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Ramaphosa’s electioneering and listicles of government achievements leave opposition cold

Ramaphosa’s electioneering and listicles of government achievements leave opposition cold
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the State of The Nation Address 2024. (Photo: Jairus Mmutle GCIS)

Although no election date was announced, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address left no doubt that 2024 is an election year. Opposition parties remained unmoved by the presidential listicles of his administration’s achievements and those of the governing ANC since 1994.

From the IFP to the Freedom Front Plus, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), the African Transformation Movement (ATM) and the DA, the general sentiment was that the State of the Nation Address (Sona) President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered on Thursday was little more than a stump speech for his governing ANC. The opposition parties called on voters to ensure it was Ramaphosa’s last Sona.

As DA leader John Steenhuisen put it in a statement later: “None of the promises made by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his last five Sona speeches have ever been kept, and not a single piece of pragmatic, workable legislation has been tabled… The South African economy has all but flatlined, 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.”

ramaphosa sona

President Cyril Ramaphosa, with first lady Tshepo Motsepe, arrives at the State of The Nation Address 2024. (Photo: Jairus Mmutle / GCIS)

As Ramaphosa told the story of the governing ANC’s achievements through “Tintswalo — democracy’s child”, including free health, education and education financing, social grant support and employment equity policies, Steenhuisen told another version of Tintswalo’s story.

“In South Africa today, there is a 70% chance that Tintswalo will be unemployed. There is a 50% chance that she is one of the 30 million people who live below the poverty line. Any day, Tintswalo could become one of the 75 people murdered or one of the 115 women who are raped or subjected to gender-based violence… 

“Should she get sick, Tintswalo may die in a state hospital that has no electricity due to load shedding. And when she opens her taps, there is no longer any water coming out…”

Read more in Daily Maverick: President Ramaphosa’s 2024 State of the Nation Address

That Ramaphosa would take the long view of the ANC’s 30-year stint in the Union Buildings and as the majority in the parliamentary benches was not unexpected. On Wednesday, presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya nixed speculation that Ramaphosa would announce an election date.

“This State of the Nation Address is different and unique in so many ways… It is important that it is allowed its own expression, and that South Africans can take out of it the celebratory element of it. Remember, we are marking 30 years of our democratic dispensation… It is important that you allow these key elements to be expressed as much as possible without adding other issues.”

Much of Ramaphosa’s Sona dealt with South Africa’s economy. While the President maintained that the worst of the rolling blackouts were behind the country, they escalated to Stage 3 immediately after the address ended.

A day before the Sona, petrol and diesel prices went up by 75 cents per litre and 73 cents per litre, respectively, which will increase the cost of food and put more pressure on consumers already hard hit by the cost-of-living crisis. 

South Africa’s deficit has increased and debt interest repayments are the fastest-growing budget line item. In January, the World Bank dropped South Africa’s 2024 growth prospects to 1.3%. Unemployment is 41.2% on the expanded definition that includes those too disheartened to even try looking for work.

Bookending his Sona with references to Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, and the country’s quest for equality, prosperity and constitutional democracy, Ramaphosa delivered a series of achievement listicles.

On jobs

The Expanded Public Works Programme and Presidential Employment Stimulus created more than 1.7 million “work and livelihood opportunities”, and placed more than one million assistants in classrooms in 23,000 schools.

ramaphosa electioneering sona

President Cyril Ramaphosa at the State of The Nation Address 2024. (Photo: Jairus Mmutle GCIS)

Since 2022, new jobs created had increased every quarter and “we now have more people in employment than before the pandemic”, according to Ramaphosa. Over the past five years, 1,000 black industrialists whose firms employ more than 90,000 workers were supported.

On the economy

The economy was three times larger than 30 years ago, and the number of employed South Africans had increased from eight million in 1994 to more than 16.7 million.

“We are on track to resolve the most important constraints on economic growth by stabilising our energy supply and fixing our logistics system,” Ramaphosa said. “As these obstacles are removed, the true potential of our economy is unleashed.”

On electricity

Since reviving the renewable energy programme five years ago, more than 2,500MW of solar and wind power had been connected to the grid, while tax incentives and subsidies announced in last year’s Sona had more than doubled the amount of rooftop solar capacity. Since the embedded power generation licensing threshold was abolished, more than 120 new private energy projects were now in development, and 14,000km of new transmission lines were being built.

