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President Zuma is a hands-on leader

By Sydwell Mabasa

We read, with disbelief, the tirade by William Saunderson-Meyer supposedly on the performance of government, entitled “The Zuma government is floundering about” (August 18 2012).

Saunderson-Meyer tells us that the President “has been preoccupied with ensuring a second term at the African National Congress’s elective conference in December”. The writer provides no scientific evidence to back up this assertion. He has taken gossip that he has read elsewhere, and presents it to readers as analysis.

Also worrying, is the tone of the article, which is very condescending. It demonstrates that the writer has no respect for the South African head of state.

We have no problem with people criticizing the President on the work of government, as we always stress, but they should base their arguments on facts. And they should try and keep debates within the bounds of human decency which Saunderson-Meyer’s apparent hatred of the President makes it difficult for him to do.

Government is performing well. In 1994, the ANC government inherited a mess, and had to create a democratic government out of splinters of apartheid establishments that had been designed to maintain the racial dream of separation and underdevelopment of the majority. It has not been easy, but the work done thus far is truly impressive.

Some key achievements of the country since 1994 at a political level include basic democratic principles. We have a Constitution which guarantees human rights for all, the right to a minimum standard of life, including the right to access health, education, social security, food and water. The Constitution enshrines the right of all people to elect a government of their choice in regular, free and fair elections in a multi-party democracy, an independent judiciary and freedom of expression, equality and freedom from discrimination on racial, gender or any other ground and the rights of workers.

Indeed life is getting better each day for millions of South Africans since 1994. The target of ensuring universal access to primary education has been reached before the 2015 deadline. This demonstrates that we are on track to achieve or even exceed this MDG target. We have a high number of girls attending primary, secondary and tertiary education. This is significant for addressing gender disparities. Building schools infrastructure is ongoing including the eradication of mud schools nationally. Matric results improve each year, indicating that a lot of work is being done.

On health, for many years South Africa was viewed as a pariah when it comes to dealing with HIV and AIDS. The strides we are making in dealing with this scourge should be acknowledged and recognized. The drop in the transmission of HIV from mother to child is impressive and dramatic. The increasing numbers of South Africans who are taking the HIV test to 17 million indicates that we are making tremendous progress as it proves that people are now acting on the information they have received on HIV and AIDS. Such positive news about the country needs to be celebrated by all.

We have reduced the numbers of people experiencing the worst levels of income poverty significantly, and have in fact achieved the MDG target of reducing the number of people living on less than one US dollar a day. Most of the achievements in reducing extreme levels of income poverty can be ascribed to government’s comprehensive social protection programme such as the social grants programme and free health care for the poorest. We have been succeeding in the fight against crime, although a lot of work is still being done as this has been historically a violent society. Between 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 overall serious crime decreased by 5%. In the same period murder came down by 6.5% and attempted murder by 12%. Carjackings declined by 24% while house robbery dropped by 11%.

We can mention many other achievements.

Granted there are some delivery challenges here and there and we do not hide these at all, but are working to address them. The national government has intervened in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo to address education delivery problems there.

We are not only focusing on the present. The National Planning Commission has produced a National Development Plan, which is a blueprint for the South Africa we wish to build. That is what preoccupies the President Jacob Zuma government.

We should build this country together. Rubbishing government will not create a prosperous South Africa. So, Saunderson-Meyer would do well to make concrete suggestions on how to build a better life for all South Africans, instead of being cynical and spreading negativity.

Sydwell Mabasa

Communications: The Presidency

Pretoria

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