SONA 2024: Living in a Ramaverse, the President Attempts to Rewrite the History of a Struggling Nation

Listening to President Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SoNA) this evening, South Africans would be forgiven for thinking they live in a different country. The SoNA was a political sleight of hand, where Ramaphosa appropriated the progress of the ruling party made under Presidents Mandela and Mbeki while distancing himself from its failures and corruption during President Zuma’s State Capture era.

South Africans struggling with unemployment, rampant crime, and continuous rolling blackouts know the truth that belies this rhetoric.

The reality outside the Ramaverse is that the President’s superficial, low-impact interventions have done little to demonstrate real accountability for corruption, address rolling blackouts, improve educational outcomes, or grow our job-killing economy.

It is deeply ironic that the President commended the efforts to fight corruption while being applauded by the same ruling party that was complicit in State Capture. This is an insult to South Africa’s collective memory: Ramaphosa was no innocent bystander during the Zuma administration, he was central to the Executive. While State Capture might look different now, grand corruption – seen once again during the COVID-19 pandemic – is still rife under Ramaphosa’s presidency.

Similarly, despite Ramaphosa’s intervention in load shedding, including the appointment of a lame-duck Minister of Electricity, rolling blackouts have only increased under his watch. South Africa now finds itself indefinitely on Stage 3 with no end in sight.

Load shedding has cost our country billions and destroyed our growth trajectory, and the government continues to show that they are unwilling and incapable of addressing our energy crisis. Maintaining Gwede Mantashe, one of South Africa’s single biggest barriers to progress on energy security, as Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources is a clear indication that Ramaphosa cares more about keeping the SACP happy than addressing the crisis that destroys so many lives.

South Africa has experienced load shedding for more than a third of Ramaphosa’s stint as President. Since the start of 2021, we have had load shedding for almost 75% of days under Ramaphosa’s leadership. This is not a government that can solve this crisis.

Despite the President’s posturing around a diverse and growing economy, outside the ‘Ramaverse’, 41.2% of South Africans — or almost 12 million citizens — find themselves without work. Claiming that a threefold increase in GDP in thirty years is something to be proud of, is embarrassing. At a modest growth rate of 5% per year, as has been standard in the developing world, South Africa’s economy should have been 150% of what it is today. The ANC’s destructive economic policy continued under Ramaphosa’s watch, keeping millions of South Africans in poverty.

At the heart of this failure to grow the economy is the decimation of the education system by the ruling party. The president unjustifiably celebrated the country’s matric pass rate of 82.9%. Ramaphosa fails to acknowledge that many pupils never reach their matric year due to high dropout rates.

South Africa’s Basic Education system fails to teach children essential numeracy and literacy skills. Results from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study indicate that 81% of grade four learners cannot read for meaning by the age of 10. This is a clear indication of a failing education system.

Finally, while acknowledging progress in the war against crime, the prevalence of violent crime has increased during his tenure. The increase in the policing budget and deployment of additional police personnel has yielded no results, and instead, an average of 75 people are now being killed in South Africa every day, compared to 57 at the start of his presidency in 2018.

Despite his repeated promises to act against State Capture, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has failed to successfully prosecute any high-profile case while the Independent Directorate has still not been made permanent.

The story of Tintswalo, a resident of the Ramaverse, is not the lived experience of an average South African. It is the exception. Rather, Tintswalo’s peers are subjected to high levels of violence and gender-based violence, a failing healthcare system, an education system that fails to empower, and an economy incapable of providing hope.

For South Africa to break away from the cycle of decline Ramaphosa and the ruling party has placed the country under, we have to stop doing the same thing and expecting different results.

To bring about positive change, we must be bold, and courageous and we must try something new. We must take action by registering to vote and remove the ruling party from government in this year’s election.

ActionSA remains the only viable alternative to the failed political establishment which has pragmatic solutions to Fix South Africa. We have real pragmatic solutions that will end load shedding, restore economic prosperity, restore the rule of law, and bring economic justice in South Africa for all the residents living in the country – not just a select few. Because, only Action will fix South Africa.