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‘A campaign speech that went wrong’ — opposition lays into Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address

‘A campaign speech that went wrong’ — opposition lays into Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address
Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen at the 2024 State Of The Nation Address at Cape Town City Hall on 8 February 2024. (Photo: Victoria O’Regan)

‘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.

‘Broken promises’

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

ramaphosa speech kwankwa

The UDM’s Nqabayomzi Kwankwa. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

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%.”

‘No surprises’

ramaphosa speech groenewald

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald. (Photo: Victoria O’Regan)

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’ 

ramaphosa speech meshoe

African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

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.”

Ramaphosa defended

ramaphosa speech mantashe

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

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


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Bob Kuhn says:

    Under your marxist economic tyranny, ramaphoza, you’d be hard pressed to find free market companies willing, moreover capable, to providing 7% of your new job market.

    PS Don’t forget communism ala the tyrannical African or Cuban system has not worked and never will and that the South African free market capitalists are your sole source of your tax revenue.

    • Arthur Lilford says:

      One can see the state of a nation by the quality of their State of the Nation address and the “present apartheid government” has failed the “rainbow nation” in it’s entirety

  • Jan Vos says:


  • Richard Bryant says:

    Not stage 3 but stage 4 announced literally while he was promising us (another) end to load shedding.

    • Jimbo Smith says:

      Ironic how this disastrous “President” never accounts for, or is, held accountable for his endless promises, most of which amount to NOTHING. Not a shred of pride or conscience; he just giggles, promises, blames, denies on and on an on….truly nauseating!

      • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

        There’s another ANC …oops no, MK politician …or is it both? …forgive me I get so confused.

        Anyway, he also likes a giggle and a steal. Are these ANC entrance requirements you think?

        • T'Plana Hath says:

          That giggling is actually a recognised phenomenon called, ‘Duper’s Delight’.

          “Duper’s delight is the pleasure someone takes in getting away with a lie.
          While lying is often associated with guilt and fear of being caught, there’s another reaction, “duper’s delight”, that can be triggered when a lie is believed. It’s the pleasure of getting an extra treat out of the cookie jar when no one’s watching.”

    • Carol Green says:

      And now it’s stage 6! How can this president not be utterly embarrassed?

    • Bernhard Scheffler says:

      A law should be passed that our corrupt current “minister” of energy affairs — the PRIMARY CAUSE of load shedding and he one who here also defended the indefensible — be always called by his REAL TITLE:–


  • Louise Roderick says:

    So glad I didn’t waste my time on this last night.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    I didn’t listen and seemingly, those that did got exactly what they expected….phut, the engine just stopped.

  • Our county is in shambles can they not just look at a county who is doing well and copy same governance, get rid of all red tape , put professionals in positions and hang the corrupt and half the government sleepers

    • Janet Sully says:

      100% agree with your statement. Look at what the properly functioning countries are doing. There will always be problems, but not wholesale collapse as is happening in South Africa. Just study what successful governments are doing. Somehow I do not think our government is capable of looking elsewhere – too stuck in their mindset and definitely not willing to change.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Before one can seek to improve, one must honestly acknowledge failure and inability.

      I for one have no experience of our government brothers ever doing this, in any scenario, ever.

      So I am not sure improvement is possible.

  • Rae Earl says:

    So glad the EFF wasn’t there to interrupt this awful self praise ramble. Their absence allowed Ramaphosa to dig his and the ANC’s graves uninterrupted. This was nothing other than his standard fare of ad nauseum repetition of the ANC’s accomplishments over 30 years. Not a word about how the ANC, (unassisted), and with remarkable efficiency from just two presidents in 15 years, was able to turn South Africa into a rubbish dump of corruption, joblessness, and despair. RIP ANC. You deserve nothing.

  • Dee Bee says:

    Unbelievable that Mantashe has the gall to call on the private sector to create jobs when is personally responsible for the destruction of the mining industry and the continuance of rolling blackouts by refusing to provide new transmission lines to thousands of MW of new power! Mantashe is the most evil man in South Africa today, personally responsible for the loss of thousands of existing mining jobs, and the destruction of probably hundreds of thousands of new jobs, largely in depressed rural areas, because of his refusal to open up the sector to exploration and the collapse of the murky cadastre we’ve had for years. Allied to that, his obsession with killing the renewables sector through red tape and lack of investment in transmission infrastructure has destroyed hundreds of thousands of jobs (and lives) through lack of new investment and collapsing industrial output due to the power crisis. A born liar, and an utterly heartless, evil ideologue to go with it.

