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And the actual?

23rd February 2024

By: Riaan de Lange

     

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Actual’ means to exist in fact – in other words, to be real. There are not many occasions, during the course of the year, when I despair at having to write a piece for this column. The State of the Nation Address (SoNA) is my only actual annual despair.

Why are not all the figures in the SoNA actual? Since this is an annual ‘event’, and the address is crafted well in advance, one would expect attention to be paid to detail. While reading this yearʼs speech, I recalled my high school math teacher’s retort to a rugby match day report, which stated in the opening line that attendance at the event was plus or minus 30 000. “So, there was no one in attendance”, he said. “It’s maths.”

So, how many times were ‘about’, ‘almost’, ‘around’, ‘fewer’, ‘less than’, ‘more than’ and ‘nearly’ mentioned in the SoNA?

Once for ‘about’: “About 200 000 more workers obtained ownership of shares in the companies they work for, bringing the total worker ownership in companies in the South African economy to well over half-a-million workers.”

Twice for ‘almost’: “The proportion of jobs . . . held by black people increased almost fivefold between 1996 and 2016. And in the past year, we have increased the financing pledges for our Just Energy Transition Investment Plan from around R170-billion to almost R240-billion.”

Seven times for ‘around’: “Freezing orders of R14-billion have been granted to the National Prospecting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit for State-capture-related cases, and around R8.6-billion in corruption proceeds have been returned to the State . . . for our Just Energy Transition Investment Plan from around R170 billion to almost R240 billion . . . [We] have established dedicated teams to turn around five strategic corridors that transport goods for export purposes. Through redistribution, around 25% of farmland in our country is now owned by black South Africans . . . In the last five years, we have supported around 1 000 black industrialists with funding and other forms of support . . . Around R21-billion was dedicated over the medium term to the implementation of the six pillars of the plan.”

Three times for ‘fewer’: “Fewer learners are dropping out of school. Today, fewer South Africans go hungry and fewer live in poverty.”

Once for ‘less than’: “Less than half of all households had Internet access in 2011, compared with 79 % of households in 2022.”

Eleven times for ‘more than’: “More than 100 000 South Africans lost their lives to the disease. . . . [We] provided a child support grant to meet her basic needs. This grant . . . continues to be a lifeline for more than 26- million South Africans every month. Through this programme, we have created more than 1.7-million work and livelihood opportunities. Through the stimulus, we have placed more than one-million school assistants in 23 000 schools . . . Great progress has been made in bringing those responsible for State capture to justice. More than 200 accused persons are being prosecuted. Since we revived our renewable-energy programme five years ago, we have connected more than 2 500 MW of solar and wind power

“Through tax incentives and financial support, we have more than doubled the amount of rooftop solar capacity installed across the country in just the past year. We have implemented sweeping regulatory reforms . . . in electricity generation, with more than 120 new private energy projects now in development. We are going to build more than 14 000 km of new transmission lines. . . The number of ships waiting to berth at the Port of Durban . . . reduced from more than 60. We completed the auction of broadband spectrum after more than a decade of delays . . . These black-owned firms employ more than 90 000 workers.”

And three times for ‘nearly’: “South African National Roads Agency Limited . . . has awarded more than 1 200 projects. . . Today, nearly nine out of every ten households live in a formal dwelling. At the end of apartheid, only six out of ten people had access to clean drinking water. Today, that figure has increased to nearly nine out of ten South Africans.”

It’s time to get actual.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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