President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his second state of the nation address (SONA 2019) in a little over five months and, while he addressed the problems of the country head-on, not everyone was satisfied with his speech.
Let’s start with the positives of SONA 2019. Ramaphosa did not dodge the fact that South Africa finds itself in a precarious position.
While it would probably have taken a masterful act of misdirection to avoid the topic, it felt like a refreshing change of pace to hear an acknowledgment that there was a lot of hard work ahead in rebuilding the country.
The seven key priorities he listed were:
- Economic transformation and job creation
- Education, skills, and health
- Consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services
- Spatial integration, human settlements, and local government
- Social cohesion and safe communities
- A capable, ethical and developmental state
- A better Africa and World
With five tenants driving those priorities, namely:
- No person in South Africa will go hungry
- Our economy will grow at a much faster rate than our population
- Two million more young people will be in employment
- Our schools will have better educational outcomes and every 10-year-old will be able to read for meaning
- Violent crime will be halved
“Let us agree, as a nation and as a people united in our aspirations, that within the next 10 years we will have made progress in tackling poverty, inequality, and unemployment,” he said.
Focus is being placed on expanding the industrial sector, bolster the mining industry, supporting the agricultural sector, education and making it easier for tourists to visit the country.
He encouraged South Africans to support local industries and buy local products and there was a nice reveal that the suit he was wearing was produced in Salt River in the Western Cape.
He also reaffirmed the constitutional mandate and independence of the South African Reserve Bank.
Sounds like while everybody was talking, @CyrilRamaphosa was busy working, engaging with possible partners for the sake of our very much needed economic reforms. Indeed, there’s opinions and then there’s fact. #SONA2019
— p u l u m o (@JPMohapeloa) June 20, 2019
The biggest criticism of SONA 2019 so far is that it is all just talk, but that is the point of a speech after all.
He did fail to adequately address the land issue, which was a huge bone of contention with the Economic Freedom Fighters.
“The President said nothing about the land. That which the president has said is going to happen is what has been happening and has not delivered the land to our people,” EFF president Julius Malema told the SABC after the speech.
“The ANC has abandoned their agenda to expropriate land without compensation because they make black people stupid. They used it during the election and elections are over.”
— Dineo Motau (@DineoMotau5) June 20, 2019
Ramaphosa also spoke of his dreams of building a new high-tech city, a bullet train, and of leaving the past behind to create a better future.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with lofty ambitions, there was some negativity around the sentiment.
Speaking to the SABC after SONA, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi admitted that he had never heard a SONA receive so much applause, but he was unsure about how the President would implement all of his plans.
“In all the years that I have been here, I don’t think that I remember any SONA where there were so many plaudits. What the President said, unless you are mad, is something we all desire.
“When it comes to action, he said the time is gone for planning and this is time for implementation. But then he also says our economy is not performing at the rate at which we can do what we would like to do.
“If one realises the country is, in fact, afloat through borrowing already, I get confused about where the money is going come from.”
Reverend Kenneth Meshoe was also unconvinced.
“It was a nice dream speech, but South Africans have been dreaming for 25 years.”
Unfortunately, and quite predictably, this one was decided well before SONA 2019 had even started when the news leaked that Eskom would be receiving another massive bailout and that he would be fast-tracking its implementation.
“For Eskom to default on its loans will cause a cross-default on its remaining debt and would have a huge impact on the already constrained fiscus,” the president confirmed in his SONA.
“We will, therefore, table a special appropriation bill on an urgent basis to allocate a significant portion of the R230 billion fiscal support that Eskom will require over the next 10 years, in the early years.”
I hate how the president says Eskom is our collective responsibility and cant allow it to fail. Newsflash Mr President, Eskom has already failed…dismally at that! #SONA2019
— Motiiši (@Thaso_luv) June 20, 2019