'Someone must wake the man up' - opposition parties unimpressed by Ramaphosa's SONA

2019-06-21 13:13
President Cyril Ramaphosa in Parliament (Rodger Bosch, AFP)

President Cyril Ramaphosa in Parliament (Rodger Bosch, AFP)

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has been labelled a dreamer who must be woken up by opposition leaders – many of whom were less than impressed with his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday night.

Ramaphosa delivered a less emotive address, filled with ambitions for a better and competitive South Africa. The president outlined seven priority areas for this administration, including employment, social welfare, housing, health and education.

Aligned to these priorities, he also listed his government's five goals over the next 10 years. In terms of one of these goals, the state will aim to grow the economy at a rate faster than the growth rate of the population.

"I dream of a South Africa where the first entirely new city built in the democratic era rises, with skyscrapers, schools, universities, hospitals and factories," said the president. The president also noted the economic growth rate for 2019 was likely to be revised down by National Treasury.

But opposition leaders slammed the SONA, and EFF leader Julius Malema questioned the president's ambitions to lead the country.

Malema said Ramaphosa had been hoping to take the hot seat as the country's president for 30 years, but didn't have a plan for what to do after this happened.

"The biggest disappointment is that Cyril wanted to be president for three decades, but he doesn't know why he wanted to be president. That three decades should have prepared him.

"The dream ended in 1994, now it is time to implement Mr President. Someone must wake the man up."

Ramaphosa's 'laundry list of promises'

The UDM's Nqabayomzi Nkwankwa said Ramaphosa delivered a laundry list of promises and a wishlist to the nation without clear objectives on how to achieve these.

"Everything that Ramaphosa touched on are things we have heard before. [Former] president [Jacob] Zuma said them, maybe less eloquently [and] Ramaphosa has said them more eloquently than the previous government, but there is nothing new."

ACDP leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe also expressed his disappointment, saying that 27% of South Africans who were unemployed were hoping for clearer direction from Ramaphosa, rather than his dream.

"It was a nice dream speech. For 25 years our people have been dreaming. Those who are in tertiary [institutions] have been dreaming to get jobs and they have not gotten jobs. Many who are in shanty houses have been dreaming about housing. It is not the first time South Africans dream. We are surprised the president is only dreaming now when South Africans have been dreaming for 27 years."

Meshoe said it was positive that Ramaphosa reaffirmed the independence of the Reserve Bank. However, in the same breath he lambasted the president for not giving specifics about how he planned to achieve his targets.

Recycled rhetoric

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Ramaphosa's speech was more recycled rhetoric, and lacked plans to bring about "the urgent change we need".

"The reality is that committing to a litany of '10-year goals' means very little to people who desperately need immediate change. The ANC has had 25 years to bring about change, and while the president is dreaming, the majority of South Africans are living a nightmare."

Maimane added that it was disappointing that the SONA had become nothing more than an acknowledgement of the systemic problems the country faces – without announcing urgent and immediate reform measures.

"While our economy remains in ICU, the president expects his recycled rhetoric, sprinkled with one or two minor changes, to lead to fundamental reform and take us on a path of rapid economic growth that creates a job in every home. This was not a SONA for the 10 million jobless South Africans, the majority of whom are young people.

"The truth is, the president said very little about government's actual plans. It was devoid of policy certainty that could steer our economy towards a path of growth and prosperity."

Read more on:    parliament  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  cape town  |  politics  |  sona 2019

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