'The future must be built now' - Ramaphosa, as he holds on to his dreams

2019-06-26 22:12
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation address on June 20, 2019, in Cape Town. (Jeffrey Abrahams/Gallo Images)

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation address on June 20, 2019, in Cape Town. (Jeffrey Abrahams/Gallo Images)

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President Cyril Ramaphosa held on tight to his dreams when he responded to the debate on his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Wednesday, calling on all South Africans to work together to build the future now.

During the eight-hour debate on Tuesday, several opposition speakers commented on the vast gap between the realities of living in South Africa compared to the dreams of a smart city with bullet trains that Ramaphosa sketched last Thursday.

The president started by thanking every MP who participated in the debate and the many South Africans who shared their views.

"I found the comments to be sharp, pointed, rich and most useful. I was heartened by the comments that were made because they reinforced our conviction that we need a clear and common vision of the future."

Ramaphosa referred to the Freedom Charter, which was adopted 64 years ago to the day. 

"The Freedom Charter was a statement of extraordinary ambition, made a time when the majority of South Africans lived in conditions of repression, where their rights were denied and their opportunities for economic advancement deliberately curtailed," he said.

"They looked beyond the dire circumstances in which they lived toward a country that was fundamentally different.

"They were articulating a dream that many people thought would never be realised."

He said the Freedom Charter underpinned the Constitution.

"It is the vision that informs the National Development Plan and our vision toward 2030, and it is the vision that must inform everything we do now.

"The State of the Nation Address was not merely about dreams," he stated.

"It was about the lived reality of our people and setting out what we need to do to achieve the South Africa we want. It was about articulating a vision and a direction for a government programme."

He said the ministers would provide details on this programme in the budget vote debates that Parliament would be occupied with next month.

He said SONA was about setting out the seven priorities of the administration, namely:

  • 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.
  • Toward the end of his speech, he turned again to his thoughts on a smart city, which DA chief whip John Steenhuisen dubbed "Ramakandla" during the debate.

    "Honourable members, in preparing for the State of the Nation Address, I mentioned my wish to talk about a completely new city, with skyscrapers, schools, universities, hospitals and factories. I was advised to put it into the section on 'dreams'," he said to some muted laughter.

    "But it actually belongs in the section on a future and desired 'reality'."

    According to Ramaphosa, at the current rate of urbanisation and population growth, it was estimated that our cities would need to accommodate an extra 10 million people by 2030.

    "The question we need to confront is where these people will live. Where will they work? We are already facing significant backlogs in housing, schools, clinics and social services in almost all major urban centres."

    He said every wave of people moving to cities lived further away from the centre, where the jobs and services they needed were. 

    "This situation is not sustainable and, unless we find effective solutions, it's only going to get worse," he said.

    "It is time to confront reality.

    "We should not force on ourselves a false choice between responding to our immediate situation and preparing to meet our future needs.

    "The future must be built now.

    Read more on:    parliament  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  politics  |  sona

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