Cyril Ramaphosa has to show nation what the legacy of his years in office will be

The high number of unemployed graduates shows how the youth is the most affected by lack of jobs which Cyril Ramaphosa's administration will be expected to address. /Thulani Mbele
The high number of unemployed graduates shows how the youth is the most affected by lack of jobs which Cyril Ramaphosa's administration will be expected to address. /Thulani Mbele

Tonight, President Cyril Ramaphosa will present yet another State of the Nation Address (Sona).

This speech is significant because he is no longer a caretaker president closing off his predecessor's final term.

With the ANC having won the elections, albeit with a reduced majority, he now has the mandate he has been waiting for. He has to show the nation what he intends to do with his new mandate.

Although he faces the difficult balancing act of driving the renewal and good governance agenda while also holding the ANC together, he has to decide which one he will prioritise.

Will he prioritise his positioning within the party to ensure he shores up support to survive in the top office through to a second term?

Or will his administration take the necessary actions to restructure government, reconfigure the state and reform the economy to revive SA's developmental prospects?

In his previous Sona, in February this year, he called on South Africans to reflect on the 25 years of freedom.

"We must spend the 25th anniversary of our freedom asking ourselves whether we have built a society in which all South Africans equally and without exception enjoy their inalienable rights to life, dignity and liberty.

"Have we built a society where the injustices of the past no longer define the lives of the present?"

If we are going to make any headway as a nation, we have to be brutally honest. And Ramaphosa will have to be honest in his assessment of the state of the nation.

The Mandela years gave us the rainbow nation concept, which was useful in getting us onto the path of forging a national identity post centuries of segregation along racial and cultural lines.

It was an exercise to define what being South African means and what role SA would play and the space it would occupy in multilateral fora and global politics.

It was well intended but it did not take us far. What emerged from the Mandela years is a fragile cohesion.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission banked on truth and underplayed justice as an important ingredient in the glue needed to bind this nation together.

SA is a nation not at peace with itself. And that peace has been difficult to forge because the rights to life, dignity and liberty that are enshrined in the constitution have failed to find practical expression in the daily experience of millions across the country.

The big question is whether Ramaphosa's years in office will finally close the page on the injustices of the past?

Will his legacy be that his administration rolled back the 27% unemployment rate (about 60% among the youth) in the country?

Will it be that it closed the inequality gap? Not only does SA have among the highest income inequality gaps in the world but is also among the highest in wealth inequality.

The land question goes to the heart of how unequally wealth is shared in SA.

The reality is that many of those who have benefited from the opportunities of social mobility in the past 25 years, who form part of the new middle class, are precarious.

Their economic position hinges on them retaining their employment. As such they are a few pay checks away from falling off that prized middle class rung of the ladder.

They don't only carry themselves and their picture-perfect families but they provide the remittances which many other relatives rely on to survive - the so-called black tax.

Will Ramaphosa's legacy be that crime levels declined under his leadership?

Research shows that unequal societies tend to be the most violent. Therefore, what will Ramaphosa do to get SA closer to be a nation at peace with itself? He should apply his mind and provide definitive responses to these questions. This evening's Sona is a good place to start.

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