President Cyril Ramaphosa will on Thursday address a nation desperately in need of hope.
Analysts expect the president’s message to focus on the country’s economic and social recovery – much the same as his State of the Nation (SONA) address last year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This time, however, it is the country’s energy crisis that is wreaking havoc, with livelihoods taking a beating from an unprecedented wave of rolling blackouts.
The mood, it seems, has also changed with citizens less trusting that the commitments made will be realized.
Government’ has yet to realise its key task in 2023, to create enabling conditions for the private sector to grow, access new markets and hire more employees.
Conditions of the ground currently due to load shedding paint a very different picture.
Small carwash owner, Rudia Kanyenda says, “Because of load shedding, we buy fuel. So, the amount that I make basically, it’s like I am buying fuel in order to keep operating. So, there is not much profit. I have had to layoff some of my staff too because of load shedding. Load shedding is creating huge problems for us. If there is no power, there is no water and a car wash business cannot function if there is no water.”
Kanyenda may be one of the luckier ones as she has a small generator that allows her to mitigate the worst of the load shedding schedules.
Many small and micro businesses cannot afford the pricey machinery and the fuel used to power it.
One of these is S’thembiso Ndashe who runs an eatery in Midrand, north of Johannesburg specializing in such delicacies as sheep’s head, tripe and trotters.
He says the cost of doing business has gone up and his supply chain has been significantly affected.
“Last week, we could not find spinach because our supplier did not have and their supplier did not have either. We also had an issue with chickens. Our suppliers had put the prices up and we struggled to look for farmers who were willing to drop their prices.”
Sindi Buquana, an adminstrator at a neighbourhood panel beater, says it has become difficult to do even the most basic of business operations.
“On a daily basis, we receive calls and clients ask for quotations. However, when load shedding kicks in it becomes a nightmare. We can’t send e-mails to clients or invoices. And when clients want to pay with EFTs we can’t do that.”
In the wake of the difficulties many face, the President’s address outlining government’s programme for the year will be keenly watched.
Precious Lugayeni says that it is key that Ramaphosa goes into detail about what is to be done to turn things around.
“He must be specific this year about what needs to be done specifically to deal with the issue of load shedding so that we can grow this economy. What the president has said in the past has never been achieved. So, I hope he will mention about the high cost of living, high electricity tariffs and high interest rates.”
For some citizens, however, confidence levels in government and its commitments is at an all-time low.
For former Statistician General Pali Lehohla there is cause for sceptism.
He says that serious questions need to be asked of the president, outside the usual “to do list”.
“You can’t hold anybody accountable because this litany of things that are talked about are either just hapless intentions … so, for instance, one of the things is that Eskom will be divided into three. The question is, yes probably it has been divided into three, but do we have electricity? Is that a measure by which we can actually assess development? Where is the electricity? There is no electricity. Now, they have done all that. So, what mark do we give? Do we give 100% that was done? No, we give zero,” adds Lehohla.
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