Sona: Cyril Ramaphosa's challenge is to turn things around

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Image: Esa Alexander

Annually, at the State of the Nation Address (Sona), elected representatives and public officials gather at parliament to be addressed by the president. Sona is not just an occasion for these leaders in the executive, legislature and judiciary, to show off their glitz and glam.

Sona is momentous. The president of the country, as the head of state and government, presents the vision and actionable framework for his government for the year. He reports on progress as well as the shortcomings, if he is honest, in addressing key priorities on the policy agenda.

This year, President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the public at the height of an energy crisis, a stagnant economy, weak governance performance, collapsing local government sector and persistent social inequality.

The government's commitment and efforts to reduce poverty, and to dent unemployment, are not materialising.

The fiscal expenditure on social goods such as education, healthcare, and in providing a social net to vulnerable groups through the social grant system, has not improved prospects of upward social mobility.

As such the historical racialised patterns of income, and wealth distribution in SA, continue with very minimal shifts.

Statistics collected by Stats SA provide a snapshot of the state of the nation.

According to the Living Standards Survey of 2015, 40% of the population lives below the lower bound poverty line. Twenty-five percent of the population lives below the food poverty line.

Unemployment and years of schooling top the list as drivers of poverty in SA and access to social goods such as sanitation, energy and water.

On racialised distribution of income, the Poverty Trends in SA report shows that white-headed households spent five times more than black-headed households. The average income of white households is just over R444,000, of Asian and Indian households it is just over R271,000, of coloured households just over R172,000 and of black households it is just over R92,000.

SA income inequality with the Gini coefficient was estimated at 0.65 in 2015. But wealth inequality is worse at 0.94. According to the Inequality Trends in SA report, while the top the top 10% of the population has a 56% to 58% share of income, they have approximately 95% of all wealth".

Young people are disproportionately affected by these societal problems.

Based on the Mid-year Population Outlook of 2019, 37.6-million of SA's population of 58-million are young people.

Unemployment is highest among the age group 15-24 years, sitting at 58%.

Children from poorer backgrounds are less likely to have high levels of education.

What measures will Ramaphosa take to turn this situation around?

- Runji is a senior sociopolitical analyst and researcher at Critical ThinkAR

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