By Staff Reporters

Accusatory fingers are pointing at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration for failing to come up with concrete and executable solutions to the myriad socio-economic problems affecting millions of South Africans. Ramaphosa delivered his State of the Nation Address at a time when South Africa is in mounting predicaments. These include high unemployment rates, rampant corruption, debilitating load shedding, intensifying economic distress, intensifying violent crime, abject poverty and a long list of other socio-economic woes. Ordinary citizens, analysts and economists at large have noted that the president has dismally failed to decisively deal with problems that have put the country under siege.

Promises upon promises

Some have gone as far as saying he is only good at making empty promises. Civil action group Outa, told that the president’s speech missed the mark, and delivered only more empty promises.
“The President’s State of the Nation Address failed to inspire confidence. He acknowledged many of the problems but did not offer believable solutions. He offered many promises, many of which we’ve heard before,” the group said.
“It would be wonderful if all these promises were realised or even underway. The President sought to inspire hope, but he succeeded in reminding us how bad the situation is. His address confirms the country has been poorly managed for too long.” Yongama Zigebe of the UDM Youth Vanguard was more scathing in an interview on Newzroom Afrika.
“Indeed, we would have preferred that the president sent us a voice note or even chipped in with a WhatsApp document rather than wasting our time and having the EFF play their gimmicks which as a protest movement they believe was warranted.
“With this Sona, we expected nothing of the nothingness it was. It was a rehash of other State of the Nation Addresses the president has done. It’s all promises and promises and there is no report back to say this is what we have done, this is what has trickled down to the people on the ground and the positive impact that we have seen happening,” Zigebe said.

Hitting the right notes

The leader of the African Transformation Movement (ATM) Vuyolwethu Zungula wrote an open letter which was very scathing of Ramaphosa’s incumbency. He also took a swipe at the president, calling him “a constitutional delinquent”.
Zungula wrote: “In February 2018, President Ramaphosa themed his tenure as New Dawn where he promised the citizens of South Africa Heaven and Earth. Some of the highlights of the promises included behaving ethically and espousing ethical leadership in honour of President Mandela.
“In his address, Mr Ramaphosa hit all the right notes and spoke about the creation of jobs, factories, roads, houses and clinics.
“Some of the empty promises that were made in the Feb 2018 SONA, included Radical Economic Transformation where he said women and communities would be owners, managers and even financiers. He said land distribution programmes would be accelerated.
“In hindsight, it is now clear that these were all lies to simply lure the voters to vote for his party in the 2019 National Elections. It’s common cause that the ANC caucus in Parliament twisted the promised Expropriation Without Compensation which was part of Mr Ramaphosa’s rhetoric in the February 2018 SONA.
“To the disgust of the left-leaning opposition parties including the ATM, we discovered that the Bill to amend s25 of the Constitution to enable Expropriation Without Compensation was now using a new phrase, “Expropriation With No Compensation”, instead, which, has the opposite effect. It’s not clear why Mr Ramaphosa and his party undermined the intelligence of the nation through such failed primary school trickery.
“Beyond the 2019 elections and following his inauguration ceremony as the President of the Republic of South Africa, he made new promises in the June 2019 SONA in particular to reduce crime, however the latest report delivered by Minister Cele on 22 Aug 2022 paints a shocking picture of a country losing the war against crime.
“In the 2019 SONA, 500 000 housing units were promised, to date just under 14 000 were delivered by the Housing Development Agency. There was also a Smart City promised near Lanseria Airport, where the earmarked land to this day remains a bush.
“The list of empty promises is endless. As recently as in Feb 2022 he promised a New Social Compact within 100 days, yet no less than President Thabo Mbeki is on record pointing out that, this objective was also not met. Needless to mention record high unemployment and load-shedding.”
In the letter written before the Sona, Zungula also took a swipe at the president, calling him a “constitutional delinquent.”
“Mr Ramaphosa has rendered himself a constitutional delinquent who should respect the people of South Africa by announcing his resignation on the 9th of February 2023 instead of peddling more lies under the guise of the State of the Nation Address.”

Missed opportunity

Writing in, Athol Williams, a senior lecturer at the Allan Gray Centre for Values-Based Leadership, specialising in Corporate Responsibility and Ethical Leadership at the UCT GSB, observed: “This month’s state of the nation address (SONA) was a great opportunity for President Cyril Ramaphosa to assert his authority; to show decisive and bold leadership, which will be pivotal if we are to start building a united nation and chart a new path of development, transformation and inclusive growth.
“However, the president once again failed to deliver or lead when it was most needed. This has become the hallmark of his tenure since ascending to the highest office in the land back in 2018. His early days in office were full of promise, but his presidency has been unravelling in recent times, and there has been little progress since the disastrous Jacob Zuma years.
“While there were some welcome announcements in his speech, such as the much-needed reforms in the electricity sector including the opening up of the energy market, and the building of nine new technical and vocational education and training (TVET) college campuses, his speech was more or less a long list of not-so-new promises which are very unlikely to be met, if his track record is anything to go by.”