“The reforms that we have initiated and the work that is under way will enable us to end load shedding, to improve our logistics system, to achieve water security and ultimately to create jobs,” Ramaphosa said. “While our challenges have never been greater, our response to these challenges will lead us to greater prosperity than we have ever known.”

On climate change and just transition

A special economic zone in Boegoebaai would drive investment in green energy and green hydrogen, while the government supported electric vehicle manufacturing. Over the past year, financing pledges for the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan had increased from around R170-billion to almost R240-billion.

On State Capture

More than 200 State Capture accused had been prosecuted, freezing orders of R14-billion obtained and R8.6-billion in corrupt proceeds recouped, while a “revitalised South African Revenue Service” had collected R4.8-billion in previously unpaid taxes, and the Special Investigating Unit was pursuing civil litigation involving R64-billion.

“We have restored the independence and capability of our law enforcement agencies to tackle corruption and crime,” Ramaphosa said.

On global affairs

From the African Continental Free Trade Area to the African peace initiative in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and taking the Palestinian cause “to prevent further deaths and destruction in Gaza” to the International Court of Justice, South Africa was playing its international role, Ramaphosa said.

ramaphosa sona

President Cyril Ramaphosa moves past the Navy Band as he arrives at the State of The Nation Address 2024. (Photo: Jairus Mmutle / GCIS)

“Today, every South African can hold their heads high, confident that we have assumed our rightful place on the world stage. We remain committed to playing a constructive role on our continent and around the globe.”  

Hitting the electioneering notes for the ANC, Ramaphosa said National Health Insurance (NHI) would be incrementally implemented. He went off script, saying, “I am looking for a pen” to chants of “sign, sign, sign [the NHI Bill]” from the ANC benches. 

Rampahosa hinted at an extension of the Covid-era R350 Social Relief of Distress grant. “We have seen the benefits of this grant and extend it and improve it as the next step towards income support for the unemployed.” 

A stump speech

That this was an electioneering speech was underscored by the labour federation Cosatu’s gentle and generous support, tempered with a hint of impatience about the lack of infrastructure development.

“President Ramaphosa’s tasks have been the most difficult of any President since our democratic state was born in 1994… [We] must equally acknowledge where government, led by our ally, the African National Congress has done well.”

Krutham analyst Peter Attard Montalto described the Sona as mostly backward-looking.

What was the rallying cry? Well, it wasn’t quite as explicit as saying ‘vote ANC’, but it strongly intimated that the ANC was doing all it needed to be doing in terms of a government agenda and must be trusted to continue.”

Glass half full

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) CEO Cas Coovadia seemed cautiously upbeat in an interview with Newzroom Afrika, emphasising the progress made from public-private partnerships.

That was also the take of the Minerals Council South Africa, which welcomed “the signs of progress coming from joint business and government interventions in logistics, energy and crime and corruption” which the Sona highlighted.

ramaphosa sona

President Cyril Ramaphosa in a lighter moment at the 2024 State Of The Nation Address at Cape Town City Hall on 8 February 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

“We must continue with vigour to implement the structural reforms necessary to encourage and facilitate the private sector’s participation in energy generation and transmission, rail and port operations, and water reticulation,” said Minerals Council CEO Mzila Mthenjane.

Ramaphosa on Thursday was determinedly glass half full, detailing how his government had overcome the Covid-19 pandemic, and was dealing with stubborn unemployment and other “challenges”.

“We have come a long way in the last five years. We have built on the achievements of the last three decades and we have taken decisive measures to address the immediate challenges facing South Africans.” 

Ramaphosa and the ANC must be hoping this Sona — and the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of SA’s first democratic vote on 27 April — can sway sentiments with messages of progress and change.

Right now, polling pundits put the ANC at risk of losing its majority, for the first time in 30 years. But that will be up to voters on the day at the hustings. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Corry Versluis says:

    Lies, lies and more lies. State capture has simply shifted from the Zupta brigade to the CR17 brigade. Not one senior anc cadres implicated by Zondo has even been chastised. “Democracy’s Child” has gotten a substandard education, hungry at a dilapidated school because the funds have been stolen by anc cadres. With that substandard education they were dumped into various tvets and universities where they received degrees and diplomas which aren’t marketable. So know they’re sitting at home, unemployed, no real skills, but hey… They have a degree. 28 million people receiving some sort of social grant isn’t a cause for celebration. Quite the opposite infact.
    Lies, lies, chest pounding in the hope democracy’s Child somehow believes the tripe served up last night.

