/ 8 February 2024

Ramaphosa’s Sona was high on electioneering but low on accountability

Ramaphosa Sona2024
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (@PresidencyZA/X)

News Analysis

In his final State of the Nation address (Sona) before the 2024 elections, President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered an almost two-hour speech in which he praised his administration but did not acknowledge the lack of accountability from his executive. 

Throughout his speech, the motif of democracy was a consistent thread because 2024 marks 30 years since the first democratic elections. 

In a speech that seemed more driven by election ambitions than addressing the hardships South Africans face, the president said many of the country’s problems would soon be over. 

He spoke of successes in the fight against state capture, which included the recovery of R8.6 billion, freezing orders worth R14 billion granted to the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) Asset Forfeiture Unit and that the South African Revenue Service was back to top form after years of being decimated by state capture. 

He also said the launch of the Investigating Directorate had been a success and that 200 people linked to state capture cases were under prosecution and many more were facing investigation. 

But there has not been a single conviction despite more than two years having passed since the Zondo commission finalised its first volume on state capture.

The Zondo commission also made findings that implicated members of Ramaphosa’s cabinet in state capture crimes, some of them sitting in the audience at Sona, yet no one has been held to account. 

The NPA and the Hawks have had budget cuts in an economy that has been heavily affected by austerity measures. 

The government has had to prioritise servicing debt, which has had a costly effect on people who rely on state services. Ramaphosa announced that the much needed R350 Social Relief of Distress grant would continue, but the South African Social Security Agency’s delivery of grants has been abysmal, leaving people waiting for these much needed payments.

He went on to declare that his administration would restore South Africa’s near collapsed ports and rail systems — managed by Transnet — to “world class standards”. He did not say where the government would find the R100 billion needed to fix this to achieve the turnaround plan put forward by the Transnet board late last year. 

In terms of the energy crisis, the president said load-shedding would soon be a thing of the past as a result of the government’s planning. 

“We are confident that the worst is behind us and that the end of load-shedding is within reach,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa said the government would invest R240 billion in the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan for the shift from coal to renewables. But this announcement is underscored by the fact that South Africa’s latest energy plan relies on a coal-driven future. 

Ramaphosa also again pledged to improve service delivery and job creation, which have blighted his administration. 

While Ramaphosa spoke of the progress of his administration and the ANC-led government 30 years after 1994, his speech will perhaps ring hollow for millions of South Africans who continue to suffer the brunt of corruption and poor or non-existent service delivery.