February 21, 2018

My reaction to the State of the Nation address (SONA)

Famous of Karl Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach in 1845 said that, “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point however is to change it.” It is also the task of President Cyril Ramaphosa to change South Africa and make a better country by creating inclusive economy, the colour-blind economy. Listening to SONA, President Cyril Ramaphosa revived our hope and gave us reasonable expectation as we listen to his state of the nation address (SONA). Though in his address he would not address everything under the sun but those who listened attentively they will note that there are some of the things we can place in question, from the issue of re-industrialization, the youth employment and land redistribution.

The first thing which I was anticipating from our President Cyril’s address was the assurance of free education and stabilization of health system.  President Cyril touched on those critical issues, however, he did elaborate how the free education will be sustained and implemented except saying that the minister of finance will surely seek funds for free education and has already started catering for the poor and the working-class children with the collective income of R350 000 in the family.

Our President and the ANC must defend free education at the same time must avoid plunging our universities into a crisis of declining of quality like Brazil public Universities. Looking from the Brazil model of free education, whereby federal public universities are funded primarily by the poor and working-class majority through value-added taxes. As a consequent, this laid a burden to the poor and give a leeway to the rich acknowledging the high inequality of Brazil this also apply in South Africa with 0.7 Gin Co-efficiency of inequality.

In addition, the quality of our high education system is important for our country to grow the economy and fight against poverty and inequality. Therefore, our government must maintain the quality of South Africa’s universities and avoid the route which was taken by Brazilians of establishing free education and overlooking of the quality of universities. In Brazil students that attend public universities often lack electricity, water, and toilet paper because the government is unable to pay its suppliers.

Our president also spoke of expropriating of land without compensation. Acknowledging that South Africans experienced history of apartheid-colonialism. Black people have been deprived of their land since 1913. Though it has been the weakness of our ANC in the post-apartheid South Africa not to address the issue of land distribution.

Moreover, our president emphasized the point that expropriation of land without compensation must be applied with the rationale of increasing the productivity and food security. Surely, our government must insure that our production of food and food security continues through empowering youth to embark on agricultural sector. But this must not deviate us from our expropriation of land with compensation because it is not fair that only 2% of white families own about 80% of the land.[1]  It is problematic that between 1994 and 2003, only 3% of the total agricultural land was returned noting that restitution, measured against the stated target of 30%.[2]  Though, our president did not speak of sustain our environment and mitigation steps towards making sure that of the environment remain protected from degradation.

It is important that we re-industrialized and localize our economic system as our president have said. Acknowledging that our country’s industrialization has been declining for example around 2005 there was approximately 200 000 people in the clothing textile industry and now we are down to about 19 000. As our textile manufacturing sectors have been shutting down as they can stand the competition with the huge import of China’s products which are sold cheaper in South Africa.  Our president did not elaborate how industrialization will take place except that will happen through manufacturing and localizing of our economy.

Furthermore, our president cited that the government has spent R50 billion in boosting local productions. He further contended that industrialization and transformation must go hand in glove through Black Economic Empowerment. Though, the issue of Black economic empowerment has been about buying shares of white companies since 1994. Our government must establish the state bank which will facilitate government payments and must restructure BEE to be entreated to build the business from the ground instead of buying white businesses.

Our country to reindustrialize they must unbundle the economic system to the rural areas. Though, our president did not speak of the plans to unbundle our economic system for example integrating local economies to the mainstream economy. For our country to reindustrialize the rate of growth of the electricity-intensive-goods-producing industries such as mines and steel firms must significantly increase. As Rob Jeffrey highlighted that if the growth of the electricity-intensive-goods-producing this will:

” Energy and electricity will never again be cheap, but for higher economic growth there has to be the security of supply of electricity at competitive prices. Unfortunately, economic growth models based on relatively low electricity growth forecasts become self-fulfilling prophecies.”[3]

Youth Unemployment appears is a clear ticking bomb since 1994. StatsSA early this year revealed that unemployment rate of 52.2% for youths aged between 15 and 24, and 35.5% for those between 25 and 34.[4]  In line with our President state of the nation address, he posited a clear plan for eradicating the youth unemployment. Our president spoke of initiating the summit whereby workers, trade unions, and businesses will strategically engage in how to create jobs for the youth of South Africa.  This will happen through Employment tax initiative to draw the youth in the workplace and through internships, apprenticeship, and mentorship programs. As well, it is strategic for our government to start involving our communities to deal with the unemployment problem.

Finally, our president speech was reviving and gives hope that under his government radical economic transformation will happen. His determination to fight against corruption and his love for education, give a hope that he truly wants to build the inclusive economic growth and revive our economy.

By Ashley Mabasa

Wits University Honours student (Labour and Economic Sociology)


[1] Shivambu, Floyd 2014;” The coming Revolution.”

[2] Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, 2014: “ANC reclaims its central mission— land.”

[3] Rob Jeffrey is managing director and senior economist of Econometrix

[4] StatsSA, 2018 January


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