Mon, 22 Jul 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver his second State of the Nation Address to Parliament in 2019 and his third major statement of intent since the ouster of Jacob Zuma as head of state in February 2018.

This is what we will be looking out for when Ramaphosa delivers his speech at 19:00 on Thursday evening.

1. Clear leadership on the economy

South Africa's struggling economy, beset by poor policy, bad implementation and even worse prospects, remains the number one problem for Ramaphosa's government. Policy uncertainty leads to poor confidence, low growth and few jobs. GDP contracted by 3,2% year-on-year in the last quarter while the SA Reserve Bank, one of the few institutions not overrun by state capture stormtroopers in the past years, has become a site of ideological and opportunistic factional conflict. State-owned enterprises remain in strife (Eskom and SAA have both lost CEOs) with Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan receiving stern (and shortsighted) resistance to SOE reforms.

2. Becoming a statesman

During the recent election the ANC was given a mandate to govern with a reduced majority of 57%. The party does not enjoy unqualified support anymore, given that more than 42% of voters rejected it and millions and millions of eligible voters did not even bother to go and cast their ballots. Ramaphosa was Nelson Mandela's choice to succeed him as president because he believed Ramaphosa, perhaps more than anyone, understood the imperative of nationbuilding and reconciliation, two concepts increasingly being rejected and mocked by younger and frustrated South Africans.

3. Building an effective public service

Whether or not France's Louis XIV said "I am the state" or not is a point of debate among historians, but what is certain is that the ANC has since 1994 come to completely believe that one equals the other - with disastrous consequences. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni warned in his budget speech in February that the public sector wage bill is impossibly high and eminently unsustainable. Internal ANC machinations however are preventing the reformists in Ramaphosa's government from tackling the problem of a bloated, expensive and inefficient civil service. If indeed they want to.

The ANC, in line with their guiding ideology of the National Democratic Revolution and the mechanics of cadre deployment, believes that the state is at the centre of power rather than the enabler of private growth and progress. Some in the party believe this must change, however, given the excesses in employment and disasters in service delivery over the last decade or more.

4. The scourge of crime

There was a period where it felt as if South Africa was winning the war against crime. But recent times have seen an increase in the crimes South Africans fear most (murder, hijacking, robbery) while repairs to the broken criminal justice system have been happening at a stunted pace, if at all. The low-level war on the Cape Flats is intensifying, with children caught in the cross fire of warring gangs while members of the police's newly established Anti-Gang Unit fight among themselves. House robberies are commonplace and incidents of rape and gender violence fill daily news reports.

5. The lasting effect of state capture and grand corruption

Ramaphosa has proven himself to be a stickler for process and procedure - especially if it can serve him politically. He has refused - on the surface, at least - to intervene in the continuing investigations into state capture and hasn't made any public statements which could seem to influence Shamila Batohi, the national director of public prosecutions, looking to make her first high-profile public arrest. But the remnants of the state capture project, those rent-seekers looking to extract as much resources from the state as they can, remain in government, Parliament and the ANC.

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