  • Patricia Beukes says:

    I wouldn’t listen to ANYTHING he has to say, even if you paid me handsomely to do so!!! Never again!

  • EK SÊ says:

    He didn’t dare compare the last 5 years with the first 5 years. In what parallel universe does he live in?

  • Just Me says:

    At this historic 30th anniversary SONA, Cyril and the ANC really just gave South Africans a lot of verbal BS.

    South Africa is in dire straits due to 30 years of ANC corruption, mismanagement, state capture. wrong policy and cadre deployment (all interlinked of course).

    May the electorate wake up and vote the ANC out of power.

  • swangcp says:

    30% Sona for 30%-ters. Promises promises…… ad nauseam.

  • Henri Christie says:

    What a muppet!!!!

  • Cliff McCormick says:

    Hilarious. Minutes after Dopey finished lying to us load shedding went up to Stage 4. Dying to know where the pilots and aircraft that performed the fly over before the “event” Cape Town came from.

  • Philip Couchman says:

    Half full glass is better than half empty. Its a pity more of the gloomy naysayers don’t understand that.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      Except that the glass isn’t half full – it’s empty. Cracked. Leaked everything out. What is there ‘half full’ about SA’s current state, from national to local?

  • mndloma78 says:

    The President’s speech was actually a campaign for elections, putting out there to the South Africans to put him in office once again, it’s like an abusive boyfriend who seeks pardon from a girlfriend after beating her and says ‘I didn’t mean to do it my love’. His statement on Social grant as an assistance to all citizens not a dependency as alluded by many is flawed because after that he clarified it as an ‘investment in people of South Africa. We all know that when you invest you expect returns, to my view social grants are used by the ruling party to expect citizens to keep him in office, what a political stunt from a President who has no shame to say it in the face of the nation just like that…’ I scratch your back, and you scratch mine’

  • jacki watts says:

    This is more a review of what was said.. Certainly not an analysis…. Disappointing

  • Graeme J says:

    The only reason solar rooftop generation has doubled since last year is because the citizens/businesses of ZA have had enough of the empty promises made by a string of useless Presidents. They took the matter into their own hands. I am one of those citizens. As one of the few people that used to contribute to Eskom’s income (unlike the majority that don’t pay for power), I no longer pay for power. I am off the grid now.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Positives from Ramaphosa’s term:

    1) Scrapping the limit on own generation to allow thousands of MW of (largely) renewable energy to be fed into the grid.
    2) Nope, that’s it!


    1) Gwede Mantashe giving two fingers to the country by not efficiently increasing transmission capacity from these sources, by refusing to use US$8.5bn given by the WEST to roll out the JET-IP. Ramaphosa’s claim that 14,000km of new transmission is being rolled out is a bald lie: it’s a fraction of that.
    2) Mantashe still being in office despite trying to destroy the renewables sector as well as any new mining by refusing for years to sort out the collapsed cadastre.
    3) The complete collapse of cadre-corrupted Transnet.
    4) Ditto the Post Office, healthcare, education, safety and security, unchecked influxes of illegal immigrants from around the world – all because of cadre corruption.
    6) The complete lack of meaningful infrastructure spend to underpin manufacturing and the services related to construction – all because the ANC ate the money through a bloated, overpaid bureaucracy and corruption (hand in glove with each other).
    7) Mining, construction and transport mafias holding these key sectors to ransom – they deploy the army, instead of imprisoning the ringleaders.

    SONA was a few watery half-truths from before his day used as fig leaves to cover up the collapsing state we live in. Put another way, a pack of complete lies.

  • Mark Hammick says:

    Mr President, with the utmost disrespect, your SONA address shows how much you, your cabinet, the ANC, are out of touch with the reality that is the failed state that is South Africa.

    The ANC is a criminal organisation that protects itself and its members to the detriment of the people of South Africa.

    Ask yourself some basic question since you have come to power:
    Wwhat has happened to the price of bread, petrol, diesel, mielie meal, etc etc s?
    How much has been looted and how much has been recovered?
    How many of your criminal members are now behind bars?
    How many murders occur daily and how many of the perpetrators are behind bars?
    How many people are unemployed?
    How many people are unemployable as a consequence of your education policies?
    The list goes on and on.

    Mr President I challenge you to a pre election televised debate to address these and many other issues that we, the citizens of South Africa, deal with every day.

    I wait to hear from you.

