was cut by then Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene to just R100m.
So this looks like a volte face – although we’ll need more details on exactly what that money is and how it will be spent to be sure.