Zahid Jadwat | 14 February 2020
After nearly an hour of incommodious behaviour that resulted in the delay of this year’s State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa finally got down to laying out the plans for the year ahead.
Initially, the scenes looked like a debate, the noise sounded like a fish market. The Speaker Thandi Modise kept shouting “take your seat” but the chaos continued as EFF members defiantly raised spurious points-of-order.
Embarrased and ashamed, South Africans waited anxiously for the red berets to be ejected from the chambers of a once highly respected national institution so that the business of the evening may go ahead.
Reminds one of the dark days of the Zuma era, when security personnel were promptly called to send the rowdy crowd out.
But that didn’t happen. Thandi Modise suspended the House temporarily. Quite different to former Speaker Baleka Mbete’s resolve.
But that’s not the purpose of this post. The EFF disruption should be treated as a by-story rather than one that dominates the headlines.
In contrast to his maiden SONA in 2018, when the people of South Africa were overwhelmed by the fact that a different man was on the podium after nearly ten years, the mood last night was largely pessimistic. The ‘sweeping changes’ many were sure he’d announce two years ago weren’t anywhere in the people’s expectations this time around. Most expected nothing more than empty promises and cherry-picked statistics. Same old, same old. Yes, it was.
Ramaphosa once again articulated the situation at Eskom – something he’s done over and over again. Unusually though, he didn’t claim to be “shocked” by loadshedding but he did warn that it would be inevitable for the immediate future as the embattled power utility undergoes major changes to help it cope with delivering on its mandate. Well, last year he said it would be unbundled into three divisions. No mention on the progress of that this year!
Last year he called on South Africans to share with him their ideas of a smart city totally free of Apartheid ideas. In following up with that promise, Cyril Ramaphosa said that there is a smart city being developed in Lanseria, Gauteng, which is expected to house 350 000+ people within 10 years.
He then touched extensively on the youth unemployment crisis. This was nothing more than appropriate in a country where 57% of youth remain unemployed. For this, the President said, resources will be redirected towards the cause of eradicating youth unemployment. However, further details regarding this will be revealed in the budget speech later this year.
But we patiently waited for the corruption topic. Finally, he slipped into it but quickly slipped out without mentioning “arrests”. Neither did he say anything about suspending those with scandalous clouds above their heads. That must have disappointed those patriots who yesterday requested that he declare 2020 “the year of Orange Overalls”.
Yes, it was a pathetic covering of that topic, especially since it is one of the biggest factors responsible for the declining state in which we find the country at the moment. It seems as though he’d rather boast about his locally produced suit than ruffle some feathers in the corrupt quarters.
The absence of any intention to punish corrupt people should be a great cause of concern to any person in this country. After all, it is highly organized corruption that has brought South Africa to the brink of disaster.
Then came the land topic. After going on about how crippled South Africs is, highlighting its various challenges, he still had the audacity to reassure us that one of the most catastrophic policies will forge ahead.
Let me remind you, Mr President, that you simply cannot successfully implement your plans for other issues in a unconducive environment like that which comes about with expropriation without compensation.
Lastly came the words everyone predicted:
The President wrapped up his 4th SONA saying: “We will not surrender our future to doubt or despair. We will continue to improve the lives of our people. We will embrace change. We will fear nothing. A new age has begun.”
Sadly, this year’s State of the Nation Adress clearly lacked real results from the past year and it will cause the calls for President Cyril Ramaphosa to act decisively will just grow louder. For now, SONA 2020 just brought about more embarrassment, more talk and lacked any indication of a clear bold plan.
Zahid Jadwat is the host of The Special Focus on Salaamedia. All opinion posts attributed to Zahid Jadwat are his own views and do not necessarily reflect those of Salaamedia and the Salaam Foundation.