/ 16 February 2018

Ramaphosa’s united country for the youth

MPs and invited guests booed and clapped as Ramaphosa thanked Zuma
MPs and invited guests booed and clapped as Ramaphosa thanked Zuma

“We are a nation at one.”

That was President Cyril Ramaphosa’s founding message to South Africans in the first few moments of his maiden State of the Nation Address. Unity underpinned the president’s speech, even as he highlighted inequality in the country and the need for more jobs.

But even Ramaphosa couldn’t resist a subtle diss at one of the country’s most divisive figures: whilst greeting VIPs in the house, he referred to FW de Klerk as the “former deputy president” of the county.

However, he soon spoke with a little more diplomacy as he thanked former president Jacob Zuma.

“I also wish to offer a word of gratitude to former president Jacob Zuma. I do wish to thank president Jacob Zuma for the manner in which he approached this very difficult and sensitive process. I also wish to thank him for the service to this nation during his two terms as president of the republic during which our country made significant progress in several areas of development. I spoke to president Zuma yesterday and we exchanged wonderful pleasantries and he wished us well for the holding of this Sona.”

MPs and invited guests booed and clapped as Ramaphosa thanked Zuma, forcing him to speak louder to be heard above the din.

But when the pleasantries came to an end, Ramaphosa got down to business. Youth development and job creation dominated large parts of his speech. These were some of the inequalities that Ramaphosa acknowledged as part of causes of division among South Africans.

He emphasised that early childhood development is significant for South Africans living in poverty to become more empowered.

“More than 17-million social grants are paid each month, benefitting nearly a third of the population. We know, however, that if we are to break the cycle of poverty, we need to educate the children of the poor,” he said

In keeping with his youth focus, Ramaphosa prioritised job creation, saying a number of initiatives would be established to support unemployed youngsters. One of these initiatives is a “Jobs Summit” where stakeholder in the country would meet in the next few months to find solutions to the unemployment crisis.

Ultimately, the President’s speech was a rallying cry for South Africans to work together as a united nation, to overcome the divisions they face.