  • JP K says:

    These speeches about how things have improved remind me of a passage from Orwell’s Animal Farm:

    “On Sunday mornings, Squealer reads lists of figures that prove production is up by at least 200 percent and sometimes up by 500 percent. The animals don’t question this, especially since many don’t remember clearly how things were before—but they also think some days that they’d rather have more food and less of the figures.”

  • Dennis de Necker says:

    30 years on? A no-brainer. Election date will be 27 April 2024

  • G. Strauss says:

    Mm, I wonder who was deputy-president when all that state capturing was going on… perhaps the person in question was too busy counting his own ill-gotten gains to pay any attention and do something.

  • Graeme Bird says:

    What is definitely true is that Ramaphosa has presided over the most difficult period in our post apartheid era. And while he is a decent person who has made some progress against the chaos created by Zuma it is clearly not nearly enough thanks to the ingrained corruption within the ANC, who clearly no longer deserves political power in our country.

  • Craig Cauvin says:

    The only thing to celebrate Squirrel, is that with any luck this is the last time we have to listen to your drivel……

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    So. Who would be any better as President?
    Be careful what you eish for…rather the devil you know than the devil you dont!
    Perhaps if CR stays on and doesn’t have to turn a political blind eye to ANC/ EFF and Zuma shenanigans, he will have a freer hand to do the things that need doing – like a new Cabinet of competent people no matter their creed or colour? Seems to me that an ANC led by CR and DA alliance might be a good plan ( not impossible?)

  • Jill Davies says:

    Someone should inform Amos Masondo – such a useless individual – to at least wear a suit which fits AND to take the trouble to button up the jacket!

  • Peace Ferry says:

    Highly unlikely that’s true

  • Peace Ferry says:

    Highly unlikely

  • EK SÊ says:

    …and using the victims of a bus accident as proof of how well things are in hospitals. He bloody well knows that if all the rules and regulations were in place, accidents like these would result in the firing of the transport minister. Selfless leech with a leaking sphincter.

  • Coen Gous says:

    Reading comments here and on other articles, I guess people really want to see this likes of Mashatile, Malema, Steenhuisen, Zille, Groenewald, or a Mantashe as President! If so, you can have any of them if you feel better

    • Paddy Ross says:

      I don’t think that any of the people that you have mentioned will be President after the election. My money is on a coalition government plus or minus the ANC.

  • prossouw says:

    Over the past 30 years our population has almost doubled. Any government is expected to keep up with servicing the basic needs even without catching up with any backlog. This in effect would suggest that capacity in power generation, water storage (dams and infrastructure), roads, schools, hospitals etc etc was supposed to be increased to the same extend PLUS alleviating the income gap and standard of living. You can only start to brag if you have gone beyond what is ordinarily required of you as the elected government and don’t blame the past – you actually new exactly what you tendered to take over so no excuses.

  • Alastair Moffat says:

    Election date not announced? Perhaps there will be no election if the ANC knows they will lose.

  • Con Tester says:

    Why is everyone so down on last night’s SONA? 😕

    I myself didn’t watch it because I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than have to metabolise the grandiose delusions and BS of a consummate fraud, but by all accounts, it was a huge success to the extent that it united most of SA’s opposition parties in a virtually unanimous condemnation of Ramaposeur and the ANC’s grubby lies.

  • Laurent Adamson says:

    In a display that would leave anyone with an ounce of intellect and a connection to reality seething, the cascade of falsehoods emanating from Ramaphosa’s rhetorical repertoire during the SONA is nothing short of outrageous. His address was an unrelenting stream of untruths, devoid of a single nugget of authenticity, aimed solely to persuade an uninformed electorate to keep the ANC in power.

    Over the past two decades, the only job market experiencing any semblance of growth is that of truck drivers, tasked with hauling imported goods from our harbours inland. This unfortunate trend can be attributed to the ANC’s corruption and mismanagement, resulting in the collapse of our railway system—an act of sheer brilliance, one might sarcastically add. This deliberate negligence not only compromises our transportation infrastructure but also spawns opportunities for cadre companies (tenderpreneurs) and their employees. These individuals find themselves gainfully employed in the upkeep of the wretched roads these trucks traverse, often in a state of disrepair. The implosion of Escom, the national power utility, has inadvertently given rise to job opportunities in the flourishing alternative energy sector, as solar companies capitalize on the escalating demand fueled by Escom’s chronic inability to keep the lights on. Is this the president’s definition of job creation?

