Mar 2022 1st edition

SONA Reply: inspiring hope and confidence

Written by Allison Cooper

There is broad agreement, across society, that as government works to grow South Africa’s economy, create employment and fight hunger and poverty, no one should be left behind.

President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed this in his 2022 State of the Nation Address (SONA) Debate Reply held recently.

He made a call to every South African to rally together in the fight against corruption, and the fight to create jobs and achieve a more just and equal society.

This call was answered by several members of the two Houses of Parliament.

“I called for a new consensus to unite our country, in a moment of great crisis, behind an agenda for change and renewal… Although they represent different parties and different perspectives, many of the speakers in the SONA Debate affirmed their commitment to this shared goal,” he said.

Following his SONA, the President received many valuable contributions on how to effectively address South Africa’s challenges.

“The most pressing of which is fixing the economy as it’s essential to almost every other area of life. Our focus on the economy does not, however, diminish the importance of the many other areas of government’s work,” he said, confirming that these issues will be dealt with in greater detail in the upcoming budget votes and Ministers’ public engagements.

A committed State

President Ramaphosa said the country was emerging from over a decade of low growth and deepening unemployment, State capture and the assault on the institutions of the State that accompanied it.

“We cannot disregard the fact that the pandemic has caused our economy severe damage that will take years to repair. Unless we appreciate these facts, unless we characterise the current situation correctly, our response may well be ill-considered and misdirected,” the President said.

Government’s collective actions in response to the pandemic, all noted in the SONA, saved tens of thousands of lives and kept millions of people out of dire poverty.

The President’s focus on job creation, outlined in SONA, gave rise to a debate on the State’s and private sector’s roles in fostering economic growth and creating employment.

“Some speakers have taken a crude and self-serving approach to a complex issue, but for the most part, commentators have engaged meaningfully with one of the most important questions facing our country today. They have earnestly sought to answer the central question of who will create the jobs for the 11 million unemployed people in South Africa,” the President said.

He explained that while the private sector creates the most jobs, the State has a clear role to play through state-owned enterprises, public employment programmes, industrial policy, competition policy, infrastructure investment and the employment of the public service itself.

“We envisage both a capable, developmental State and a dynamic and agile private sector, which work together and complement each other.”

Inspiring hope and confidence

President Ramaphosa said that while most Members of the Houses of Parliament are firmly committed to building a united, equal and prosperous nation, others have different interests and priorities. He emphasised, however, that while they preach despair and create doubt, government sees hope and renewed confidence.

Hope is seen in the new work and livelihood opportunities created by the Presidential Employment Stimulus that will soon reach over a million people.

He said the bridges being built to get children to school safely; and the sector master plans driving new investment which creates new jobs and the revival of key industries.

“That is what progress looks like.”

Renewed confidence is seen in the most significant reform in SA’s energy system in nearly a century; the long-delayed reforms – like the spectrum auction and the revised critical skills list – that are being implemented; and concrete steps being taken to modernise ports and rail infrastructure.

Unifying SA

President Ramaphosa spoke in-depth about government’s commitment to South Africa and unifying her people, both evident in the strides it has made to fight corruption; create conditions conducive to growing business and ensuring job creation; uplifting women, youth and persons with disabilities; and protecting women.

“Our commitment to the transformation of the economy, so it benefits all South Africa’s people, is unwavering. We have a manifesto – for which the people of this country demonstrated overwhelming support – that is a bold and coherent plan to achieve a better life for all,” the President said.

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