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What the experts are expecting from Sona 2020

In their own words, this is what some of the country's leading political experts think we can expect from the president's state of the nation address on Thursday.

13 February 2020 - 06:00 By Iavan Pijoos and Anathi Madubela
President Cyril Ramaphosa's state of the nation address comes amid ongoing load-shedding, high unemployment, troubled SOEs and poor economic growth.
President Cyril Ramaphosa's state of the nation address comes amid ongoing load-shedding, high unemployment, troubled SOEs and poor economic growth.
Image: Gallo Images

President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to deliver his much-anticipated state of the nation address (Sona) in parliament in Cape Town on Thursday.

His speech comes amid ongoing load-shedding, high unemployment, troubled state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and poor economic growth.

In their own words, this is what experts think we can expect from Ramaphosa.

Dr Sithembile Mbete from the department of political sciences at the University of Pretoria:

"I think that he is likely to focus on his January 8 statement and some of the newsletters he has released after that. At the moment he seems to be very interested in civil service and the capacity of the state - is the state capable to implement the kinds of changes and reforms he has been speaking about?

"He has spoken about cadre deployment and I think that conversation is important, given the local government elections next year and the reality that a lot of weakness in our state capacity is at local government level.

As South Africa prepares itself for Cyril Ramaphosa's state of the nation address (Sona), we take a look at South Africa's four prominent presidents and what they achieved. Through statistics, we compare each democratically elected president's promises to the subsequent realities.

"He will then have to speak about Eskom and SAA and provide some direction about the future of those SOEs. In terms of Eskom, he will need to flesh out a bit more what restructuring Eskom would entail. Then the issues around SAA and the business rescue, whether it is going to be saved or not.

"I think that he will speak more in this Sona than others about continental politics given that South Africa has taken over the chairmanship of the AU."

Prof Vishnu Padayachee from the school of economics and finance at the University of the Witwatersrand:

"I do not expect anything from Sona or the budget which will bring hope, direction and opportunities for our people. That is a tragedy but a reality of our life in South Africa. All we have is the rich history of the struggle and the legacy of Nelson Mandela and we continue to milk that proud history with all the ANC's remaining might, to the exclusion of new directions and ideas. So expect President Cyril Ramaphosa to continue this tradition on Thursday."

Dr Ntsikelelo Benjamin Breakfast from the school for security and Africa studies at Stellenbosch University:  

"Ramaphosa's speech will be twofold. First it will focus on  domestic issues and our foreign policy posture. On the domestic front, I am sure that at the heart of his speech will be the three challenges, namely: poverty, inequality and unemployment. These are three main security threats. However, he will definitely talk about Eskom, corruption and the general failure of SOEs.

"On the world front, he might talk about peace, security, conflict management and our role in the African Union (as a chair of the AU), under the theme 'silencing the guns’.

"I don’t expect new announcements on economic stimulus. The 2018 economic stimulus has not contributed positively to the economy. Our economy is struggling to grow and create employment. I think the focus will be to fix Eskom and try to improve Sars in order to get more revenue."

Dawie Roodt, chief economist at the Efficient Group:

"Broadly speaking, the president is going to focus on the South African economy - or the lack of. But the comments he is going to make about the economy will be very non-committal. He is not going to confront the real issues facing the economy.

He is going to try to please us, because that is what he usually does.
Dawie Roodt

"He is going to try to please us, because that is what he usually does. He will put a lot of emphasis on job creation for the youth and that is it. It is going to be more of the same, more rhetoric, more promises without getting to the main issues.

"I think he might also refer to Eskom and the importance of getting Eskom running again - especially on where the money is going to come from. But I think he will try to evade that one, because that is the elephant in the room: what to do with Eskom.

"The government has been stimulating the economy for the last couple of years quite excessively - and the reason I say this is because we are running at a massive fiscal deficit.

"I would like the president to stand up there and to say: 'Listen, South Africans, I have some very bad news. We made a mess the last couple years and I was part of that. I am going to fix this now. I am going to be your president and your leader. I can promise you we are going to go through a very difficult time, but the sooner we start, the better.'"

Prof Amanda Gouws from the political science department at the University of Cape Town:

"Ramaphosa will definitely focus on the SOEs (Eskom, SAA), as well as service delivery, especially on local government level. He will definitely say something about land appropriation without compensation.

"He may also say something about the National Health Insurance Bill and measures dealing with corruption."

Prof Jannie Rossouw, head of the school of economic and business sciences at Wits:

"My impression is that the president will do his best to keep his party together. However, the president should focus on new plans to stimulate economic growth, for instance easing conditions for doing business. 

"Get rid of SAA, scrap all visa requirements for entering South Africa as a passport should be sufficient, and get government departments to pay invoices of small businesses within a reasonable period of time."