    President Ramaphosa’s grandiloquent assertions about job creation stand in stark contrast to the harsh reality faced by South Africa—26 million reliant on state grants and an alarming 42.5% unemployment rate. One cannot help but question if the electorate will discern the truth amidst the smoke screen being blown their way.

    When the paramount figure in a nation, the president, succumbs to a moral vacuum and displays a flagrant lack of empathy for the country and its people, delivering one deceit after another with an apparent disregard for conscience, it becomes painfully evident that South Africa is mired in a profound crisis. The erosion of trust and ethical leadership signals a nation teetering on the brink, grappling with the ominous specter of a compromised future.

  • “We have come a long way in the last five years. We have built on the achievements of the last three decades and we have taken decisive measures to address the immediate challenges facing South Africans.”
    And people call Biden delusional…

  • Johan Buys says:

    No election date announced : they’re still figuring out how to postpone the election.

  • Coen Gous says:

    What have become of the DM of old? This article is almost a direct copycat of a similar article on News24. Different headline, different words, but basically the same content. Who care what the opposition parties have to say. It is their job to criticise. Have not read an article by the editor for months. DM and News24 have become basically the same. DM is actually worse, because other contributors have to approve a comment first. But their opinions are basically the same. What hapened to the real independence of DM? Content has become most mediocre. Marianne, you can just as well work at News24. seems you have little opinion about anything

  • Sarah ONeill says:

    I am so bored with this man talking a whole heap of rubbish – I cannot even be bothered to read exactly what he said. We can only hope that the people of our country wake up and vote him and his party out.

  • Titus Khoza says:

    “Ramaphosa’s electioneering and listicles of government achievements leave opposition cold “.
    I think you should do this more often Mr President. You musnt let the opposition forget that its them who voted you into office, but us your supporters. Please try to get some more of what you ate yesterday, because believe me, I enjoyed every minute of their “clever” and cheap, supposedly “intellectual opinions” about your person.
    Keep up the good work,
    (even if you have to open the deep freezer to minus zero two degrees while you are at it).

    • Con Tester says:

      An instructive example of the type of uncritical, fawning adulation that not only explains how SA got to the derelict state where it currently is, but also how the thieves, crooks, and incompetents in government are and will be allowed to continue plundering people’s and their children’s futures with impunity.

      Stockholm syndrome, anyone?

  • alison ellard says:

    The sad reality is that South Africa is in such a state of ruin, I wonder how any political party is going to be able to repair it. It looks like we are going to have coalition government – but who in that coalition has a practical plan on how to repair this damage – and where is the money going to come from. Who is going to remove any obstacles to doing business in South Africa…..who is going to hand over the SOE’s to the private sector… who is going to increase the tax paying base and tax the informal sector… who is going to generate upscaling skills opportunities for the enormous unskilled unemployed labour force we have….and the list goes on. I fear we are in for 4 years of political manoeuvring and not much change.

  • Agf Agf says:

    30 years. 30 YEARS!! And where are we today compared with 30 years ago?

  • Citizen X says:

    Never thought i would say this but Mr. P you are an absolute P. You have done nothing to serve your citizens instead all you have focussed on is your obsession to be a president and your legacy. So to help you kn your way your legacy sucks, absolute failure and you have done nothing to implement the freedom charter objectives so many fought many nameless. All you managed to do is ride the wave after no value to our lives. You are worse than Zuma at least he is who he is the open. You just a plain downright coward all talk no walk. Please dont “Thuma Mina* us. Just go to hell where belong a wolf in sheep clothes. You will cost this country deeply… Stop your eishy washy BS! Know your children will live with your disgrace mr buffalo!

  • Andre Grobler says:

    And now we have stage 6 loadshedding so that we could listen to sona and watch soccer…

    He lives in lalaland… or maybe he just doesn’t understand the laws of physics… that first one… that says something of energy can’t be created or destroyed… maybe none of the honourable members do…

    lucky all their children are in private schools… so the next generation or maybe the generation after that might understand it… if we lucky their children might make it out of boarding houses often enough to tell them about it…

  • Arius Wantenaar says:

    Ramapuss has come out with such a boring windbag sona that he can be the only recipient that will ever win by a unanimous vote the absolutely most treasured Pointless trophy of government and its member`s presentation

  • Martin Smith says:

    How are those ‘Smart Cities’ coming along?

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