Super presidency

Ramaphosa has been also accused by his critics of using the Sona to centralise power in the presidency. They argue he has no confidence in his cabinet hence the creation of what has been termed “a super presidency”.
During the Sona, he announced the creation of a ministry of electricity which will be based in the presidency. In 2021 he moved state security to his office.
Qaanitah Hunter, the political editor of News24 warned that Ramaphosa had to exercise caution when it comes to the kitchen cabinet he is setting up at the Union Buildings, as it has the makings of causing more harm than Jacob Zuma’s wingmen did in his name.
“The tension between having ministers and equally senior people reporting directly to the president in similar roles has persisted throughout the four years of Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency. It’s a risky game that the president is playing,” wrote Hunter.
The leader of the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen, is among those who expressed concern about the centralisation of power within the presidency. He made a passing reference that Ramaphosa was setting up a second cabinet in government that did not have parliamentary oversight.
“Instead of decentralising control and trusting in the market mechanism, Ramaphosa has opted to centralise even more power in his own Super Presidency – which lacks democratic oversight mechanisms, with Parliament lying in ruins and the Presidency having no portfolio committee to oversee it,” he said.
“More centralisation and less accountability is exactly the opposite of what South Africa urgently needs right now.”

I am right and they are wrong

Ramaphosa dismissed the notion of a super presidency a day after the Sona, saying “the presidency was the centre of government” and there was nothing wrong with his placing theministry of electricity in his office.
Not only did he defend his controversial decision, but he also made a passing reference to the fact that he should be extolled for establishing the ministry in his office because it is an indication that he intends to have a firmer grip on the country’s costly electricity crisis.
“There is the notion that this is a ‘super presidency’ or we’re creating a super presidency which is also a misunderstanding of the role that the centre of government must play.
“At one stage, people said they want the centre of government to be strong, and when we do so, they criticise and say “You’re giving too much power to the presidency.
“What the presidency has been able to do is to coordinate functions of government and to get a cooperative governance system and process to resolve many of our challenges. For instance, the reforms that we’ve been attending to have been driven through the presidency and Treasury and that has benefited our country and our economy,” he said.

The electricity National State of Disaster

After its lekgotla in January, the ANC’s National Executive Committee resolved that the government had to declare a National State of Disaster.  “In solving the energy crisis, the NEC Lekgotla encouraged the President of the Republic to declare a National State of Disaster, which will also require that the ANC reconnects with our communities and society,” the NEC announced.
It came as no surprise when Ramaphosa inserted the announcement in his Sona speech. He told the nation: “In a time of crisis, we need a single point of command and a single line of march.”
However, the declaration of the electricity State of Disaster has sparked serious concerns across different sectors of society, because of the extent of the multibillion-rand fraudulent tender and procurement processes during the two-year Covid-19 State of Disaster.
The DA which had called for a declaration of a state of disaster has now become its vociferous critic. On the night of the Sona, the party released a statement deploring Ramaphosa’s declaration of a state of disaster. They have taken the matter to court. “The National State of Disaster under the guise of dealing with the load shedding crisis will similarly empower the ANC to abuse procurement processes and issue nonsensical regulations that have nothing to do with the electricity crisis. The DA will not sit back and allow the ANC to abuse the electricity disaster it created to loot and further abuse the people of South Africa,” read the DA statement. The president laid into the DA for its flip-flopping stance on the declaration. “And it is quite interesting that they called for a state of disaster and now that we have declared it they are opposed to it for a very strange reason that there is going to be looting. There’s not going to be any looting.
“Their criticism is misguided, and it is based on not understanding what we seek to achieve.
We are seeking to address the electricity crisis by declaring a state of disaster,” he explained.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Energy expert Adil Nchabeleng described the Sona as a declaration of the full privatisation of Eskom. His take is that the State of Disaster was declared to protect the pace of privatisation.
“The president is under a heavy lobby and influence, as well as pressure from the renewable energy IPP lobby, which is very powerful. It is an international lobby that is run by the World Bank,” charged Nchabeleng.
Prof Sethulego Matebesi the Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Sociology at the University of the Free State expressed his misgivings too, on the declaration. He said although the precise impact of the state of disaster, which began with immediate effect after its announcement in the SONA, cannot be determined at this stage, it is not premature to believe that the energy crisis will become a high-stake bidding game during the 2024 general elections.
“Objectively, it is hard not to agree with critics that a state of emergency will open the floodgates of collusion and corruption, which are distinct problems within South African public procurement. At this point, one wonders if this is not yet another gimmick to extend the patronage network of the presidency,” wrote Prof Matebesi in
The ANC, however, hailed the declaration of the State of Disaster in what it described as a “decisive” Sona.  “The President has made it clear that with the challenges the country faces, it cannot be business as usual… “This State of the Nation Address was about seeing hope where there is despair. It is about showing a way out of these crises,” said Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri, the ANC’s national spokesperson.