Nelson Mandela File photo: Denis Farrell
Nelson Mandela File photo: Denis Farrell

Ramaphosa walking in Nelson Mandela’s shadow as he delivers SONA 2021

By Se-Anne Rall Time of article published Feb 11, 2021

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Durban - President Cyril Ramaphosa is preparing to deliver his fifth State of the Nation Address later this evening. On the same day, 31 years ago, former South African Head of State, Nelson Mandela was officially released from prison.

Ramaphosa’s speech is expected to be preceded by a poem by talented poet, singer and film producer, Siphokazi Jonas from the Eastern Cape - which could be regarded as an ode to Mandela who quoted the words of South African poet, Ingrid Jonker, in his very first SONA.

Yesterday, Speaker Thandi Modise, lamented that this year, the address fell on the 31st anniversary of former President Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

"That Sunday in 1990 was a watershed in our struggle for a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist South Africa, founded on supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law," Modise said.

Mandela had been arrested and imprisoned in 1962 and was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to overthrow the state after the Rivonia Trial. He served 27 years behind bars.

Today, Ramaphosa will step into Mandela's shoes as he attempts give South Africans a glimmer of hope for the future of the country which has been hard hit by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

This will be no easy feat for Ramaphosa as the country mourns the loss of more than 47 000 people to Covid.

The sitting will be hybrid, with limited numbers of Members of Parliament (MPs), distinguished guests and media in the National Assembly (NA) Chamber and others linking up through virtual platforms.

While many have expressed what they would like to hear from Ramaphosa this evening, opposition parties expect him to focus his attention on the economy, Covid-19 and the economy.

During his first SONA, on May 24, 1994, Mandela said his government's commitment to people-centred society of liberty bound the nation to the pursuit of the goals of freedom from want, freedom from hunger, freedom from deprivation, freedom from ignorance, freedom from suppression and freedom from fear.

Mandela, in his first Sona in a democratic Parliament, made major policy changes and announcements with the main focus on nation-building under the government's Reconstruction and Reconciliation Programme (RDP).

Children under the age of six and pregnant mothers will receive free medical care in every state hospital and clinic where such need exists. Similarly, a nutritional feeding scheme will be implemented in every primary school where such need is established.

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