President Cyril Ramaphosa together with the Parliament presiding officers addresses media outside the National Assembly, about the readiness of the house for the State of the Nation Address. Picture: Phando/Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Durban - When President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) as a democratically-elected president on Thursday in Parliament, he will do so against a backdrop of a nation seeking economic relief after the country’s economy contracted by 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019.

In his February 2018 State of the Nation address, Ramaphosa concentrated largely on job creation and economic growth and stimulation while he acknowledged that although poverty had declined significantly following the dawn of democracy 25 years ago, there had been some reverses in recent years.

“Poverty levels rose in 2015, unemployment has gone up and inequality has persisted. For several years, our economy has not grown at the pace needed to create enough jobs so that we can lift our people out of poverty,” Ramaphosa said as he delivered his first SONA, a day after replacing Jacob Zuma as president.  

At the time he promised to convene a Jobs Summit within months and it duly sat in October 2018 where Ramaphosa said that up to 275 000 jobs would be created annually with the aim of stimulating and growing the economy to become more productive, that companies invest on a far greater scale, workers are better equipped and that economic infrastructure is expanded.

Now the hard task for Ramaphosa is to deliver to almost 27.3 percent of the population who are unemployed. South Africans will be yearning to hear of tangible programmes and projects being put in place to ensure that close to 300 000 of them get a job annually. 

Ramaphosa also promised the convention of a social sector summit to tackle poverty, inequality and other related social problems but this was yet to come to fruition. 

Another of Ramaphosa’s high profile focus areas in February was to intervene decisively in stabilising and revitalising State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and ridding them of corruption by turning the tide on corruption in the SOEs. 

He said that the commission was critical to ensuring that the extent and nature of state capture was established and that public confidence is restored in SOEs while those implicated in state capture and corruption are identified. 

The work of the commission has been clear with several witnesses coming forward and implicating senior government officials of the time, including former president Jacob Zuma and Nomvula Mokonyane in allegations of corruption and facilitating state capture. 

With the commission expected to complete its work with 180 days since its commencement the public will now be looking to see which legal measures will be taken against government officials and officials of SOEs who have allegedly been at the centre of state capture and corruption.

Political Bureau