Ramaphosa’s State Of The Nation Address – Another Year And More Challenges Needing Action

Yeshiel Panchia
Published 12 months ago
State Of The Nation Address 2022 at Cape Town City Hall
(Photo by Gallo Images/Daily Maverick/Leila Dougan)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address last night highlighted the strength of the South African people amidst multiple social and economic challenges, but received mixed reviews.

Four years into his term, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered yet another State of the Nation (SONA) address in Cape Town late yesterday, this time outside of the National Assembly and not in Parliament, which had been severely damaged by a fire last month.

Coming two years into the global COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the South African economy, and almost a year after riots and unrest tore through the country, as well as continued issues from state power utility Eskom and the phenomenon of state capture, many observers were seeking an optimistic outlook for the year ahead.

“We are working together to revitalize our economy and end the inequality and injustice that impedes our progress,” said Ramaphosa, introducing his speech. “We are standing together against corruption and to ensure that those who are responsible for state capture are punished for their crimes. We are rebuilding the state and restoring trust and pride in public institutions.”

While Ramaphosa’s address focused on the resilience of the South African people in dealing with the challenges the nation has faced, some observers were not reassured, citing an apparent lack of clear action on challenges highlighted year after year. “We are concerned that the Presidential SOE (State Owned Enterprise) Council is ‘preparing recommendations’ on SOEs to be retained, consolidated or disposed of, but if government was serious about this, the President would have pronounced on meaningful disposal of non-core SOEs that have not made a profit in two years,” said civil society accountability non-profit The Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) in a statement.

Opposition parties held similar sentiments, lauding the focus of Ramaphosa’s speech, but criticizing the lack of apparent action by the President. “Judged by the words alone, this is a commendable SONA,” said Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen in a statement. “But words mean nothing until you put them into action. And so we will reserve our assessment until we see movement on all these issues.”

Opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also concurred, but issued a more strongly-worded statement. “The fact of the matter is that South Africa is in a state of collapse, and no meaningless appeals for solidarity… will change the dark reality for the black majority in this country,” said the party.

While lockdown restrictions have been all but lifted in their entirety, economic growth has been forecast to slip to 2% in 2022, according to Momentum Investments, citing challenges around electricity supply and unemployment, amongst others.

South Africans face a challenging year ahead, and online discussions around the SONA address is weighted heavily around problems facing ordinary citizens. “Criminals are running amok. Murder, rape, robbery, CIT heists, kidnappings… not a word from the President. Clearly, there seems very little political will to Make SA Safe. #SONA2022,” tweeted attorney and social commentator Yusuf Abramjee.

Judging by the thousands of shares of the comment, many South Africans seem to be in agreement. However, it’s not all criticism, with the President reviewing many key issues such as small business development, focusing on averting challenges with regard to climate change, and the extension of the social grant to assist with COVID-19 until next year, and developing higher education opportunities for the future. “We have the opportunity to be at the forefront of green growth, of low-carbon industrialization, of pioneering new technologies and of taking quantum leaps towards the economy of the future…,” said Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande, in a press statement responding to the President’s address.

“I welcome the President’s focus on the economy as well as the priorities that have to be achieved,” he continued.