  • Jacci Babich says:

    Mantashe is a disaster and Ramaphosa is only good at making promises – not fulfilling them. If we are to save South Africa we must get rid of the whole rotten core of the old guard ANC ‘leaders’ They have done nothing but enrich themselves by taking us along their ill judged road to disaster. But where are the bright, shiny, well educated and forward looking leaders who can dig us out of mess we are in? The only plus about the SONA was having it Malema free.

  • As a swallow from the UK for the last 15 years and staying for 4 months I am dismayed at the lack of progress that the ANC has made concerning jobs and help for the poor.
    Africa is one of the very few countries in the world that have beggars at most traffic lights. With Malema and others in the picture I can see SA turning into another Zimbabwe where I resided for 20 years. I hope this does not happen to one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Get rid of Ramaphosa and stop the corruption which is rife, John.

  • Phillip O'connor says:

    To tout his speech as a win, is a fallacy. He and his governing party have failed all South Africans. South Africans of all races, need to wake up, more of the ANC means more poverty and hunger. Then again, why would his administration and MP’s care, they earn salaries, and live in luxury homes at the expense of all South Africans, whom many are unable to put food on the table. My only reaction, shame on you Ramaphosa, on you, and all who serve with you. Failed State indeed……….. Just my opinion.

    • Coen Gous says:

      Phillip, you are right, but I for one do not believe that the future of this country lies in any of the three major parties. Not even the moon pact alliance will help us, and by us I mean all citizens, regardless of race, social or economic status. I have found my man, Zibe, but Rise Mzansi has an uphill task in front of them. But simply can not support a party simply because they might (or might not) be better than the ANC

  • Albert Boorman says:

    Steenhuisen comes across as the dude at the braai who makes too many edgy “non-pc” comments.

    • T'Plana Hath says:

      An astute observation and excellent analogy, I’m totally with you here. That being said, the vibes I get from the 𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 ‘dudes at the braai’ is that they are the type that rock up late with cheap-ass wors and a 4-pack of unfinished, nasty-tasting, ‘craft beer’ – and some hairy chicken breasts – and then they expect me to cook their food for them while they chat up my wife and frighten my pets! All the while eating my fancy fillet steak and drinking my imported beer and telling 𝘮𝘦 when it’s time to flip the ribs. The audacity! The horror! Then, after clogging my toilet and finishing my 12-year-old Scotch, out come the Tupperware containers and off they go huis-toe … with all my farking leftovers!
      Braai, the beloved country, for these things are not yet at an end …

    • Coen Gous says:

      Gosh, and so many on this website think JS will make a good President! You must be a die-hard DA supporter to think that. He is the weakest individual in the history of the DA, now going for something like 30 years and still can’t get over the 20% mark. With the old tannie Zille he will be the end of this party too, unless they revise their total strategy, and rebrand itself completely

  • Dragon Slayer says:

    The ‘real’ SONA – it’s taken thirty years to put a tap and a light switch in the very badly built free house your loyalty to the ANC bought you. By 2054 – after another 30 years there is a chance, we promise to include water to the tap and power to the lights. By then you may, if you stay loyal, you may be one of the VERY lucky few to get a job that will pay enough to repair your crumbling house. Viva ANC Viva!

  • Johan Buys says:

    I am certain that there are many happy stories like post-1994 Tintswalo. I wanted to tell the story of another, not-black post-1994 child and how she was discriminated against for studies and promotions, but she emigrated so it does not really matter anymore to Cyril or Tintswalo.

  • Chris Turner says:

    This is my first time commenting, but I feel it’s time. I have been doing business in Mozambique for nearly 15 years. The country has turned itself around and has an effect civil service, a growing economy, an environment that values skills and skills transfer. As a South African doing business in Moz, I am welcomed. There is no such thing as a race issue. The business climate is about equipping people with skills. Our leaders in SA were great friends and partners with Mozambique. Why can they not learn from them instead of introducing all the ideological laws, regulations and what not that do nothing to help or grow the skills base, economic upliftment or employment. If you kill the goose then there will be no eggs or succession however good he ideology. Had there been skills transfer in our municipalities, Eishkom and other state owned enterprises instead of BEE style replacement, then today our services would actually work….

