from DION HENRICK in Cape Town
Cape Town Bureau
CAPE TOWN, (CAJ News) – THERE are mixed feelings to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) presented by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Some of his critics have warmed up to him but to others, the address has further driven the wedge.
THE president addressed the nation on Thursday evening, coinciding with the country facing arguably its most turbulent period post-independence.
South Africa is beset by its worst unemployment, a declining economy ravaged by corruption and the most severe coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and unrest that spiked in July last year when mobs looted shopping malls and vandalized property.
SONA itself was held at the Cape Town City Hall after the usual venue, Parliament was burnt in January. The Constitutional Court in Johannesburg was partially damaged by a protester.
On Thursday evening, Ramaphosa was cheerful and some of his remarks were met with cheers by the audience, mostly Members of Parliament (MPs).
That was respite from anarchy and disruptions that have marked some previous SONAs as emotions used to spiral out of control due to political differences.
Inside the chambers at least!
Outside, a typical scuffle ensued between the police and the regularly militant Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Ramaphosa’s longtime rival, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which usually lambasts his SONA, welcomed the latest address.
It was mostly tongue-in-cheek though.
John Steenhuisen, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, remarked the bulk of the president’s SONA could easily have been a DA speech.
“He (Ramaphosa) should be commended for at least saying some of the right things,” the opposition leader said.
“However, he has made the right noises in the past too, only to go missing when they had to be implemented,” Steenhuisen commented.
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so we caution all South Africans to hold the applause until these announcements become actions, if they ever do.”
Ramaphosa in his address announced multi-billion rand pipelined infrastructure projects, identified sectors to boost economic growth, tackling corruption to enhance growth, addressing power crisis, creating employment for youth as well as fighting gender violence.
He announced the extension of a monthly R350 grant (US$23) provided by government during the COVID-19 crisis.
During a lighter moment, the president disclosed his suit and shoes were locally made, as part of a campaign to support local businesses.
However, some in the opposition were not impressed.
“Ramaphosa should not be telling us about his individual leather shoes- who cares?” quipped Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, Commissar of the EFF.
He believes Ramaphosa instead should have disclosed how much of government procurement had purchased locally produced goods.
“Using such a powerful platform to tell us about his shoes is proof of his uselessness,” Ndlozi blasted.
Still on the issue of attire but in unrelated criticism, Action SA president, Herman Mashaba, lashed at the lavish dressing by some politicians in attendance.
SONA has a reputation as one of the country’s most prominent red-carpet events of the year in South Africa. At the event, political leaders and some invited guests dress to kill.
Mashaba, a former mayor of Johannesburg, opined this was apparently hypocritical considering the problems bedeviling the country, including scarce electricity.
There was a load shedding threat as the embattled parastatal, Eskom, ever struggles to keep the lights on.
“Watching these politicians strut the red carpet in their expensive suits and dresses as though we are living in a thriving utopia makes me sick to my stomach,” Mashaba lambasted.
Most of the corruption and economic ills are blamed on Ramaphosa’s ruling but factionalised African National Congress (ANC), in power since independence in 1994.
– CAJ News