Please tell your citizens where South Africa is going, Mister President
CAPE TOWN – The annual State-of-the-Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday, the second by President Cyril Ramaphosa, will be critical to addressing growing concern among investors, business and ordinary people about the stagnant economy, worsening unemployment and crime, grinding poverty and the crisis at Eskom.
The biggest question to be answered in the 2020 Sona is: where to from here?
November/December 2019 data from the South African Citizens Survey, conducted by Citizen Surveys and and released on Friday, showed that 28 percent of South Africans believed the country was heading in the right direction, which was a 10 percent drop from the data collated in May/June 2019, where 38 percent of South Africans felt positive about the direction of the country.
Ramaphosa, according to the same survey, will enjoy substantial support on the day of the Sona, as he has maintained the highest political figure rating.
Citizen Surveys’ strategic research director, Reza Omar, said: “President Ramaphosa continues to retain the highest favourability rating (61 percent) among the major political figures surveyed. (His) favourability rating reached a high point of 62 percent during the national and provincial elections. In the successive period, despite all the challenges facing him and the country, he maintained these very high ratings.”
The second highest ratings for a political figure went to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni (33 percent), followed by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan (28 percent).
With the financial and operational problems at Eskom likely to be a feature of Sona, 31 percent of citizens surveyed believed Eskom’s leadership were to blame for not doing their jobs properly, followed by municipalities that didn’t pay Eskom its money on time (24 percent).
The government, state capture, the ANC and former president Jacob Zuma were also blamed for the crisis. At the end of 2019, only 44 percent of South Africans trusted Eskom.
“Among other pressing aspects, crime (39 percent) has also been consistently mentioned, as has poverty (20 percent). Crucially, corruption (23 percent) has steadily increased in prevalence over time in the survey, reflecting the growing awareness of the impact of state capture and corrupt activities,” said Omar.
“South Africans will now be turning to the president to hear the plan that will help navigate the nation through these troubled times.”
The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, affirming a view expressed by many economic commentators recently, said last week: “February 2020 will be the month in which decisive developments may take place, where the Sona and the Budget could determine the economic performance and the business climate for the longer term.”
Developments in the latter part of January, such as the coronavirus, have underlined the sensitivity and uncertainty that plagues the global and the domestic economy.
BDO South Africa specialist tourism division head Christelle Grohmann said Mboweni had spoken at length in 2019 about the huge potential to expand the tourism sector.
“It is time for Sona to talk ‘the how’. The tourism train is about to leave the station, but there’s still time to catch it,” she said.