‘A campaign speech that went wrong’ — opposition lays into Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address
‘Not surprised’ was the reaction of some veteran MPs to this year’s Sona. With an election looming, many opposition parties believed Cyril Ramaphosa used the event to campaign for the ANC.
For the first time in several years, there were no interruptions or points of order called by members of Parliament during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Cape Town City Hall on Thursday.
The EFF boycotted the event after party leader Julius Malema and five other MPs failed to have their suspensions from the House overturned by a court.
But other opposition parties reacted strongly to the last Sona under South Africa’s sixth administration, saying Ramaphosa offered only empty promises and delivered a campaign speech ahead of this year’s elections – for which he did not announce a date.
An Eskom announcement undercut the President’s focus on the ANC’s successes over the past 30 years and plans to resolve South Africa’s challenges. Shortly after Ramaphosa said he was “confident … the end of load shedding is finally within reach”, the power utility announced that the country had moved to Stage 3 load shedding until further notice.
Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen said this was the last Sona that would be delivered by an ANC president with a majority in the National Assembly.
“None of the promises made by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his last five Sona speeches has ever been kept, and not a single piece of pragmatic, workable legislation has been tabled at the National Assembly to realise Ramaphosa’s ‘New Dawn’,” Steenhuisen said.
The country’s economy had all but flatlined, he said. “There are no new jobs, corruption is worse than it has ever been, crime is spiralling out of control and millions of our children are starving to death.”
Inkatha Freedom Party leader Velenkosini Hlabisa said the President’s speech was not inspiring.
“It was a combination of his previous statements. This was just showing that the president of the governing party has failed. He was giggling because he knew he failed. He lied about fixing roads and bridges around the country,” Hlabisa said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramaphosa’s electioneering and listicles of government achievements leave opposition cold
The United Democratic Movement’s Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said the Sona was a campaign speech that went wrong.
“He tried to use the platform to launch the ANC’s campaign for elections but it went wrong because the speech contained ideas that were put together, random ideas but it was lacking in detail of how those strategies will be implemented.”
Kwankwa said South Africa had no money to fund the ideas presented by the President, which were “empty promises geared at impressing the voters”.
African Transformation Movement leader Vuyo Zungula said Ramaphosa made misleading statements while South Africa was becoming a failed state.
“He makes statements about him acting on State Capture, yet he is the same President that appoints people who are implicated in the State Capture report. He makes a comparison between 1994 and 2024, where he should be making a comparison to say when he first took over as the president of the country, the fuel price was R16; now it is R24. On the question of unemployment, it was 29%, now it is 32%.”
Pieter Groenewald from Freedom Front Plus told Daily Maverick: “I predicted before the State of the Nation Address that he’s going to misuse the opportunity to have an election speech, telling the people how fantastic the ANC government was over the last 30 years and that’s exactly what happened.”
Groenewald said nothing had changed in the five years of the sixth administration.
“I used the example five years ago, the President said that the ANC government is going to build dams, they’re going to have high-speed bullet trains and nothing came from that.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Promises, promises: Following up on Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2023 State of the Nation pledges
Groenewald described Ramaphosa as “out of touch with the realities of South Africa” when the expanded youth unemployment rate is almost 60%.
“He is a dangerous President and therefore the people of South Africa must realise, if they want to rebuild South Africa, they will have to have a change in the regime,” he added.
‘Not good enough’
Outside City Hall, the Rev Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, told Daily Maverick his party was not impressed with Ramaphosa’s speech.
“The issue of crime, in particular, because that’s where the rubber meets the road. With crime, you have a conviction rate of less than 10% of rapes and murders,” he said.
(A November 2023 article in The Conversation stated that the conviction rate for murder is 12%. An Africa Check article from August 2023 explained the challenges in determining a conviction rate for rape cases, which some studies have found is significantly below 10%.)
Meshoe said the government had failed to protect its people “and that government must go”. He said now was the time to say to the ANC, “You have tried your best but your best was not good enough … So go home and retire and enjoy your pensions.”
ANC national chairperson, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, said Ramaphosa told the nation of the progress his administration had made.
“He touched all the things that are done and, to me, that is what progress is all about. It’s not about what I want. It’s about what people experience.”
He defended the President, saying the number of employed people in SA had doubled over the past 30 years. According to StatsSA, 8.9 million people were employed in 1994 and 16.7 million in the third quarter of 2023. Between 1994 and 2022, the population rose from 43 million to 62 million.
“The economy has grown threefold; the population has grown and the population is growing younger. It is not just the ANC government that creates jobs; it must create an environment [to create jobs]. But the private sector must create 70% of new jobs and the state can only create 30% of the new jobs,” Mantashe said. DM