Ramaphosa's Sona headaches

All eyes on the president, who is under siege due to stains to his struggling administration

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce government intervention on the ongoing power crisis. File photo.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce government intervention on the ongoing power crisis. File photo.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo

When President Cyril Ramaphosa takes centre stage to deliver his state of the nation address (Sona) at the Cape Town City Hall at 7pm on Thursday, top of his mind is expected to be the energy crisis.

This after the country was plunged into darkness for 984 hours on the trot.

Ramaphosa is under pressure to deal with the matter after measures he announced failed to bear fruit.

As Eskom CEO André de Ruyter exits, the nation will look to Ramaphosa for concrete plans on how the power utility will move forward. The president will also be expected to convince his detractors , among them the EFF, which is planning “the mother of all shutdowns” on March 20.

His political home, the ANC, mandated him to declare a state of disaster on the energy crisis at a recent national executive committee (NEC) meeting, something he is rushing to implement. 

This is worsened by noise from opposition benches who have hammered him on the matter for easy political points.

The DA this week said Ramaphosa has failed completely in dealing with the power crisis.

Official opposition party leader John Steenhuisen said: “This is not a country on the mend. This is a country falling apart. This is a country losing hundreds of billions of rand in productivity and hundreds of thousands of jobs to an ANC-made crisis.

“A crisis for which everyone has been proposing the same simple solutions, but thanks to its ideological stubbornness and deeply entrenched web of patronage and corruption, those solutions have always been a bridge too far for the ANC.

“Of course, load-shedding is the most visible and most threatening state failure to affect South Africans, but it is by no means the only one,” the DA leader said.

Apart from the energy crisis, Ramaphosa is also dealing with political pressure to rejig the country’s executive.

This after the governing party’s national conference in December, which introduced new faces into the all-powerful NEC, among them new party deputy president Paul Mashatile, who is expected to take the same post at the Union Buildings. 

But Ramaphosa has been criticised for non-action in effecting that change.

This was brought into sharp focus by the country’s second-in-command, David Mabuza, who last weekend announced his apparent agreement with Ramaphosa to vacate that office for Mashatile.

Many are also putting pressure on Ramaphosa to sack underperforming ministers and those who are a thorn in the flesh of his administration, among them Lindiwe Sisulu and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Ramaphosa is also expected to pronounce on plans to reignite the country’s ailing economy, which is characterised by a high cost of living and an unprecedented unemployment rate.

South Africa is battling with about 60% of young people not having jobs due to the state's failure to create them.

This will require Ramaphosa to announce drastic job-creation measures to cater for those who have not completed matric and constitute the majority of the unemployment army.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the president will ring the changes during his seventh Sona in five years, a record after he assumed power from his scandal-prone predecessor Jacob Zuma in 2018.

Ramaphosa has been heavily criticised for his snail's pace in making tough decisions, something that is a visible stain on his administration.

Ramaphosa’s headaches are also likely to force him to address the governing party’s war chest regarding the 2024 national polls, at which the ANC is largely predicted to see its support drop below 50% for the first time since the dawn of democracy.

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