South Africa’s caretaker president Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday delivered the 25th annual State of the Nation Address. His introductory remarks celebrated the historical political freedom of South Africa, which he defined with words of “hardship and the suffering which generations of our people endured- their struggles, their sacrifices and their undying commitment to building a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it.” 

This SONA marks an important historical moment since it marks a quarter of a century of democracy since South Africa’s first free elections for all its people.

SONA 2019 as articulated by Ramaphosa underscores five distinct areas that the government will focus on. These are, respectively: Accelerate inclusive economic growth and create jobs.  Improve the education system and develop the skills that we need now and into the future. Improve the conditions of life for all South Africans, especially the poor.  Step up the fight against corruption and state capture. Strengthen the capacity of the state to address the needs of the people.

Ramaphosa, as was expected, gave a glowing report on a year of his leadership, essentially anchored around a claim of clean-up of his pet subject of state capture as the epicentre. He shared his success story of cleaning up SOE’s and the intervention of a Government stimulus and recovery plan that he claims redirected public funding to areas with the greatest potential for growth and job creation. Ramaphosa also told us how his government introduced a range of measures to ignite economic activity, with primary focus restoring investor confidence and support employment. He went on to inform SA that his government is currently active in stabilising 57 municipalities where 10,000 municipal infrastructure projects are being implemented.

Ramaphosa did not leave out to inform SA that his plan of raising R1,2 trillion in investment is on track. He told SA that in 2017 foreign direct investment in total was R17bn, this he juxtaposed with, ‘official date shows just in the first three quarters of 2018, there was an inflow of 70 billion.”

As was expected, land redress a fundamental ANC 54th resolution in the SONA was accorded an insignificant two- liner, as part of accelerating land reform, we heard again, the government has identified land parcels owned by the state for redistribution. This significantly toned-down version of land redress as demanded by the masses, confirms that the president and his leadership listened to the investors and the letter penned by the WEOG countries.

Needless to say, Ramaphosa’s SONA besides being a glorious moment of self – praise proved thin on the core issues of firstly ANC resolutions and job creation. His use of his CR17 campaign mantra of ‘inclusive growth” as juxtaposed and in replacement of the ANC’s radical economic transformation stays. Meaning the ANC’s 54th Conference resolutions that made him ANC president is long a case of history, consciously eclipsed by the known liberal-agenda crafted faction in the ANC’s push for inclusive growth. With this SONA he again reiterates this is his response to the quest of the masses for undeniable radical economic transformation.

On the creation of jobs as always, the SONA proved featherlight and directionless except to nuance what will be done. It was not the first time Ramaphosa promised jobs, can we remember how he in SONA 2018 boasted how his government will create 330,000 jobs annually. Well, Ramaphosa failed to tell South Africa his year of leading SA produced a paltry 2000 jobs.  He again referred to the Presidential Jobs Summit which, when implemented, he again promised, would double the number of jobs created every year. The SONA again refers to the manufacturing sector as targeted for this job creation utopia, yet it is empty in mapping a coherent plan for job creation. He also does not explain why his targeted figure was so far missed and what was responsible for this failure.

As was expected Ramaphosa did not miss the opportunity to again punt his Youth Employment Service project, this idea accommodates unemployed youth in paid internships in companies across the country.

On Eskom, Ramaphosa confirmed what some of us always maintained was the intention of his leadership.  He confirmed Eskom will be unbundled into three separate entities – generation, transmission and distribution. We knew this because the appointment of the Board in January 2018 followed by his Task Team of December 13, 2018, with a very short due diligence mandate was always the intention of selling of unbundling Eskom and selling it off. This plan he really approved in 2015, when he headed up the war room of Eskom and a group of investors with deep pockets proposed this.

Beyond platitudes and self-gloating claims of working to clean up what he termed wasted nine years, Ramaphosa dismally failed to deliver what he set out as the annual target for job creation.

SONA 2019, can thus be summarised as one that is foreign-investor directed. It at a local level confirms a liberal DA-agenda and is simply not one that is led by a pro-poor focus. With this SONA statement, Ramaphosa continues to arrogate the role of self- appointed messiah of fixing the wrongs he attributes to his predecessor when he wholly exonerates himself. 

He continues to deceive South Africans not to hold him accountable at a personal level for his role. He remains tone-deaf on why increasingly high numbers of his cabinet members and ANC top six leadership including himself remains implicated in various acts of corruption for associations with among other BOSASA and the Watson family businesses.

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine is a political commentator and writer. 

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