President Cyril Ramaphosa should come up with a creative solution to boost South African economic productivity if he is to deal with the high unemployment rate in the country in his State of the Nation Address next week, says a leading macro-economist.
Miyelani Mkhabela, CEO and chief economist at Antswisa Transaction Advisory, said South Africa needed to improve productivity and competitiveness in the priority productive sectors to attract investors, that can assist the
nation in creating employment and decent work, and desired value for institutional investors.
It must expand this mainly at the mining, agriculture and manufacturing industries, so as to swallow the expanded unemployment rate of 46.6% and the youth unemployment rate that has hit a new record high of 66.5%.
“A country with poverty levels above 60% and youth unemployment above 60% is experiencing a complexity that can lead to a nation to collapse and livelihoods crisis leading to unrest,” Mkhabela said.
He was looking forward to the Sona to be delivered by Ramaphosa at the Cape Town City Hall on 10 February. This year’s Sona has a special symbolism for Ramaphosa, for the City Hall was the same venue where Ramaphosa had stood next to Nelson Mandela as he delivered his historic first speech as a free man hours after his release from jail on 11 February 1990.
But for Ramaphosa, this is the year of reckoning, amid accusations that he had been slack in decisively dealing with graft and turning around the economy, and with power challenges within the ANC.
Dennis Bloem, national spokesperson for Congress of the People (Cope), said nothing should be expected from the Sona. Instead, Ramaphosa would repeat what he has said before.
“Since the last State of the Nation Address the country is in more serious trouble. We honestly don’t expect anything from President Ramaphosa.”
Unemployment has reached crisis proportions, Bloem said, poverty levels were alarming, there was a general breakdown in law and order, with nobody feeling safe, and health facilities and services were disgusting.
“President Ramaphosa will again come and repeat the old empty promises. That’s why we are saying we don’t expect anything from him. There is absolutely no plan to address the problems of the country, the ANC government must just admit that they have failed the people of the country,” Bloem said.
Political analyst Prof Barry Hanyane, from North-West University Potchefstroom campus, said it was unfair to expect Ramaphosa to have delivered magically.
Hanyane said Ramaphosa was pre-occupied with fighting fires in his party and grappling with malfunctioning municipalities and dying state-owned enterprises in the past four years.
“He spent a lot of time extinguishing so many fires instead of getting on with the work at hand,” he said.
Hanyane alluded to a new narrative, that Ramaphosa’s four years in power were wasted, something Hanyane said he
would rather leave to other political scientists to unpack. He said the president should rather be judged on his performance regarding the triple challenges of social inequality, poverty and spiralling unemployment.
However, as a leader he walked into a house that was filled with skeletons, political dirt, corruption, greed, mismanagement of state-owned enterprises which made it difficult for him to achieve his goals, Hanyane said.