    • Johan Buys says:

      Chris, despite Zambia’s service delivery problems people that do business there say same thing. You’re welcomed whether from Pretoria or Peking

  • Mike Wiggill says:

    My take last night was as follows:
    I have just started reading the text of President Ramapuppet’s Statement Of Nothing Achieved (SONA) speech ….. I thought I was a book launch reading of the latest Disney Fairy Tales Compedium.
    Then I realized where the hot air driving this awful heatwave was coming from.
    I only made it through the first page and a half before I could read no further – it is impossible to read with your eyes streaming tears of laughter.
    Everything becomes blurred – as blurred as the strange logic of an ANC Cabinet.
    I then gave up and began wondering how to warn Trevor Noah that Cyril is in training to take his place on The Daily Show, as he has grown fond of broadcasting a load of tripe to an audience which asks no questions. He has even assembled his very own team of comedy writers.

  • Clifton Coetzee says:

    Without respect, President Ramaphosa is an inveterate liar and/or completely out of touch with South African realities.

  • Erika Joanne says:

    Not even a kiss from a princess could make those lies come true…dream on …the ANCers, will keep believing the fairy tales and keep begging for that is something to giggle about …what a disgrace

  • Rod Shepherd says:

    6.5 million spent on an evening of hot air and nonsense. Could fix a lot of pot holes, build houses, schools, put money back into all the hollowed out budgets. Employed doctors, teachers, the list goes on and on. But I suppose in the ANCs thinking we’ll spent on hopefully their swan song yes. Please let’s make it happen.

  • Nicholas Labuschagne says:

    Can someone explain why we need so many politicians? Politically unaffiliated, competent technocrats can easily solve most of our country’s current problems. Surely there is a reasonable way we can restrict the number of politicians to a small group who are solely focused on the really important policy decisions and leave the day-to-day running of the country to people who know what they are doing. When it comes to really important policy decisions, maybe we could implement some form of social media-based voting system that would ensure that deeply misguided policy proposals are at least sent back for reconsideration rather than being forced on an unwilling or unsuspecting population. Finally, let’s consider replacing most of the ministerial posts with AI personas. They absolutely could not do a worse job than the current incumbents and would cost a lot less in terms of salaries, free housing, and all the other fringe benefits.

    • Johan Buys says:

      We don’t need 80% of our politicians. I think JHB has around 300 councillors. That doesn’t count Gauteng province.

      The only thing all parties agree on is the need for more politicians.

      Seven technocrat executive directors can run JHB

  • sokobafana says:

    This man Ramaphosa, beats Pinocchio hands down!

    • Citizen X says:

      Hilarious 🤣
      Sounds like nothing much changed. Glad I watched Law and Order instead at least it is consistently good to watch.
      Time to stop paying taxes for these SONAs! He can send emails rather into our spam boxes where it belongs.

  • Mike Walwyn says:

    We’re supposed to believe that loadshedding will end in 6 months. And here we are, 2 days after the speech, and we’re on level 6. As for his ‘improved’ law enforcement, that’s another little terminological inexactitude. As long as that fool in the fedora remains in charge, there is no hope!

  • Neil Parker says:

    We should insist on an audit of all ANC MPs’ houses to see how many of them have complete solar and/or generator installations (probably all). Then demand these be disconnected completely – in particular those of the President, the Minister of ongoing Load Shedding and the Minister of non-stop Disaster already alluded to in previous comments. . Until Eskom is fixed.

  • Pagani Paganini says:

    Well! The real judges of the speech are voters in the upcoming elections. Otherwise everything is just hot air.

    • Chris Turner says:

      Here is the real problem! It’s all about voting or not. Firstly, many to whom I speak acknowledge that all the things wrong. They also acknowledge that it’s the ANC but who can they trust???? Many of the young people say that they will not vote, and don’t seem to be aware that by not voting, they are actually voting for the status quo. I urge as many people as I can, to vote for any other party. Does not matter whom, but they need to express their displeasure. Staying quiet expresses nothing! So implore everyone who reads this to persuade all your friends, followers, employees and people we meet in our everyday life – TO VOTE…
      The ANC has stirred up a lot of ‘fear factor’ wiht regard to change. A good example is the Pretoria Municipality move to reopen the two power stations t relieve load shedding. But if you read the comments and polls, it has been made political the the man in the street believes the lies that the electricity will only be for the wealthy and do nothing for them. The clearly do not understand that electricity in the grid serves everyone better…. So how so we change this narrative????

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