South Africans call for Ramaphosa to 'give direction' at Sona

07 February 2020 - 16:47 By Andisiwe Makinana
President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver his fourth state of the nation address in Cape Town on Thursday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver his fourth state of the nation address in Cape Town on Thursday.

“Where to from here?”

This is the biggest question most South Africans want President Cyril Ramaphosa to address when he delivers his fourth state of the nation address on Thursday.

This is according to Cape Town-based research company Citizen Surveys, which conducted its survey in November and December 2019.

The research company says it collates its data from face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 3,900 respondents per quarter. The interviews are conducted in English, Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Sotho, SePedi and Setswana and sampling sites are selected through scientific probability sampling in all provinces and across the metro, urban and rural divide.

Ramaphosa's address comes at a time when the country's economy remains stagnant and amid the ongoing load-shedding crisis.

The Citizen Surveys' study found that only 28% of South Africans believe the country is heading in the right direction, representing a 10% drop from the data collated in May/June 2019, when 38% of South Africans felt positive about the direction of the country.

But Ramaphosa still enjoys the highest favourability rating (61%) of all the country's political leaders, followed by finance minister Tito Mboweni (33%) and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan (28%). Among non-ANC figures, EFF leader Julius Malema’s favourability rating is 26%, followed by DA interim leader John Steenhuisen (with a favourability rating of 15%), found the study.

Malema's favourability rating plateaued in 2019 - ranging between 25% and 27% and ending off the year with a rating of 26% - while former DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s favourability rating declined by five percentage points to 24%, shortly after leaving that party.

Reza Omar, the strategic research director at Citizen Survey, said it was interesting to note that Ramaphosa continues to retain the highest favourability rating among the major political figures surveyed. Ramaphosa’s favourability rating reached a high point of 62% during the national and provincial elections.

“In the successive period the president has, despite all the challenges facing him and the country, maintained these very high ratings,” he said.

South Africans continue to throw their weight behind Ramaphosa despite the drop in the belief that the country is heading in the right direction, the Eskom load-shedding crisis and a slowing economy. Omar said the president ended 2019 on a high note with 64% of South Africans saying he was doing his job well.

“Citizens look to him to drive the changes needed to resolve the unemployment crisis, tackle crime, bring the perpetrators of corruption to heel and ameliorate growing poverty and destitution,” he said.

While a minority blamed Ramaphosa for the Eskom crisis in April 2019, Omar said by the end of the year, South Africans no longer appeared to blame the president.

According to Omar, in November and December 2019 when South Africans were asked who was to blame for the Eskom crisis, 31% said that it was Eskom’s leaders who did not do their jobs properly, followed by the municipalities that didn’t pay Eskom its money on time (24%). Government, state capture, the ANC and former president Jacob Zuma were also blamed for the crisis, he said.

Trust in Eskom see-sawed in 2019, as at the beginning of the year 56% of South Africans trusted the power utility but this plummeted during the period of load-shedding in February and March, reaching 35% in April. Trust began to grow subsequently during the May general elections reaching 55% in July. Only 44% of South Africans trusted Eskom by the end of 2019.

For many South Africans, crime (39%), poverty and destitution (20%) are among the most pressing challenges. Crucially, corruption (23%) has steadily increased in prevalence over time, reflecting the growing awareness of the impact of state capture and corrupt activities, found the study.

Omar concluded that South Africans would now be turning to Ramaphosa to hear the plan that would help navigate the nation through these troubled times.