PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the 2019 State of the Nation Address in the National Assembly last night.     Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the 2019 State of the Nation Address in the National Assembly last night. Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
EFF MPs appaluded when President Cyril Ramaphosa recognised former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe.     Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
EFF MPs appaluded when President Cyril Ramaphosa recognised former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe. Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa last night turned on the charm and humour to defuse tensions with the opposition in the opening remarks of his second State of the Nation address (Sona).

Amid fears that the EFF would disrupt the speech, Ramaphosa joked that he'd met EFF leader Julius Malema on the eve of the Sona - and had given him a commitment to sing the lyrics of the Hugh Masekela classic, Thuma Mina.

“We agreed that if the EFF wins the elections and he is installed as president, he will invite me up and I will sing it,” Ramaphosa said.

He added that he had also met DA leader Mmusi Maimane, and recruited him to be part of the band that would perform for a president Malema. “We will stand here and perform for him,” he said.

The EFF had threatened to turn the opening into a “question and answer session” on a donation by discredited company Bosasa to Ramaphosa's campaign to become ANC president.

There was however no charm when Ramaphosa, who announced May 8 as the date of the general election, switched to the business of the day.

He said government would support small-scale emerging farmers working the land and who needed support to fully develop their businesses.

“There are around 250000 small emerging farmers who are working the land Through an accelerated programme of land reform, we will work to expand our agricultural output and promote economic inclusion."

Ramaphosa said the government’s policy and legislative interventions would ensure more land was made available for agriculture, industrial development and human settlements.

“I wish to commend the many South Africans who participated in the dialogue."

A panel will identity land parcels from the state to be used for land reform purposes including building houses.

Parliament this week released the names of MPs to serve on the ad hoc committee to draft a Bill to amend Section 25 of the Constitution for land expropriation without compensation.

Ramaphosa also announced the establishment of task team to work exclusively on the removal of bureaucratic hurdles inhibiting investment in South Africa.

The team would comprise the Presidency, National Treasury, Invest SA, and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.

The president has been pushing to raise $100billion (R1.3trillion) for South Africa over the next five years.

He said they wanted to grow the economy and create more jobs for the people.

Ramaphosa also announced major changes in fixing State-Owned Entities and confirmed the unbundling of Eskom.

He hinted that the government would carry Eskom’s R100billion debt after its request last year.

This would see its debt coming down from R419bn, and the utility would now be split into transmission, generation and distribution entities in line with recommendations of the task team he had set up last year.

“To bring credibility to the turnaround and to position South Africa’s power sector for the future we shall immediately embark on a process of establishing three separate entities."

Ramaphosa also told Parliament they would soon table a Bill on National Health Insurance "after extensive consultation.

"The NHI Bill will enable South Africans to receive free services at the point of care in public and private quality-accredited health facilities", he said.

Ramaphosa also spoke strongly about fixing the security agencies, saying they were key in fighting corruption and state capture.

The committee chaired by former Cabinet minister Sydney Mufamadi to restructure the State Security Agency has made recommendations.

He will re-establish the foreign and domestic branches of the intelligence agencies, Ramaphosa said. He will chair the revived National Security Council to ensure proper co-ordination in all levels of intelligence services.

Despite talking tough on state capture Ramaphosa did not say a word about Bosasa.

The EFF and DA have been pushing for him to come clean on the R500000 donated to him by Bosasa for his campaign to lead the ANC.

The EFF did not carry out its threat to disrupt the Sona on the Bosasa matter despite earlier threats.

However, Ramaphosa has seen the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, on the Bosasa matter.

Mkhwebane confirmed to the media that she will release a report on Bosasa in the next two to three months, and she was still going to interview more people.

But Ramaphosa said the evidence from the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture was disturbing.

“To this end we have agreed with the National Director of Public Prosecutions that there is an urgent need to establish in the office of the NDPP an investigating directorate dealing with serious corruption and associated offences,” he said.

Ramaphosa said they would establish the new directorate very soon.

Ramaphosa said a specialised unit was needed to evaluate the evidence emerging before, among others, the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

The directorate’s task would be to prosecute where there was sufficient evidence and enable the speedy recovery of stolen public funds, the president said.

Additional reporting: African News Agency (ANA)