MPs question whether Cabinet and business will dance to Ramaphosa's SONA tune

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
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  • President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of The Nation Address was met with skepticism from opposition MPs.
  • The DA said it had no confidence in Cabinet ministers to play ball with Ramaphosa's plans.
  • The EFF said the address did not put state investment at the centre of SA's hopes to create jobs and revive the economy.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's sixth State of The Nation Address (SONA) elicited skepticism from members of Parliament (MPs), with opposition parliamentarians charging that the president had little hope to deliver on any of the the promises made in his speech.

MPs went as far as to point at Ramaphosa's own ministers in Cabinet as the reason they believed his pro-business address would fall flat on delivery.

The SONA sought to chart an economic recovery for South Africa following the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown.

Delivering the address at the Cape Town City Hall on Thursday, Ramaphosa promised a team in the Presidency that will cut red tape, the establishment of a separate transmission subsidiary at Eskom, the Infrastructure Fund's R100 billion development plans for the next 10 years, and Presidential Employment Stimulus job opportunities.

The DA said it had no confidence in Cabinet ministers to play ball with Ramaphosa's plans. The EFF said Ramaphosa's address did not put state investment at the centre of the government's hopes to create jobs and revive the economy.

Out of the DA playbook

As the DA tabled a motion of no confidence in Ramaphosa's Cabinet, opposition leader John Steenhuisen said the president's address appropriated the DA's manifesto and its governing policies.

"This is a strange SONA to debate because large parts of the president's speech is straight from the DA's playbook. Let's be clear. That is a good thing. It's a good thing. Because what we need if we want to fight poverty is an agreement on where and how jobs are created, and for the very first time, someone on that side of the House seems to get it," said Steenhuisen.

Steenhuisen echoed Ramaphosa's sentiments that government was not responsible for creating jobs, but that business was. However, the ANC has for decades done all it could to stifle job creations, Steenhuisen said.

"You talk about solving the energy crisis and ending load shedding - and you have been talking about it for a decade now. As we speak, DA governments stand ready to buy their power directly from independent power producers," Steenhuisen added.

He said appointments including Sipho Nkosi, Mavuso Msimang, and Daniel Mminele betrayed Ramaphosa's intention to create a parallel state within the ANC because the president did not trust his own Cabinet. 

'Worst president ever'

EFF leader Julius Malema said black business leaders that supported Ramaphosa at the beginning of his Presidency regretted supporting him as he had failed to advance their interests. He called Ramaphosa "the worst president to have ever occupied the position".

"It is evident now that despite the confidence given to the former liberation movement for the past 27 years, the government has failed to defeat poverty, grow the economy, and dismally failed to create jobs," said Malema.

Malema said it was disingenuous for Ramaphosa to suggest that it was not the government's job to create jobs when the National Party-led government established state-owned enterprises to create high-paying jobs for white South Africans during apartheid.

He said the appointment of Nkosi to the Presidency team to cut red tape was moot as the president should have merely fired the ministers responsible for red tape, instead of establishing teams within the Presidency.

ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina defended Ramaphosa's address as an indication of the government's intention to make "bold economic moves" towards reforms in energy, ports, broadband, and ease of doing business.

IFP MP Narend Singh said it would be "impossible" for the president to meet the "avalanche of expectation" that came with the SONA and that the address was doomed to go from a declaration of intent to a wish list.

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