In response to the 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA) just delivered by Pres Cyril Ramaphosa, AfriForum stated that it will only be possible to judge its contents properly once the President’s political honeymoon comes to an end and the real meaning of his references to, amongst other issues, transformation and land expropriation become clear.
After the political instability that characterised the start of 2018 in South Africa, Pres Ramaphosa obviously made an effort with the SONA to unite a splintered audience. In the process he even spoke a few words of Afrikaans and acknowledged the language and cultural diversity of the country’s communities.
He especially focused on economic recovery and growth. He honestly identified most of the country’s most serious problems, such as the unacceptably high youth unemployment figures and the crisis situation in state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
Unfortunately the President provided very little clarity on the very issues that are plunging the economy into uncertainty and are deterring investments in South Africa. There were fleeting references to these issues, including land redistribution, national minimum wages, transformation and free tertiary education, but exactly how these programmes will be implemented, remains to be seen. Especially disconcerting, was the extended applause that followed his reference to land expropriation without compensation.
Other crisis situations, such as the decay in education and insupportably high crime figures were mentioned in passing and oversimplified “solutions” were offered, including the building of more schools, training of more teachers and a better trust-based relationship between the police and communities. Much more decisive action will however be required against, inter alia, the paralyzing role played by unions in schools, dysfunctional education departments, the creation of crime-prevention strategies and effective combatting of crime to make a difference in these key areas.
Promises and idealistic statements abounded. However, only time will tell whether the optimistic atmosphere that Pres Ramaphosa tried to create, will be sustainable and result in positive outcomes.
The SONA therefore once again emphasised the need for a strong, independent civil society and civil organisations in order to keep politicians accountable for their promises and actions, and – if the latter were to fail – would even be able to step in to create a safe, sustainable and prosperous future themselves.