News | Opinion
Like it or not, an objective glimpse at this year’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) tells me it’s the best of all the
five Sonas Cyril Ramaphosa has delivered as president of South Africa.
All the others were promises and statements of intent.
But the latest gave feedback on the progress made on previous addresses – something we tend to miss as the focus is usually on what could go wrong rather than what went right.
Of course, he had no lack of excuses for not delivering the goods – the pandemic topping the list.
There were unprecedented job losses directly due to the pandemic, lockdown and expenditure to fight the virus.
But when he made an avalanche of further promises in the third and fourth quarters last year, even ardent loyalists began to raise their eyebrows.
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Anticipating criticism, the president was quick to say the latest Sona was no ordinary one and was not to make promises.
He highlighted his priorities: to defeat Covid-19, implement economic reforms to achieve economic growth and create sustainable jobs, fight corruption and strengthen state capacity.
The daily infection figures have dropped and the country seems to have the defeated the second wave. With the arrival of vaccines, the numbers will further decrease.
On the economic front, vehicle manufacturers have come to the party.
From Ford Motor Company to Toyota and Mercedes Benz, they have shown full confidence in the Ramaphosa government with increased investment and pledges.
They responded positively to his invitations to help grow the economy and create jobs.
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The sector has also recovered to about 70% of normal annual production, in spite of Covid-19.
Regarding corruption, we saw the president hiring top-level advocates into the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), filling all senior positions.
The Hawks, the NPA’s investigative directorate, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), among others, have increased the tempo of corruption fighting.
Previously, the NPA and the Hawks, in particular, were useless, serving only former president Jacob Zuma’s political interests.
Under Ramaphosa, there is hope the State Security Agency (SSA) will work for the nation again, rather than a politician.
But that high-profile, corrupt officials are not yet behind bars made many doubt Ramaphosa. That’s where he, through the criminal justice system, must make a move.
READ MORE: Chaos erupts in Parliament as Malema lashes Ramaphosa’s Sona
The R500 billion economic relief package for new grants, increased social grants, paying the unemployed and over R100 billion to support business in distress and in loan guarantees to firms could have been used to focus on economic growth had the virus not emerged.
But despite this, there has been progress in infrastructure investment with R340 billion in projects in energy, water, transport, telecommunication and other areas Ramaphosa mentioned.
It is important to note that he said: “These infrastructure projects will lead to the revival of the construction industry and the creation of much-needed jobs.”
With sectors like agriculture performing so well recently and hope for the revival of manufacturing through assistance to small, micro and medium enterprises, the sky is the limit.
Political journalist Eric Naki.
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