Ramaphosa delivers 'solid' State of the Nation address
By Angelo Coppola

The State of the Nation Address (SONA) by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday was a report of what he and his administration had accomplished in the 12 months since his first address, after taking over from Jacob Zuma. 

While the event was preceded with the usual pomp and ceremony associated with the red carpet at a Hollywood event, the speech was considered a little light on detailed plans to pull the economy out of stagnation, according to analysts. 

Gareth van Onselen, head of politics and governance at the Institute of Race Relations, said compared to last year's speech, the president's second address was far more comprehensive, but still fell short.

“When you actually look at it, the content didn't seem to involve the kind of structural reforms that the president has been intimating. It was more of the same on a lot of big issues: the economy, education, corruption,” he said.

For many of those sitting in the gallery in the parliament, listening to Ramaphosa, they came out inspired, although Fay Mukaddam, Chief Executive Officer of 4 African Exchange, one of the new online stock exchanges in South Africa, suggested that the inspiration is a little tainted.

“There is still a sense of some skepticism among investors, businesses, and society around certain decisions made by the government. Certainly, there is a stronger sense of optimism that we are heading in the right direction,” added Mukaddam.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gestures as he delivers his annual State of the Nation address, in the South African Parliament, February 7, 2019. /CGTN Photo

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gestures as he delivers his annual State of the Nation address, in the South African Parliament, February 7, 2019. /CGTN Photo

That optimism was reinforced as Ramphosa announced that he had taken action to tackle the distressed electricity utility, Eskom. 

It is to be split into three businesses in an attempt to reduce the 30 billion dollar debt book. This news wasn't well received by the trade unions, who vowed to fight the breakup and any possible retrenchments that may happen. 

On the question of policy certainty, which is a big stumbling block cited by potential investors into the country, the Minerals Council of South Africa's Chief CEO, Roger Baxter, said that while substantial progress has been made, with the adoption of the mining charter, more needs to be done.

“There are issues that need to be resolved, such as recognition of continuing consequences of past transactions in respect of the renewal of mining rights,” he said.

Turning to fight corruption, Ramaphosa reminded the country of the commissions of inquiry that are looking at various aspects of state corruption. He also announced that a new anti-corruption unit would be created to investigate high profile and state corruption, build criminal cases and prosecute these cases in the South African courts. 

Commentators welcomed the news of the creation of the new unit. Coincidentally, just a day before his speech, law enforcement agencies arrested six people allegedly linked to state corruption, money laundering, and fraud in the Department of Correctional Services. 

Finally, Ramaphosa used his address to announce the election for a new ruling party to be held on May 8. 

(Cover: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (L), First Lady Tshepo Motsepe (R) and speaker of the national assembly, Baleka Mbete (C-back), arrive for the annual State of the Nation address, Cape Town, South Africa, February 7, 2019. /VCG Photo)