FIRST TAKE: Ramaphosa's SONA was high on dreams, low on detail

2019-06-20 21:19
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his annual State of the Nation address to Parliament. (Rodger Bosch, Pool/AFP)

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his annual State of the Nation address to Parliament. (Rodger Bosch, Pool/AFP)

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LIVE ANALYSIS: Can Ramaphosa make good on his seven SONA priorities?

2019-06-20 18:19

Watch live as News24's Tshidi Madia and Pieter du Toit unpack President Cyril Ramaphosa's first State of the Nation Address of the 6th Parliament. Expectations were high for Ramaphosa to deliver a speech that inspired the nation and the business community.WATCH

Pardon them, but the daily users of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa's dilapidated, burnt and never-on-time Metrorail trains may not be thrilled about President Cyril Ramaphosa's dreams of a high-speed train ferrying tourists from Cape Town to Musina.

And the grieving mothers of boys killed in Hanover Park, Delft and Bonteheuwel in gang violence over the past few weeks are unlikely to ululate about the prospects of a China-like Smart City with skyscrapers.

Ramaphosa's third State of the Nation Address (SONA) was high on dreams but low on detail. He touched on important issues but provided very little detail about how this would be achieved.

Compared to his two previous SONAs, this was his woolliest address yet.

Probably the most important statement of his address was recommitting to the constitutional mandate of the SA Reserve Bank, after the ANC's rogue secretary-general Ace Magashule announced that the central bank's mandate would be revisited.

The sole purpose of the bank is to protect the value of the Rand, Ramaphosa reassured citizens and investors. And governor Lesetja Kganyago and his team must do this without fear or favour.

It was important for Ramaphosa to draw a line in the sand.

He started strong, acknowledging that our economy is not growing, and that the government will have to make some tough choices, but failed to spell out what these would be.

I was expecting the president to announce the sale of non-strategic state-owned enterprises to fund the R230bn Eskom bail-out over the next decade, but he didn't go there.

Ramaphosa's address had many platitudes that we've heard before from his predecessors, Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki. I was looking forward to real action points, like those he announced in his previous two SONAs.

Ramaphosa's five strategic goals are important for focus, but how will we get there?

How will he ensure that no South African goes hungry? How will he get our economy to grow at a faster rate than the population? Who will create the two million extra jobs for young people over the next decade? How will we get every 10-year old to read for meaning? And how will Minister Bheki Cele and the police halve violent crime in ten years?

Ramaphosa made it clear that the government alone cannot do this – fair enough. But these goals will mean nothing and will disappear if they are not broken up into tangible, achievable outcomes.

Ramaphosa started his speech by referring to the devastating effects of the 1913 Land Act, but did not hint in any way how the debate about land reform may shape in the next 12 months. South Africa and the international business community need to hear him speak on this important matter, and not leave it up to ambassadors and popstars on Twitter to set the pace.

Eskom will be bailed out with R230bn over the next ten years, and Ramaphosa announced that Parliament will release some of this money earlier than planned to save the utility from defaulting on its debt. I was disappointed that Ramaphosa did not announce the new CEO and the restructuring officer of Eskom during his speech. It was the perfect occasion.

Ramaphosa referred to the tide turning on corruption and state capture, but not a single arrest has been made emanating from the hours of devastating evidence before Judge Raymond Zondo. How much more time does the NPA need to pounce on at least one of two of the culprits?

Bullet trains and smart cities are nice dreams, but while the basics are not in place, while the crooks roam the streets and the Metrorail trains are late, they are likely to remain just that.

Read more on:    cyril rama­phosa  |  sona 2019
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