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The 2020 State of the Nation address (Sona), the fourth that President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered within two years in office, had its hits and several misses, which political analysts attributed to the president having to keep his party colleagues happy. They say the Sona was better compared to the last three he delivered since 2018 when he assumed the presidency to finish Jacob Zuma’s last term of office. The president had avoided making new announcements on masterplans and more promises, but failed to give direction on the fate of ailing stateowned enterprises (SOEs). “It wasn’t a great speech but a...
The 2020 State of the Nation address (Sona), the fourth that President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered within two years in office, had its hits and several misses, which political analysts attributed to the president having to keep his party colleagues happy.

They say the Sona was better compared to the last three he delivered since 2018 when he assumed the presidency to finish Jacob Zuma’s last term of office. The president had avoided making new announcements on masterplans and more promises, but failed to give direction on the fate of ailing stateowned enterprises (SOEs).

“It wasn’t a great speech but a more practical speech. If he made it two years ago, it would have been better and a lot of progress would have been made. He spoke a great deal about the SOEs but was short on action,” said political analyst Ralph Mathekga.

Mathekga said Ramaphosa wanted to give specific details about certain issues but appeared to be hamstrung by party politics. There are no agreements within the ANC on how to move forward around the SOEs, he said.

“The president is politically hamstrung to do anything. Clearly, he wanted to be practical but he is being held to ransom by some within the ruling tripartite alliance,” he added.

As a result of the ANC politics, there was no clear direction that the president gave about the SOEs. The ANC is not resolute about what is to be done about these entities, whether they should be privatised or restructured. The fact that senior members of the governing party made contradictory statements on the fate of South African Airways (SAA) confirmed disagreement. Some were opposed to plans by the business rescue practitioners to cut some local flights or implement retrenchments.

Mathekga referred to a statement made by ANC national chair Gwede Mantashe that the SAA should be sold. But the ANC and its alliance partners later disagreed with Mantashe, saying the airline should be retained and substantially restructured.

“The president tried to be more specific than before in what should be done, but he has to navigate through these contestations within the ANC,” Mathekga said.

He was unable to be upright, hence he handed the task of giving details about what was to be done to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.

The business community was impressed by many of Ramaphosa’s announcements. Mineral Council South Africa said they were encouraged by the president’s commitment to increase generation capacity outside of Eskom.

“We welcome the president’s undertaking to implement measures that will fundamentally change the trajectory of energy generation in the country,” the council’s statement said.

Energy expert Ted Blom suggested “this self-inflicted crisis will not be resolved in under 18 months and believes the new Eskom chief executive (André de Ruyter) could have been misled”.

According to Blom, each generation set will take at least 18 months to refurbish as most of the boilers have been trashed by subspec coal and stone. The most vital parts will need to be machined in Europe and then shipped to SA.

ericn@citizen.co.za

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