Johannesburg - Some analysts have criticised President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address saying he ran out of ideas and failed to come up with clear solutions to problems faced by South Africa.
The panel of analysts were speaking at a special IOL Live broadcast of Sona.
The panel included Professor Sipho Seepe, who is deputy vice-chancellor for institutional support at the University of Zululand; Isobel Frye, the director of studies at the Poverty and Inequality Institute; Professor Saths Cooper, president of the Pan-African Psychology Union; and, Professor of political science at the University of Western Cape, Bheki Mngomezulu.
In his address, Ramaphosa raised issues of unemployment, inequality, energy, the burning of Parliament, the July unrest and job creation that needed to be attended to.
“By its nature, Sona does not provide details, but I think where the president went astray is something I had warned about last week, if I were in his shoes I was going to keep my speech very short, but identify a few specific areas, delve into those areas and then provide practical solutions to them,” said Mngomezulu.
Mngomezulu said the president tried to talk about improving the situation with businesses , basically revising the business act and trying to boost the economy through a variety of ways, including infrastructure development.
“That is a welcome initiative but we have heard that before. Most of the things that Ramaphosa said wasn’t something new. He tried towards the end of the speech to give hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The reality for me is that there is nothing of substance that I can point to,” said Mngomezulu.
He said admitting that the country was at the crossroad at the beginning of his speech was commendable. He added that Ramaphosa should have come up with clear solutions to problems.
Mngomezulu said Ramaphosa also talked about making changes in the security cluster. “Cabinet reshuffle is expected and it might take place in the security cluster,” Mngomezulu said.
Regarding social unrest and the state of the economy, Seepe said Sona wasn’t an accounting exercise but about how do South Africans feel. “The answer is no. They are faced with multiple crises,” Seepe said.
He said South Africans face a political and leadership crisis. “There was no attempt to deal with that. The issue of the economic crisis; it is not enough for the president to tell us about high unemployment, we know that and people feel that.
“There's a social crisis every day: there are service delivery protests. We expect the president to bring a sense of hope,” Seepe said.
The panel also highlighted Ramaphosa’s love for PR, hence he has phrases like “new dawn” and “thuma mina”.
“The problem is that Ramaphosa is a president who has invested too much in PR, using phrases like ‘thuma mina’. So far Ramaphosa has run out of ideas; in fact he had no vision. We have seen for four years that it’s four wasted years,” said Seepe.
Ramaphosa said the government's intent was to leave no one behind; that was why they were expanding public and social employment.
However, Cooper disagreed with him. “Ramaphosa says ‘leave no one behind’, but the statistics show that more people are going to be left behind. The figures of youth unemployment are shocking,” Cooper said
Frye said for her, the inputs on poverty and unemployment by Ramaphosa were disappointing. “We know that unemployment figures are increasing quarter by quarter. Those are the formal ones.
“If we look at the last quarter of unemployment, we have about 11 million people unemployed. We have a vast number of people who are called ’not in employment’ – they are neither employed, nor unemployed.
“We have about 13 million people who are off the radar but they are adults who have needs. They have desires, they have hope and dependants, but they are just written off the balance sheet of adults who need to be counted,” said Frye.