Change is on the way. And it includes land expropriation without compensation and efforts to reform the economy with youth at its core.
The “new dawn” philosophy was the overriding message of newly elected president Cyril Ramaphosa as he delivered his maiden State of the Nation address (SONA).
“Our task, as South Africans, is to seize this moment of hope and renewal, and to work together to ensure that it makes a meaningful difference in the lives of our people,” said Ramaphosa.
A jobs summit, investment conference, compulsory local procurement in major economic sectors with a focus on youth empowerment were among the focal points as Ramaphosa outlined a smorgasbord of initiatives- some new and others ongoing- in order to jumpstart the economy.
Many had looked to Ramaphosa’s speech for clear indications of government’s commitment to root out corruption and also address job growth.
While many were wary of Ramaphosa’s close proximity to big business, the president spoke of an intention to fulfill the recently concluded ANC Conference resolution for land expropriation without compensation.
“We are determined that expropriation without compensation should be implemented in a way that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensure that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid.
”Government will undertake a process of consultation to determine the modalities of the implementation of this resolution,” Ramaphosa told the assembly.
Ramaphosa spoke of building a country that would offer everyone an opportunity, regardless of their race, birthplace or the wealth of their parents. The president made a point of repeating this point exactly in Afrikaans.
Shortly before the eagerly anticipated address, as the judiciary headed by chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng made their way into the house, the national assembly rose almost as one to give them a standing ovation.
There was decidedly less security surrounding parliament than what South Africans had become used to in recent years, with snipers no longer visible on roofs and public order policing with armoured vehicles nowhere in sight.
Shortly before the military 21 gun salute, a visibly nervous looking Ramaphosa pursed his lips repeatedly and flashed a nervous smile.
But that’s where the visible show of nerves stopped.
Ululation and whistles erupted inside the National Assembly foyer as soon as Ramaphosa walked in and MPs rose to their feet.
“Hai! Hai!” went a cheer as the announcement was made: “President of the republic of South Africa.”
The ANC and opposition parties together welcomed Ramaphosa into the Assembly with the EFF joining in the round of applause while an Imbongi praised the new president.