As the term of the sixth administration draws to an end, pressure is mounting on President Cyril Ramaphosa to deliver a State of the Nation Address (Sona) this evening that does not sing praises of the government’s achievements in the last three decades, but tackles the myriad challenges facing the country.
This came out loud and clear on Wednesday when some opposition parties, civil society groups and unions shared their expectations of the Sona.
Opposition parties believe it will be an “election speech” similar to his January 8 statement at the ANC anniversary celebrations.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, hinted that the 2024 Sona would provide a reflection of the past 30 years coupled with an account of the work of the sixth administration in the past five years.
“I think it is important that it is allowed its own expression and that South Africans can take out the celebratory element of it. Remember, we are marking 30 years of our democratic dispensation and it is also the last Sona under this sixth administration,” he said.
DA MP Kevin Mileham said Ramaphosa should use his Sona to outline practical steps his government would take to cushion consumers from the rising cost of living, especially the cost of fuel.
Mileham said his party had consistently called for a comprehensive review of the fuel price determination model, with particular emphasis on fuel taxes and levies.
“Ramaphosa must clearly outline how his government will review the fuel price framework and the corresponding tax system which have inflated the fuel retail price and driven up the cost of living.
“Anything short of this is further proof that the ANC is no longer fit to govern, and that they must be voted out in the forthcoming general elections,” he said.
Despite its leader Julius Malema and other senior MPs being barred from attending Sona, the EFF vowed to hold the president accountable for his failures.
In an interview with the media after a walkabout at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Wednesday, the party’s secretary-general, Marshall Dlamini, said they were not disturbed by the court’s decision which barred senior party leaders from attending.
Dlamini said their MPs would hold the president accountable for the mess in which the country found itself.
Dlamini said rules were made in Parliament, therefore it was where the president must be held accountable.
The EFF said blocking them was a ploy to allow Ramaphosa to deliver his last address without being held accountable.
GOOD Party secretary-general Brett Herron said what South Africa did not need to hear from Ramaphosa were more hollow plans, however well-intended they might be.
“Our country is awash with plans, but we haven’t managed to plan our way out of the economic growth crisis at the root of most of the unacceptable conditions the people of South Africa face,” Herron said.
He said Ramaphosa should address the economic growth crisis and the energy crisis, among others.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said he expected Ramaphosa to deliver an “elections Sona” to commend the ANC for what it has supposedly achieved over the past 30 years.
Cosatu acting national spokesperson Matthew Parks said: “The nation is still battling to recover from a painful decade of state capture and corruption, stubbornly high unemployment at 41% generally and 60% for young people, the world’s highest levels of inequality, the global pandemic of Covid-19 and the economic lockdown, a painful period of load shedding, endemic crime and corruption including cable theft, embattled state-owned enterprises and increasingly dysfunctional municipalities, badly overstretched public services and weak economic growth.
“These are the key challenges workers expect the president to announce bold and decisive measures to address,” Parks said.
Stellenbosch Business School development economist Dr Nthabiseng Moleko said: “My hope is that we come out as a nation thinking that we have done adequately and sufficiently given the nature and the economic context that we are currently in.
“We have seen in the last year very minimal economic output, a significant slowing down of economic growth even to the projected targets now that are being revised downwards to 0.6%.
“We’ve seen the most aggressive increase in interest rates and monetary policy tightening that has attempted to curb inflation, but households are not only heavily indebted, they are unable to meet their basic needs of living. Cost pressures are much higher, (and) people’s wages have not increased parallel to the inflation.”
Criminologist Dr Simon Howell said safer communities should again be a priority because crime and violence were primary issues.
“There needs to be strategic engagement beyond policing and security measures – a whole of society approach, increasing social services, education, economic support, so communities can develop themselves out of crime.
“Crime is a deeper social economic issue. Throwing police at it doesn’t do much other than land a lot of people in prison for a while,” he said.
Ahead of Thursday’s Sona, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo accompanied by the secretary to Parliament, Xolile George, and some ministers from the security cluster did a walkabout to assess the infrastructural readiness and other preparations at City Hall.
“We met the organising team and received briefings on the final arrangements for Sona 2024. We also had an inspection in loco to establish the state of readiness to host the State of the Nation Address that President Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled to deliver this evening.
We are absolutely happy with all the work and demonstrated the meticulous planning that went into this major event,” said Mapisa-Nqakula and Masondo in a statement.