President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

Parliament - The lack of growth in the economy and not enough jobs is "a concern that rises above all others", President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his State of the Nation Address on Thursday.

"Our economy is not growing. Not enough jobs are being created. This is the concern that rises above all others. It affects everyone," Ramaphosa said.

"It affects you, the young man eMzimhlope, out of school five years now and still not employed.

"It impacts you, the single mother from Delft, whose grant supports not just yourself but your grandchildren too.

"It hurts you, the worker in Nelson Mandela Bay, who despite earning a salary is struggling to make ends meet.

"It is hard for you, the young student from the Sol Plaatje University, who must rely on a thin stipend from your parents to feed yourself.

Yours are the lived struggles of the people of this nation. We have heard you, and many others."

On Wednesday, trade unions, business, civil society groups and political parties said bold leadership and decisive action were needed to deal with corruption, inclusive economic growth, job creation and the dire state of state-owned entities (SOEs).

Cosatu said workers expected Ramaphosa to show bold leadership and take decisive steps as well as set time frames to deal with “ticking time bombs”.

“The federation expects the president to make it clear that there will be harsh consequences for those who undermine these objectives.

“(He) needs to exercise his new democratic mandate to act with speed and vigour to execute the desperately needed policies to save South Africa from a return to an economic recession,” Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said.

Pamla added that workers and voters expected the government to deliver on election promises. “We do expect a comprehensive plan for job creation that involves the creation of new businesses and the expansion of the economy in to growth industries.”

Pamla said Cosatu was deeply worried about the SOEs. “Clear plans are needed for Eskom, SA Airways (SAA), SABC, Denel, Prasa, etc.”

He also said that the federation expected a firm commitment to prosecute corrupt officials. “We also expect a bolstered set of internal policies for preventing future corruption. It's time to match rhetoric with some action.”

Business Leadership South Africa chief executive Bonang Mohale said all eyes would be on Ramaphosa to see if he was serious about investment and growth or opted to tinker with an unsustainable growth trajectory.

Mohale noted that uncertainty in the land market continued to bedevil investor confidence. “In light of the recent submission by the panel of experts on land to Parliament, it is imperative that anxieties over the expropriation of land are settled without further delay.”

Mohale added that there was an urgent need to devise a clear plan to rebuild the capacities of SOEs, particularly Eskom, SAA, SABC, Denel and Transnet.

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s Wayne Duvenage said they expected Ramaphosa to deal with a number of issues in his SONA, including policy certainty on land and the reserve bank.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Ramaphosa’s SONA required bold decisions if the future of South Africa was to be safeguarded.

“The only question that must be on tomorrow’s agenda is how we ensure that 10 million citizens, who are unemployed, have opportunities to find work and that requires us more than anything to focus on how we build better partnerships with business but improve on the livelihoods of South Africans,” he said.

Maimane said it could not be business as usual.

“We need deliberate and intentional reforms to get the South African economy in the right direction,” he said.

Speaking to the media on the steps of the National Assembly, Ramaphosa said his address was important taking into account that the country’s economy did not perform well in the last quarter.

He added that there were a lot of challenges facing the nation, which needed to be addressed.

“I will be addressing a number of issues that cut across the issues that are of concern to all of us as South Africans and out of this we hope we will be able to dream big as South Africans, aim for the stars, and be galvanised to build a South Africa we deserve.”

Political Bureau and IOL