President Cyril Ramaphosa has listened to criticisms about his “lacklustre” State of the Nation address (Sona) and addressed concerns about its shortcomings, but he missed the opportunity to give details to the masses during his speech.
This was the view expressed by political analysts reacting to his reply to the Sona debate held in parliament this week.
They maintained the president was still on the back foot and faced pressure from his opponents.
The experts said Ramaphosa’s reply became the actual Sona because it was more detailed and gave direction to his plans and dreams, which was lacking in his original address on June 20.
“He was better in his reply to the Sona debate on Wednesday. It looks like he had listened to the criticisms and seen his mistakes.
“He explained and gave direction on his priorities and he was sensitive to the concerns expressed by many about his speech. And he made important concrete commitments this time around,” said Zamikhaya Maseti, a political economy analyst.
He maintained that what Ramaphosa said in his reply was what he should have said in the Sona.
“He is now in panic mode because he missed the opportunity to speak to the nation, some of whom may not have listened to his reply this week.
“But his somersault could work for him especially if his government officials followed up with concrete actions on his pronouncements,” Maseti said.
However, he was still unhappy about the president’s way forward on economic growth, but expressed hope that his ministers would elaborate during their departmental budget votes, as Ramaphosa had promised.
Maseti praised him for undertaking to meet some immediate policy milestones before the end of the year regarding an action plan for an effective visa regime for tourism and high-skill immigration, and a policy directive on the release of spectrum.
Ramaphosa said his Sona was about setting out the seven priorities of his administration around economic transformation, education and health, spatial integration, social cohesion and the developmental state.
The most pressing task was to restart the economy and create jobs and this would include holding the second Investment Summit in November.
The most growth and job creation would come from small and medium enterprises that would be incorporated into the manufacturing value chain.
Government planned to open up enterprise incubation centres in all the 44 districts and eight metros to grow township and village entrepreneurs.
A report was expected from the presidential advisory panel on land reform and agriculture. The report would inform the finalisation of a comprehensive reform programme.
Ramaphosa said the 26 road building projects under the Economic Stimulus and Recovery Plan would unlock a R13 billion investment over the next three to five years and would produce 22,000 jobs.
This was part of the 15,000 jobs per year to be created over the medium-term expenditure framework period under a broader R70 billion investment in national road infrastructure construction and maintenance.
“All these measures to grow the economy depend on our ability to develop skills that are appropriate to the needs of a changing economy,” Ramaphosa said.
Another analyst, Ralph Mathekga, also said Ramaphosa was on the back foot when he delivered the Sona and remained vulnerable to his enemies in the ANC.
“As many of his pronouncements were about planning and research issues, he was still vulnerable and faced political pressure in and outside of the ANC.
“The political context is that Ramaphosa is under siege within the ANC. There is also the public protector issue, which put him in a tight corner. He’s still not out of the woods.”