Journalists will finally get the chance to pose questions to President Cyril Ramaphosa, over the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ramaphosa is set to hold a question-and-answer session with the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) on Wednesday, 9 September 2020.
"The engagement is part of the President's ongoing dialogue with different sectors of society. It also fulfills a commitment the President gave Sanef during a similar engagement on 31 May 2020 that he would interact with Sanef and other media institutions as part of maintaining transparency and dialogue with various stakeholders in society," the Presidency said in a statement.
The session is an opportunity for editors, senior journalists and analysts to properly engage the president on a number of issues – even beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
"This engagement acknowledges the important role public media play in educating and assuring the nation and holding public institutions to account"
The session had originally been scheduled to take place on 25 August 2020, however the Presidency asked for a postponement to attend to the National Coronavirus Command Council.
It comes as members of the media have not been happy with the president not fielding questions at the end of his addresses to the nation.
Ramaphosa's office however insists while he may not allow journalists to engage him after his addresses, there are other platforms which allow for further talks.
"I do suspect that perhaps we got our lines crossed in terms of the address to the nation. It has was never with the intention to change the format of that particular platform but most definitely, I do think there is room for us to create additional platforms," the president's spokesperson Khusela Diko is quoted as saying during an interview on 702.
What will journalists ask the president?
Moving to level 2 – With the country currently on alert level 2, it is likely journalists will pose questions on engagements within the NCCC and by extension, when the country is expected to progress to level 1. The Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize has said that the country was making strides in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and that the sooner the country can reduce the level of restrictions, the better.
COVID-19 Corruption – The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) announced in August that as many as 600 companies are under investigation over contracts to provide personal protective equipment (PPE). The contracts total R5 billion and while Ramaphosa has signed a proclamation allowing the SIU to act on COVID-19 graft, he has also said law enforcement agencies were proving to be effective in probing the allegations.
Eskom – Another hot topic the president should expect to answer for is load shedding and the progress Eskom has made in minimising its risk. The power utility has been implementing rolling blackouts over the past few weeks, citing pressure on the national grid.