During his State of the Nation address (Sona) on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the 2019 general election will be held on May 8.
“I have engaged with the Independent Electoral Commission and also with the Premiers of all provinces, and intend to proclaim the 8th of May 2019 as the date of the election,” Ramaphosa said.
The eagerly anticipated announcement will ramp up political parties’ efforts to garner votes in a decidedly more competitive climate.
On Thursday, Ramaphosa began his speech with an anecdote that involved a recent interaction with Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) commander-in-chief Julius Malema.
“I want to start with a disclaimer that arises from my input last year when I invoked Hugh Masekela’s song Thuma Mina,” Ramaphosa began.
He said he remembered that at that time, when he made his maiden Sona speech, Malema had told him to sing the song.
“I hesitated for a while but I thought wise not to do so,” Ramaphosa said.
He then presented his punchline, saying that if Malema were to become president after the election, Ramaphosa might very well sing the song.
“Yesterday I met Mr Malema… and we agreed that if the EFF wins the election and he is installed as the president then he will invite me to sing for him,” Ramaphosa said.
The EFF had entered the chamber singing protest songs prior to Ramaphosa’s arrival at Parliament. It had been widely anticipated that the red berets would disrupt the House, but instead their only attempt at disruption was to sit during the singing of ‘Die Stem’ and to remain seated when Ramaphosa arrived instead of standing with the rest of the chamber.
South Africans have 90 days until they head to the polls.