/ 11 February 2022

Ramaphosa finds a tough crowd to please as country’s crisis grows

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In years past, the State of the Nation address has come and gone without as much scrutiny as the fashion worn by those attending it. Over the past two years, the pandemic has put paid to the runaway, and instead focused all our attention on the actual performance of the state. It’s become ever more critical with a country still in a precarious fiscal position and corruption that has limited its ability to act to boost our prospects.

Set against this backdrop, President Cyril Ramaphosa was always facing a tough crowd. 

With a nation seeking accountability, words are no longer enough to assure a nation that has just gone through July unrest that saw billions worth of damage and the unnecessary death of more than 300 people. That was just six months ago. 

Although Ramaphosa deserves some credit for taking responsibility for those events, one wonders if heads will fall in his cabinet in the weeks and months to come. That is the sort of accountability that the country needs to see but, in an ANC election year, it’s something unlikely to be seen. It’s the reality of re-elective party politics, which always put party before country. 

If we are to heed the calls by the president for all South Africans to join in rebuilding the country, then the onus is on him to put the country before all else. We are in a battle for the future of this country.

So what did the president deliver this week? Well, he laid out our ailments as bluntly as he possibly could, but his fixes didn’t quite capture the imagination. The time for words is over, the crowd isn’t interested. 

The president spoke of a social compact between the state, business, labour and other partners being signed within the next 100 days. Given that the country’s crisis has been with us for all of his term as both party and state president, one wonders why so late. We wait for May 21 with bated breath.