Thursday's Sona the most significant since 1994, says Business Leadership SA

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering his state of the nation address in parliament on February 7 2019. File photo.
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering his state of the nation address in parliament on February 7 2019. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to deliver his fourth state of the nation address (Sona) in parliament on Thursday, amid threats of disruption by the EFF and expectations of a game-changing speech from optimists.

The address comes as the country faces a crippling energy crisis, with rolling blackouts a daily occurrence. The country is also facing some of the highest unemployment figures and a stagnant economy.

The presidency confirmed on Wednesday that the Ramaphosa will use his speech to give direction and to respond to key issues, such as gender-based violence (GBV) and concerns from investors. He will also address issues relating to the embattled Eskom and SAA, it said.

Trade union federation Cosatu, an ANC ally, said it was expecting Ramaphosa’s address to focus on ensuring that there is policy coherence, better management of limited resources, ways of increasing and strengthening the capacity of the state and employment creation.

“It needs to break with the neoliberal policies that have undermined the task of state and economic transformation, socio-economic development and employment creation,” said Cosatu’s parliamentary coordinator, Matthew Parks.

“With an economy unable to reverse high unemployment, a more concerted effort from the state as a driver of employment is needed. Our over-reliance on capital intensive employment sectors as the main drivers of our economy remains a developmental challenge. Without fundamental transformation of our growth path, South Africa will remain susceptible,” Parks added.

He said they also wanted to hear the president highlighting progress the government has made with regards to halting the crisis at Eskom and what measures are being undertaken to save it.

The federation also wants to hear plans to save other SOEs. “We hope that the government will outline its vision and intention of restructuring the SOEs. State asset restructuring should not be ideologically driven, but should be about fixing them so that they can play their strategic economic role and raise the quality of people’s lives through providing affordable, accessible services to the people,” he said.

According to parliament’s presiding officers, the significance of Sona cannot be overemphasised. “Through Sona, the president tables a report on the outcomes of government interventions since the previous addresses, and outlines a programme to further ensure the state’s development interventions aimed at improving the lives of South Africans,” they said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

According to Business Leadership South Africa, Ramaphosa’s address is the most significant speech since 1994. BLSA’s CEO Busisiwe Mavuso wrote earlier this week that Ramaphosa’s address suggests government will build on commitments made at the investment summit last year and move swiftly to unblock administrative and regulatory bottlenecks to domestic and foreign direct investment.

“The president’s prioritisation of regulatory issues as the single most important impediment to growth is not only welcome, but is vital if the compact between government, business and labour to create jobs and advance inclusive growth and transformation is to be grounded in tangible results,” said Mavuso.

The address will not go ahead without a glitch however, especially if the EFF makes good on its promise to disrupt the speech. The party wants Ramaphosa to fire public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, who it accuses of mismanagement and other wrongdoings, including the failures of Eskom.

Parliament revealed that the reigning Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, and captain of the World Cup-winning Springbok team Siya Kolisi will be among the 2,000 guests invited to the event.


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