Ramaphosa's lacklustre Sona full of bold claims, underwhelms critics

President Cyril Ramaphosa at the State of the Nation address at the Cape Town City Hall. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

President Cyril Ramaphosa at the State of the Nation address at the Cape Town City Hall. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 9, 2024


Cape Town - It was more of the same promises as President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered an underwhelming State of the Nation Address (Sona) at City Hall last night.

In the last Sona of the 6th democratic administration before elections take place later this year, Ramaphosa provided no timelines for any grand plans, including when the social relief of distress grant (SRD grant) would be extended.

Instead the president hailed the successes of the ANC government over the past 30 years, using the analogy of Tintswalo - “democracy’s child” born in 1994.

Ramaphosa kicked off by blaming state capture for wreaking the greatest damage caused to the country.

He promised to address challenges in the logistics sector, tackle crime and corruption, and accelerate job creation.

He said around R8.6 billion in corrupt proceeds had been returned to the state.

“A restored and revitalised Sars has collected R4.8 billion in unpaid taxes as a result of evidence presented at the Commission, while the Special Investigating Unit has instituted civil litigation to the value of R64 billion.”

He said his government had taken steps, including through new legislation, to strengthen its ability to prevent money laundering and fraud.

“With the assistance of business, we have set up a digital forensic capability to support the NPA Investigating Directorate, which in due course will be expanded to support law enforcement more broadly,” said Ramaphosa.

On load shedding, Ramaphosa said this matter would soon be a “thing of the past” - a promise made several times before.

He said his government was going to build more than 14 000km of new transmission lines to accommodate renewable energy over the coming years.

“We set out a clear plan to end load shedding, which we have been implementing with a single-minded focus through the National Energy Crisis Committee. We have delivered on our commitments to bring substantial new power through private investment to the grid, which is already helping to reduce load shedding.”

He said last year the government had implemented a major debt relief package that would enable Eskom to make investments in maintenance and transmission infrastructure and ensure its sustainability going forward.

“Since we revived our renewable energy programme five years ago, we have connected more than 2 500 MW of solar and wind power to the grid, with three times this amount already in procurement or construction.

“Through tax incentives and financial support, we have more than doubled the amount of rooftop solar capacity installed across the country in just the past year,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa said they decided to support electric vehicle manufacturing in South Africa to grow the country's automotive sector.

“We have decided to give special focus to regions like Mpumalanga to enable the creation of new industries, new economic opportunities, and sustainable jobs. And in the past year, we have increased the financing pledges for our Just Energy Transition Investment Plan from around R170 billion to almost R240 billion.”

Transnet and the country’s port challenges Ramaphosa said, working closely with business and labour, his government has established dedicated teams to turn around five strategic corridors that transport goods for export purposes.

“The number of ships waiting to berth at the Port of Durban, which has experienced severe congestion in recent months, has reduced from more than 60 ships in mid-November to just 12 ships at the end of January.

“Transnet has appointed an international terminal operator to help expand and improve its largest terminal at the Port of Durban. We are overhauling the freight rail system by allowing private rail operators to access the rail network,” he said.

Speaking on crime Ramaphosa said his government has strengthened the ranks of the police through the recruitment of 20 000 police officers over the last two years and another 10 000 in the year to come.

“An extra 5 000 police officers have been deployed to public order policing. The SAPS has launched Operation Shanela as a new approach to target crime hotspots, which has resulted in over 285 000 arrests since May last year.”

He said: “The Economic Infrastructure Task Teams that are operational in all provinces have had important successes in combating cable theft, damage to critical infrastructure, and illegal mining. Through close collaboration with the private sector, we have seen a reduction in security incidents on the rail network.”

He said the government launched the new Border Management Authority last year to improve the security of our borders and has already stopped over 100 000 people who tried to enter our country illegally.

“Together with civil society, we developed the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence, together with civil society, as a society-wide response to this pandemic.”

Ramaphosa said the country continued to condemn the killings in Gaza.

“Guided by the fundamental principles of human rights and freedom, we have taken up the Palestinian cause to prevent further deaths and destruction in Gaza. We have welcomed the ruling of the International Court of Justice that Israel must take all measures within its power to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians,” said Ramaphosa.

On climate change, Ramaphosa said, “To address the persistent effects of global warming, which manifest themselves through persistent floods, fires, and droughts, we have decided to establish a Climate Change Response Fund.”

He said this will bring together all spheres of government and the private sector in a collaborative effort to build our resilience and respond to the impacts of climate change.