Ramaphosa’s SONA speech expected to come under intense scrutiny during debate this week

Reading Time: 4 minutes

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) is expected to face intense scrutiny during the two-day post-SONA debate on Monday and Tuesday. He will respond to the debate on Wednesday.

It will be the first time that the Joint SONA Debate will not be held in the National Assembly Chamber following the fire that gutted the Old and New National Assembly Buildings in January.

The debate will take place at the Cape Town City Hall. The venue has officially been declared a parliamentary precinct after it was handed over to the Presiding Officers of Parliament by Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis on  January 31, 2022.

The President delivered his SONA at the City Hall on Thursday evening, February 10. Security was tight at the Parliamentary precinct in Plein Street and at the City Hall. The K9 Unit’s sniffer dog searching for explosives, Alvin was at the precinct on SONA day.

The area at the Grand Parade was cordoned off. However, it did not stop some members of the public to have a glimpse of some of the activities ahead of SONA.

There were also various demonstrations in the afternoon ahead of Ramaphosa’s address. Various demonstrators from different groupings near the Grand Parade were asked by police to disperse and relocate to another side to air their views. Some of them included disgruntled workers who were holding placards.

Leader of the Swaziland People’s Liberation Movement, Vusi Shongwe, was among those who were protesting at the location. Shongwe who was on another demonstration came to send a message to Ramaphosa to intervene in the Swaziland crisis.

“I am here to represent the amaSwati in the diaspora and also in Swaziland. We know that Cyril Ramaphosa is the chairperson of the SADEC Troika and it is the opportune time for us as people of Swaziland to come and put our case forward our case as well. Our case is that he met with King Mswati, and King Mswati promised that after three months he was going to convene the King,” says Shongwe.

Members of Parliament started trickling in from 17:00. All those who were accredited to be in the gallery in the chamber had to be seated by 18:00. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were the last ones to enter the City Hall. EFF MPs led by Party Leader Julius Malema protested against being searched before entering the City Hall. They entered in song.

President Ramaphosa was able to deliver his speech without any interruptions for almost two hours. His speech is however expected to come under scrutiny. Ramaphosa’s address drew mixed reactions from economists, opposition parties and unions. The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomed Ramaphosa’s admission that job creation is the responsibility of the private sector and not government.

Rampahosa said government’s responsibility is to create a conducive environment for the private sector to create jobs. He was also criticised for his statement.

Malema said Ramaphosa has passed a motion of no confidence on himself after promising millions of jobs in the ANC’s manifesto which led to him becoming President of the country. The EFF leader denounced the President’s move saying he is shifting the job creation responsibility to the private sector.

The United Democratic Movement’s Chief Whip Nqabayomzi Kwankwa described the President’s speech as a Neo-Liberal speech which sounds more like a DA manifesto.

The African Transformation Movement (ATM) says the President’s speech is uninspiring and slammed his stance on job creation.

“The SONA 2022 should be characterised as the formal sell out articulation by Ramaphosa because, by emphasising that the State’s role should be limited to creating an enabling environment, he is in fact saying business must decide what will work for them to maximise profits and committing that Government will not stand in the way. He even brought in a private sector deployee to start the process of amending regulations under the guise of cutting red tape to improve efficiencies,” says ATM National Spokesperson Sibusiso Mncwabe in a statement.

Chief Justice appointment and State Capture report during SONA debate

The appointment of a Chief Justice of South Africa is also expected to be highlighted during the SONA debate. The ATM recently called on Ramaphosa to appoint the recommended candidate as soon as possible.

The Judicial Service Commission recommended that the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal Mandisa Maya should be appointed as the next Chief Justice of South Africa.

On state capture, Ramaphosa is expected to be asked to give more detail on the implementation of the findings and recommendations on the two reports from the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture. He will reply to the two-day SONA Debate on Thursday.