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Ramaphosa’s address lacked urgency and boldness’


President Cyril Ramaphosa missed the goal with a lacklustre State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday. That’s the view of political analyst Dinga Sikwebu.

This year’s address was one of the most challenging yet for Ramaphosa as it came after the ANC’s loss of support in the local elections, the country’s terrifyingly high unemployment rate, a protracted power crisis and damning evidence at the state capture corruption.

For Sikwebu, Ramaphosa missed the opportunity to take a bold stand by increasing the Covid-19 relief grant to the poverty line level.

“What we heard is what has been said to us before. I would have taken the bold move to increase the special grant of R350 to the food poverty line of R624, as that would have been an acknowledgment of the depth of the crisis of poverty in the country,” he told City Press.

“Food inflation is a real thing, and the president could have at least mentioned how this would affect the poor.”

It’s all been said before

“I had a feeling that I have heard this before. He went on to talk about the urgency for structural reform, the need for infrastructure investments and speeding that up.How many times have we heard about the migration from analogue to digital, cutting of the red tape for small businesses, job creation without any action?

Ramaphosa acknowledged how the delays in switching from analogue to digital television transmission has held back the economy’s technological development.

“One of the greatest constraints on the technological development of our economy has been the unacceptable delay in the migration of broadcasting from analogue to digital,” he said. “The switch-off of analogue transmission has been completed in a number of provinces.

He added that a lack of innovation due to broadband spectrum, led to companies unwilling to invest and therefore holds back economic growth.

Cutting red tape

Ramaphosa added: “We are reviewing the Business Act – alongside a broader review of legislation that affects small, medium and micro enterprises – to reduce the regulatory burden on informal businesses.There are too many regulations in this country that are unduly complicated, costly and difficult to comply with. This prevents companies from growing and creating jobs.

He said government does not create jobs but instead businesses do.

About 80% of the employed people work in the private sector.

“The key task of government is to create the conditions that will enable the private sector – both big and small – to emerge, to grow, to access new markets, to create new products, and to hire more employees,” Ramaphosa said.

Where’s the urgency

Sikwebu also highlighted the lack of urgency in the president’s plans announced on Thursday night. What exactly did the president mean when he said the country was at a crossroads ‘whichever way we choose would determine the future of those who come after us’?.

“I did not get a sense of a path that was being chosen and a sense of urgency,” Sikwebu said.

“So, to talk about what is going to happen in future in terms of the state-owned enterprises, is not to me, a sign of urgency, and this is just one example of a speech that talks about crossroads but the proposals in it are not equal to the urgency.”

Same speech different words

Ramaphosa called on civil society to band together with government to alleviate the country’s challenges but for Sikwebu this was a tall order.

“Ramaphosa said there is a need for the involvement of civil society, but we know that more than 30 million eligible voters did not vote, during the local government elections,” he said.

“So many people are becoming disenchanted and cynical of political involvement. And for him not to make mention of that was a mishap. I did not get from the president a proposal of how to renew and revive interest in civic participation.

“We have had Sonas before, commitments and promises made. We keep hearing them over and over again. The question of what is to be implemented is dependent on the factionalism and fights within the ANC. A push from outside is what could possibly help see things move along for the country,” he said.

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