Five things to look out for at SONA 2019

Five things to look out for at SONA 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver his second State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Thursday evening. The annual address gives the President a chance to explain his government's vision and how key projects and programmes will be implemented.

Photo: GCIS
Below are five key areas that many ordinary South Africans will want Ramaphosa to touch on, especially with 2019 being an election year.

1. Job creation

President Cyril Ramaphosa has his work cut out for him on this one. That's according to Sasfin Securities economist, David Shapiro. Ramaphosa announced the ANC's job creation goals in Durban last month. During the ruling party's election manifesto launch, Ramaphosa said his government would create 270,000 jobs a year. Shapiro, however, feels this is just not a reality at this point. He feels this can only be achieved by implementing massive structural reforms, especially at State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) such as Eskom. How is government going to create more than a quarter of a million jobs a year? How is government going to grow the economy so that such jobs would be sustainable?

2. Land issues

Land in South Africa is always going to be a controversial and emotional topic. There is a genuine need to address the injustices of the past - and this includes land redistribution. South Africans cannot expect the country's challenges to be overcome if people continue to be disenfranchised when it comes to the land question. What is important is for Ramaphosa to spell out how land is going to be redistributed, the time-frames in which the process will unfold, what land can or will be expropriated without compensation and who will qualify as a potential benefactor. The answers might not come out during Ramaphosa's address, but indications on how the process will unfold will be well-received. Investors, businesses and those involved in agriculture will also be particularly keen to hear how the land issue is going to be addressed going forward

3. Corruption

Ramaphosa is going to have to be firm on corruption, in both the public and private sectors. Testimony given at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has highlighted the magnitude of the beast here in South Africa. Shapiro says investors will want to know how such allegations are dealt with and will expect  a commitment from Ramaphosa that government is going to take action. This includes ensuring perpetrators are brought to book and mechanisms are put in place to crack down on and prevent future fraud and corruption.

4. State Owned Enterprises

Our State Owned Enterprises should be profitable or self-sustainable companies that contribute towards job creation, while providing much-needed services to all South Africans. Direction from Ramaphosa on how SOEs will be managed so that they are not a burden on the taxpayer needs to be given. Will SOEs be restructured in any way so that they do not run at a loss and require government bailouts to remain afloat? If there will be changes to the way SOEs are run, how long will it take until they operate at full strength? These are some of the questions people will want answered.

5. Universities and student protests

The 2019 academic year kicked off this week, and so did student protests. Funding, registration and accommodation issues are in the spotlight again this year. Our universities need to be spaces were young South Africans are trained and educated so that they can make a valuable contribution to our economy after graduation. It is not right that university campuses across the country, including here in KwaZulu-Natal, become the scenes of violent unrest and clashes between students, police and private security companies. Durban University of Technology student, Mlungisi Madonsela died after sustaining a gunshot wound to his lower back outside the university's Steve Biko campus yesterday. He was allegedly shot by a private security guard. A young man with his whole life ahead of him is now dead. A family is mourning the loss of their son because he wanted an education. This cannot go on. Our universities need to be areas where people gather to learn, share their experiences, cultures and backgrounds and enter the job market with the necessary skills to help grow our economy and improve their lives and those of their loved ones. How are universities going to be made safe spaces for teaching and learning? How is tertiary education going to be funded and what is government's commitment in this regard so that violent clashes on campuses do not continue? All parties (government, university management, funding schemes and students) need to come to the table to improve our universities and Ramaphosa needs to explain how this will be achieved and when it will be done.

Ramaphosa is expected to deliver his 2019 State of the Nation Address at 7:00pm tomorrow evening.

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