President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the State of the Nation Address (Sona) at 7pm on Thursday. The address will take place before a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament.
Sona is an important milestone in South Africa’s democracy as it measures — from the view of the president — the country’s political, social and economic landscape.
In the address, Ramaphosa will outline his government’s key policy objectives and deliverables for the year ahead, flag challenges while also highlighting what has been achieved since his last address in 2023.
With a general election looming this year and poll after poll showing a dramatic decline in support of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Ramaphosa is facing mounting pressure from all sides.
Ramaphosa’s Sona 2024 Speech
6.37pm - President Ramaphosa is expected to face little disruptions at the Sona 2024, as EFF members have decided to boycott the event. This will be the first Sona in years, that is likely to have no disruptions.
The doors of the chamber have been closed, meaning no one else may enter, except the deputy president, the president, the National Assembly Speaker and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces.
Members of the governing ANC were seen in buoyant mood, singing Struggle songs inside the house. All projects suggest the 2024 general elections will be a hotly contested election, with the ANC expected by most election polls, to dip below 50% for the first time.
7.10pm - The 2024 Sona is underway smoothly in the absence of the EFF, with no disruptions, after the party announced on Thursday that they would boycott proceedings.
National Assembly Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, outlined parliamentary rules that MPs should follow before Ramaphosa could take the stage.
In terms of the new rules, no member is allowed to interrupt the president with a point of order while delivering the Sona.
Ramaphosa on opportunities for youth
The president said he had spent Wednesday in a youth initiative programme, where he heard first hand the experiences of young people.
“I had the privilege of spending the day with 1,000 young people bearing testimony on how they have been able to see progress in their own lives through government and private sector programmes. These programmes are geared at building on Expanded Public Works Programme, so we launched the Youth Employment Stimulus.
“We have placed one million young people as teacher assistants at 23,000 schools. If you speak to teachers and principals, they will tell you how valuable they have been to the school and while giving them valuable experience,” he said.
Ramaphosa said giving young people work, enabled them to gain valuable experience for the world of work.
Ramaphosa said much of the task of the sixth administration was to get the country through the challenges and to work to regain their way. Ramaphosa said South Africa had weathered every storm that left its mark.
Ramaphosa said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic would have been far worse if the country had not joined hands to stop the pandemic, support health workers, protect the most vulnerable, and roll out vaccines.
More teeth for the NPA’s Investigating Directorate
7.44pm - Ramaphosa has announced plans to further support the NPA by giving the Investigative Directorate more teeth.
“We want the ID to be a permanent entity with full investigative powers. Much more work is needed based on the recommendations of the Anti Corruption Advisory Council,” he said..
He said they were committed to protect whistleblowers and said the government would not stop until all those who were responsible for State Capture were held accountable and all money stolen were recovered, including from blue chip companies.
Ramaphosa bets on green Northern Cape
The president is hedging his bets on a renewable energy boom in the Northern Cape, which could lead to thousands of jobs.
“We are positioning the economy for future growth and a revolution in green technologies,” said Ramaphosa.
In the past three years, says Ramaphosa, the country had seen extreme weather events as a result of climate change.
He said this focus on renewables would create growth and jobs, but said government would invest in these green technologies at a pace and scale the country could afford.
Ramaphosa also announced that a special economic zone in the Northern Cape would be created for this green energy boom.
“We are going to set up a Special Economic Zone in the Boegoebaai port to drive investment in green energy.There is a great deal of interest from the private sector to participate in the boom that will be generated green hydrogen energy projects.
“We have decided to support electric vehicle manufacturing in South Africa to grow our automotive sector, which provides good jobs to thousands of workers,” he said.
Ramaphosa on Transnet
The president said a roadmap to stabilise the performance of Transnet and reform the countries logistics system had been outlined.
“Working closely with business and labour, we have 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,” he said.
Ramaphosa said with increasing conflict in the Middle East affecting shipping traffic through the Suez Canal, South Africa was being positioned to offer bunkering services for ships that will be rerouted via South African shores.
Ramaphosa on corruption
The president said the first task that the 6th administration had to take while assuming office was to tackle corruption and state capture.
“Our first priority was to put a decisive stop to state capture, to dismantle the criminal networks within the state and to ensure that perpetrators faced justice.
“We had to do that so that we could restore our institutions and rebuild our economy,” says Ramaphosa.
He said stolen funds are being recovered and the government will rest until all money stolen is recovered and until blue chip corporations that were involved in state capture are held accountable.
He said more than 200 accused persons are being prosecuted. More are under investigation.
President Ramaphosa has paid tribute to the late Namibian President Hage Geingob, who died on Sunday, by observing a brief moment of silence. He described him as a dear friend.
6.40pm - Former president Thabo Mbeki was seen arriving at the Cape Town City Hall, along with his wife, Zanele. Former president Jacob Zuma has been invited, but is not expected to attend.
Former deputy president Baleka Mbete, who also served as the Speaker of the National Assembly during the fifth administration, was also seen arriving at the event with her husband.
Sona 2024 Red Carpet
5pm - For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic and the preceeding lockdowns, Parliament has embraced a red carpet affair after a quiet affair in recent years. The red carpet show can be watched below.
Ramaphosa promises since 2018
5.10pm - IOL’s Political Journalist Siyabonga Mkhwanazi has produced a comprehensive outlook, looking at Ramaphosa’s big promises since 2018 and how he has faired on that score.
