President Cyril Ramaphosa endured a tough year as the head of the country. South Africa is in the midst of a global pandemic and some of the measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus were not well received.
Hard lockdowns, alcohol and cigarette bans and huge disruptions to schooling were challenged in court. The economic effect of the pandemic is severe and poverty levels continue to rise. And now the spectre of corruption linked to the pandemic is coming into full view.
Ahead of President Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address tonight, SABC News hit the streets of the Eastern Cape to find out how people rate his leadership.
Celiwe Phendlani (82) lives in a small house with her children and her grandchildren. They survive on child grants. She is the first person reporter Lerato Fekisi and camera operator Mcebisi Slengile approached on her take on the state of the country.
“I would really love to commend the President for the job that he has done, but he needs to do more. We have been living in these horrific houses for so long and they have been promising us houses. And to date, nothing has been done. I stay here with my children and their children. This house is too small for all of us. They must also try creating more OBs, my children can’t find jobs and that makes it really tough on me because all we have for all of us to survive is the grant,” says Phendlani.
Her next-door neighbour, Mbulelo Mgxotheni, also has nothing but praise for Ramaphosa.
“I would really love to commend the President. He is one of the best Presidents that we have ever had. I mean ever since he took office, things have been so much better. He’s a good leader. I particularly admire the way he and his government handled the COVID-19 pandemic. I think we would be worse off if he was not the leader,” says Mgxotheni.
A car wash on the outskirts of Motherwell touts for our business. The young people are all between the ages of 18 and 25. All with a matric qualification, but no job. They describe the car wash, which they don’t own, but help run as a lifeline.
On a good day, up to 20 cars come for a wash and they each get to take home around R50. They are the breadwinners in their families.
Today is a quiet day, just a car or two coming for a quick tyre shine. 25-year-old Luvo Xaka, the most energetic of the bunch, says if it were not for this car wash, his life would be a mess.
“This car wash has really saved a lot of us from crime and drugs, I really don’t know what we would do if it was not here. When the President speaks during his State of the Nation Address, please can he think of us too. We really need better working conditions. We need shelters, proper equipment and better water supply because that’s one thing that we really struggle with a lot. I think if they invested in young people like us who are trying to make ends meet, they would see lets young people on the street,” he says.
On the other side of town, the lockdown restrictions pertaining to beaches have just been lifted. Beachgoers had mixed views on the President’s leadership and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would really love to say that I love President Ramaphosa and think he is by far the best President that we have had. He did a really good job with the pandemic, knowing when to prioritise the economy and when to put the people first. I really take my hat for him, we are blessed with a good leader,” says one beachgoer.
Another goer feels differently. “I think he is not a good President at all. He has failed our economy greatly. He needs to prioritise energy because it’s in real trouble. Also, he needs to stop putting money into entities that are failing like SAA, I mean what’s the point of that.”
“I really want to commend President Ramaphosa has handled COVID-19, things could have been worse were it not for his great leadership. One thing I would really love for him to improve in the Eastern Cape, is more jobs, build better schools and also improve our hospitals especially in our rural areas,” says another beach patron.
Expectations ahead of SONA in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal:
A 2020 report by Statistics SA shows that 84% of children living in rural areas face multidimensional poverty compared to children in urban areas.
The highest multidimensional poverty rates are found amongst children residing in Limpopo and Eastern Cape.
Living examples are found in the villages of Masingata and Tolofiyini, which are close to Bhisho in the Eastern Cape.
“I honestly don’t see any change that the president has made, things are still the way they were. For example, the R350 that was promised I still have not got. I go and queue at the post office all the time, but I still haven’t received it. I’m still living in poverty, I don’t have a job and we are still struggling,” says one resident.
“I really believe that the president handled the COVID-19 pandemic really well. I mean he was able to move us from one level of the other when things got really bad. He was even able to stop alcohol sales, meaning that many people didn’t drink during this time. I really salute him and his team they did very well.”
Houses and water
Greenbushes, on the outskirts of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, is equally poverty-stricken. Residents live from hand to mouth. Unemployment in the area is above 80%, with high alcohol and drug abuse. There is no electricity, no toilets and roads are deteriorating.
The area’s more than 100 residents depend on one tap for water. “I really think that President Ramaphosa is a good President. The only problems are those that work under him. They are not doing a great job. He gives money out but those who supposed to take this money to the people don’t do that,” says one resident.
“I really can’t say whether I like Ramaphosa or not. I don’t know how I feel about him. One thing that I do know is that he needs to start prioritising us here in Greenbushes. We need proper houses, water in our homes, toilets, we can’t still be using long drops in 2021. We vote but we don’t see any change,” says another.
The unemployment rate in the area amongst youth with tertiary education increased from 23.0% in 2019 to a record high of 38.9% in 2020.
In the Eastern Cape, the youth unemployment rate skyrocketed to 53.3%, up from 40.7% in 2014.
“We really would like President Ramaphosa to speak more into tangible ways he is going to deal with the entrepreneurs. We don’t want summits anymore, we really want to hear how much money is going to be ploughed into entrepreneurship. It has been tough under lockdown and many businesses died, so we are trying to pick up the pieces, but this is really hard with no proper financing. Young people want to start a business because there are no jobs, but they can’t cause there is no proper funding,” says one resident.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the microscope on the many challenges facing the Eastern Cape, in particular, the health and education sectors. There are calls for President Ramaphosa to also speak into such matters during his State of the Nation Address.
SONA 2021 citizens’ expectations in the Eastern Cape: