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SONA 2023: Don’t whitewash government’s role in SA’s problems – civil society tells Ramaphosa

  • President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to deliver his State of the Nation address on Thursday. 
  • Civil society groups want Ramaphosa to deliver concrete plans to fix the country’s problems.
  • Ramaphosa is under immense pressure to fix Eskom, but the spotlight is also on changes he needs to make to his Cabinet.

Civic organisations want President Cyril Ramaphosa to deliver more concrete plans to fix the country in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday.

On Wednesday, civil society organisation Defend our Democracy held a rally in Cape Town ahead of Ramaphosa’s seventh SONA.

In a memorandum, the group said they wanted honesty from Ramaphosa when he addressed the nation. 

“As you address the nation at the opening of Parliament, we urge you to ensure that you honestly reflect on the severity of the problems that beset the country.

“We hope that there will be no whitewashing of the role of government – both the previous, and the current administration under your leadership – in creating these problems or simply not dealing with them,” they said. 

Referring to the country’s poor state of affairs, the SACP’s 1st deputy general secretary, Solly Mapaila, said the country was suffering from a crisis of corrupted political power.

“People must take back the power. We need to transfer and create people’s power. It’s no longer serving the people. We have poor policy choices and this creates inequalities.

READ | SA’s reading crisis: We are load shedding our children, warns Mlambo-Ngcuka

“We have an overly-dominant capitalist system. It concentrates power in the hands of a few. Let’s transform the system that oppresses the people. We have left these problems to people who seek to make profits only,” he said.

Ramaphosa is under immense pressure to fix Eskom, but the spotlight is also on changes he needs to make to his Cabinet.

The president does not have plans to appoint new ministers or let go of old faces in his Cabinet before he addresses the nation on Thursday evening.

Ramaphosa will announce a plan of action for his government for the year ahead, with uncertainty persisting regarding who in his executive will be given the boot.

READ | Ramaphosa focuses on SONA first – and then the Cabinet reshuffle

Cosatu’s parliamentary liaison, Matthew Parks, said Ramaphosa had made strides, but much more still needed to be done.

“The government cannot do everything. We need business to play its role. Expose those who rob Eskom with inflated prices and sub-standard coal.

“End the apartheid wage gap, unless we think it’s morally acceptable to pay a CEO R300 million and seek to deny mine workers a meagre R150 increase a month,” he said.

According to Parks, coalition politics is South Africa’s future.

“As we enter the 2024 elections, and the era of coalitions, it will be uncharted waters for all of us. It will require all of us to listen to, hear and find each other.  Our crises are too great and can only be resolved if we all make our contributions for the progress of the nation.”

Tessa Dooms, a political analyst and the director of Rivonia Circle, said: “The depth of our crisis is that we are doing exactly what [the late former president] Nelson Mandela and Chris Hani did. We are so far from being free. Our democracy is killing us. It is killing our futures. It’s despair and disillusionment. We are opting out of living because it is hard to live in the democracy.”

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