The report, which is scathing on how the Ramaphosa-led government is handling the load shedding problem, can be read by clicking here.
5.11pm Speaking to eNCA News ahead of the Sona 2024, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, said part of the problem they were faced with is resolving Eskom problems. He said his priority was not Eskom, but his task was simply to increase the electricity availability factor for the country, which included sourcing power from external parties, including neighbouring countries.
Jobs and Electricity
5.18pm - Freedom Under Law’s Judith February, commentating on a panel discussion on eNCA, said the two focal issues facing the Ramaphosa-led government was the unemployment crisis, which was difficult to address without the ability to keep the lights on, and addressing the energy crisis itself.
She said creating jobs and producing electricity, were the two focal issues that the country needed to address.
5.53pm - DA leader John Steenhuisen says this is the last Sona by an ANC president. He says the real Sona, will be delivered after the elections, by a non-ANC president. Steenhuisen tells the SABC News that he is expecting Ramaphosa to make populist promises during his address.
5.30pm - Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, sporting a dress made by her daughter, and a bag from the Cape Society of the Blind, tells the SABC News that the most vulnerable people in society must be protected. She says government must support those who are vulnerable in society, but warns against guarding to become a welfare state.
Never sold on the Ramaphoria
5.33pm - Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald says he never once bought the Ramaphoria during the Thuma Mina phase in 2018 when Ramaphosa took over from former president Jacob Zuma.
Groenewald says he was never sold on the promises from the start. He tells the SABC News on the red carpet that unemployment has increased under his leadership and that some people have said there was more corruption under Ramaphosa.
He also said Ramaphosa, who promised that there would be no corruption of Covid-19 money, must apologise to the people of South Africa, for all the empty promises.
5.40pm - Presidency Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who is retiring after the sixth administration, says the economy is recovering after the Covid-19 pandemic. She says were it not for Covid-19, as a Cabinet Minister in the sixth administration, they would have done much better.
Dlamini Zuma says she will continue helping people in the communities when the sun sets on her political career.
Load Shedding Moratorium
5.45pm Eskom has failed to make a commitment that there would be no load shedding during the Sona 2024. As things stand, some people in South Africa will not be able to watch the last Sona for the sixth administration as Stage 2 load shedding is taking place.
No EFF at Sona
5.50pm - The Economic Freedom Fighters have announced that they will boycott the Sona this year, after five MPs, including party leader Julius Malema were banned from attending after storming the stage last year. Attempts to challenge the ban in court have failed.
The ANC’s alliance partner, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) called on Ramaphosa to get more young people into the labour market.
However, opposition parties predict that whatever he says tonight is a little too late in the wake of South Africa’s electricity crisis, crumbling infrastructure, deteriorating healthcare system and as well as rampant crime and corruption plaguing a weary nation.
The business sector has called for bold announcements about greater participation of the private sector in critical sectors in South Africa, including energy and logistics, in a bid to solve the enduring economic challenges in the country.
Read more here.
Will Sona be a true reflection of the economy?
Even though there will be no announcement of the 2024 general election date during Ramaphosa’s Sona, investors are expecting policy certainty, reform agenda, and clarity on the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) to be primary items on top of his list.
It comes as analysts and economists have questioned whether Ramaphosa’s Sona would give a true picture of the reflection of the state of affairs in the country, or it will simply be a repetition of the ruling party’s successes over the past 30 years with a view to the upcoming election.
Read more here.
No empty promises in tonight’s Sona, please
In addition, the United Association of South Africa (UASA), has urged Ramaphosa to provide concrete solutions to the country’s problems instead of making yet more promises.
UASA spokesperson Abigail Moyo said corruption was rampant, unemployment remained high.
She pointed out that last year saw 332 days of load shedding, infrastructure and logistics were crumbling, and high inflation and interest rates continued. Clean running water, housing and proper sanitation remained a myth for millions of South Africans.
“The simple truth is that it is worse than before and we have heard it all in the past,” Moyo said.
Read more here.
No sloganeering, Mr President
Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) CEO, Busisiwe Mavuso, said in her weekly newsletter on Monday that the Sona is a key agenda setter for the work of government.
“In an election year, there is probably more pressure than ever to demonstrate success and make bold commitments to action.
“I hope President Ramaphosa’s speech this week will show a clear commitment to the hard work of reform implementation, rather than sloganeering.
Read more here.
What civil society expects from Sona 2024
This week, a broad coalition of civil society organisations fired a salvo at Ramaphosa ahead of the Sona on Thursday, urging for strong leadership that embraces bold, transformative measures to navigate the country towards a future where equality, care, and the wellbeing of all citizens are paramount.
An open letter by 15 organisations that include; the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ), Budget Justice Coalition (BJC), Children’s Institute, UCT, Corruption Watch, Equal Education, Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA), Health Justice Initiative (HJI), National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (NEHAWU), #PayTheGrants, Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD), RightfulShare, SECTION 27, Social Policy Initiative (SPI) and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), have urged Ramaphosa to centre this week’s Sona around the needs of the country's most marginalised communities, advocating for policy and implementation efforts to be realigned to address these critical concerns.
Calling Thursday’s Sona a “watershed moment”, the letter calls on the government to adopt a unified approach in advancing and adequately funding key policy priorities to ensure the promotion of constitutional rights.
Read more here.