SONA cheatsheet: 9 things to look out for in CR's speech

2019-02-07 14:02
First Lady Tshepo Motsepe with President Cyril Ramaphosa at the State of the Nation Address in 2018

First Lady Tshepo Motsepe with President Cyril Ramaphosa at the State of the Nation Address in 2018

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A year ago this week South Africa was on tenterhooks as the State of the Nation Address (SONA) was postponed by a week because of efforts to dislodge then president Jacob Zuma from Tuynhuys and the Union Buildings. A year and a bit later President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver what should have been Zuma's final state of the nation speech. This is News24's tip sheet on what to look out for on Thursday evening when Ramaphosa addresses the nation.

1. State of the nation or state of the party?

Ramaphosa's second SONA (he eventually got to deliver one last year) happens months before the country goes to the polls in an all-important general election. The ANC has been buffeted by scandal upon scandal and the innards of a corrupt government laid bare in a series of commissions and inquiries into grand corruption. The party has a nervous twitch about it, but the bully pulpit offered by the Presidency is a major advantage. Will Ramaphosa be the statesman on Thursday evening and offer an inclusive message, or will he be the party man, attempting to extol the successes of government?

2. Nine wasted years

3. EFF thuggery and braggadocio

4. The Eskom salvage operation

Between 2008 and 2018 the company has suffered under disastrous leadership, poor planning and fraud and corruption. Its debt levels are astronomically high and infrastructure is crumbling. Ramaphosa has now been forced to unbundle the company against the wishes of a large chunk of his own party and all his alliance partners. That's what happens when state capture becomes doctrine: you lose control of events. Eskom's break-up is the direct result of that.

5. State-owned enterprises

Eskom, there are a host of state companies that are insolvent or bankrupt, with all of them suffering from poor planning, worse leadership and rent-seeking corruptors. The SABC is on its knees, SAA is losing tens of millions of rand a week, the PIC seems like a private financing scheme and Transnet's finances are in a shambles. Most of these SOEs, like Transnet, are vital to the economy and are supposed to play a central role in resurrecting the economy, but they are in actual fact only contributing to the sky-high cost of doing business. There have been some notable advances in turning the armada of failures around. But maybe some more boards can be fired and replaced with competent directors who move with speed and urgency, like the SAA's?

6. Land reform, or, the land is ours?

The sting has however been taken from it after a parliamentary committee recommended that the Constitution be amended to enable expropriation. But the ANC's version of EWC and the EFF's version – the party that made land its main election plank – are light years removed from each other. Ramaphosa has endorsed EWC with three main caveats. Will he comment on constitutional amendments?

7. Grand corruption and state capture

If 2018-2019 was the year of symbolism and declaration of intent, 2019-2020 must be the year of action. People must go to jail, in orange overalls, and be locked up for 23 out of 24 hours. Commissions are great – and necessary – but prosecutions restore trust. Or, talk is cheap, but money buys the whiskey.

8. The economy

Ramaphosa has attempted to talk South Africa out of trouble, visiting New York and Boston, London, Europe, the Middle East and China, hosting an investors' and jobs summit and appointing investment "lions" to champion South Africa's cause. But a difficult regulatory environment, policy uncertainty, political instability and a continued hostility towards business has hampered recovery efforts. This week's stoush with five of South Africa's biggest foreign investors shows the left hand doesn't exactly know what the right hand is doing. Clarity, people.

9. The rainbow nation

The Ramaphosa campaign – during the ANC's leadership race – made non-racialism a central tenet of their offering, and in his first speeches as ANC leader and head of state he started to reintroduce the unity message. Thursday's speech will be an election speech, but if Ramaphosa is going to rise up to the expectations the country's first democratic president had for him, he will have to deliver a strong message about unity and race.

Read more on:    cyrial ramaphosa  |  jacob zuma  |  sona 2019
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