For this 2019 SONA, the following contexts are crucial: the first and possibly most important is the status of the governing party and the second, linked to the former, is the solidity or otherwise of the leader of the ruling party who doubles as state president. In this case, it is the ANC and President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The SONA must ultimately convince society that the country has appropriate plans, a proper governing party, and a sound and solid political leadership to steer the country to prosperity.
The SONA must do what former president Thabo Mbeki did, christen his SONA addresses as the “Age of Hope”.
However, this SONA comes in the context of a fragile ANC.
Hence, the anti-Ramaphosa faction will use the SONA to campaign that the president is not addressing the party’s Nasrec resolutions. The radicalism of the Nasrec ANC resolutions around the status of the SA Reserve Bank and land expropriation without compensation could arguably have been earmarked to constrain Ramaphosa. The anti-Ramaphosa faction has positioned itself as the fiercest opposition of the Ramaphosa presidency.
This raises the question about how long Ramaphosa will last as both ANC and state president.
The instability at the top renders the party’s policies and state programmes short-lived. Whatever the ANC does is dependent on the faction that is in charge at that time.
It is not a well thought-out long-term plan based on proper vision and mission but rather based on the agenda of that faction. As such, a fragile leadership of the ANC is unable to inspire and motivate society through its president’s SONA.
Political leadership is a crucial element in the strategic development of the country. It is one thing that creates and leads to policy and programme certainty and sustainability. The ANC undermines this by constantly creating the impression that its own elected president may not last his first term.
The same applies to its secretary-general Ace Magashule.
A growing discourse within the ANC circles is about who will go first, the president or the secretary-general.
The ANC fragility that led to Mbeki and his successor Jacob Zuma being removed before their official terms ended, seems to be a continuous norm within the party.
This revolving door in the top echelons renders the party incapable of running a long-term state vision, policy and programme.
Rather than a cohesive and disciplined ruling party, the ANC is increasingly becoming an intra-class political squabbling party. The class contestations are not between the membership and the leadership, but within the leadership itself.
This amounts to a glorified gang warfare. The difference of this gang warfare is that it is not territorial but positional in relation to access to state levers and control of state resources. What might distinguish the squabbles within the ANC is the level of sophistry and alignment to top corporate institutions and leaders.
In the process, the gang that’s associated with the domestic and global capital institutions and leaders is likely to enjoy positive prominence in the media. The rival gang is likely to rely on grass root organisational mobilisation. This might include malicious exchanges of financial resources and patronage.
In an ideal political environment, the SONA ought to articulate the socio-economic status of society. This will be the easiest part as the ills of society are well known - unemployment, poverty, corruption and low levels of economic growth.
The second imperative of the SONA is to convince South Africa that the governing party has an appropriate short, middle and long-term plan to steer the country to prosperity.
An integral part of this is the third part - presenting to society a solid political leadership that is capacitated, able, cohesive and disciplined enough to appropriately drive the developmental agenda. This is sadly missing.
No matter how well state bureaucrats craft Ramaphosa’s speech and no matter how articulately he presents it, the questions remain: Is the ANC that he leads solid enough to deliver on the commitments of the speech? How solid is his driver’s seat in this very same ANC?
Ramaphosa’s prospects on his SONA commitments will primarily emanate from his own political base.
* Hlophe-Tembe is a political analyst.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.