South African President Jacob Zuma is set to deliver his annual state of the nation speech in which he is expected to outline his government’s job creation initiatives and infrastructure development at the cost of more than $100 billion over the next three years. What is different about this year, however, is Zuma asked South Africans to tell him this week what they hope and expect from his government using social media platforms Facebook and Twitter.
Zuma and his government need to create an environment in which job creation can flourish. Last year he promised his African National Congress government would deliver five million new jobs by 2020.
But in the past year job losses in the private sector have continued, and most new jobs have been temporary opportunities in public works programs.
The South African economy’s recovery from the global recession has been very slow with growth still below three percent. December’s unemployment figure of 24 percent is likely to increase this quarter as a consequence of new school and university graduates coming into the job market.
Even before the start of the 2008 recession - during two decades of uninterrupted growth - the economy did not create enough jobs to significantly reduce unemployment nor did it keep pace with new job seekers which have increased exponentially since the end of apartheid.
Many South Africans are frustrated and angry at the apparent inability of the government to create an environment for job growth. In addition they feel that corruption has become endemic at all levels of government, and many believe that Zuma’s government is characterized by profligate spending and self-enrichment.
It seems unsurprising therefore that hundreds responded to Zuma’s call to share their feelings on Twitter and Facebook. Here is a sampling of what South Africans want their president to know.
Innocentia Mkhize of KwaZulu-Natal wrote" “Mr. President, please address the issue of job creations for people with disabilities, I'm a qualified Chemical Engineer but sitting at home for years not employed. It seems as if both public and private sector are still discriminating against us.”
Nkosingiphile Cofu of Durban wants Mr. Zuma do something about what he described as the appalling and dysfunctional state of education, particularly in traditionally black schools, which produce high school graduates who cannot read and write. Cofu said to Mr. Zuma. “If we cannot arrest this divide where one [is] very poor and other is opulent we are running a risk of a class revolution. We can avoid that by bridging that divide. Our education is in a mess you can save our future by acting now Msholozi [Zuma’s clan name - use demonstrates respect]."
Ntlatlapa Bokang is particularly angry with Mr. Zuma telling him: “What do you pride yourself with? corruption, nepotism, undermining the courts and off course protection of information bill. I always honestly ask myself what do you say to God when you pray! how do you sleep at night when you know too well that your government is failin south africans.”
Thato Nteso pleaded for Mr. Zuma to turn words into actions saying: “We hear of the ways for job creation and skills development in the speech but we see little being done about the matters in regards to youth especially new graduates out of institutions with no experience and still struggling to get employment no matter how many qualifications they have its heartbreaking, having to spend time and money only to come back sit at home with multiple degrees. If something more could be done to tackle that.”
But some people were complimentary and encouraging.
Zolani Ndlela of East London wrote: “We are proud of you as the nation, our father. We wish you a good luck on your speech, qina sizwe [isiXhosa: strength to the people].”
And enthusiastic supporter Sheila Raphunga wrote: “This is one of the million reasons that makes me to be a proudly South African. am an ANC member for life no matter what! Well done Mr. President.”
Photographs on Zuma’s Facebook page show that he keeps up-to-date with his Twitter and Facebook accounts using an iPad.