Sona Draws Mixed Reactions

  • Business welcomes Ramaphosa’s buy local bid
  • We’ll be monitoring, says SG Magashule
  • Opposition not impressed, need more detail

Business and economic analysts have welcomed the proposal by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address last night that people should buy more locally manufactured products in order to boost the country’s economy and create a platform for employment creation.

Black Management Forum (BMF) chairperson for the Bloemfontein branch, David Uwah told The Weekly in a telephone interview that South Africa should be less dependent on foreign goods in order to grow its economy while Central University of Technology (CUT) senior economics lecturer Mgcinazwe Zwane said young people need more government support to start and run viable businesses. 

According to Uwah, it’s important for people to heed the President’s call to buy local as it will help improve the economy.

“It’s the first and right step in the right direction,” said Uwah.

“If you stimulate local production, you are putting money in the pockets of the people. We must have a viable manufacturing sector producing quality goods so that people would want to buy locally. Africa is known to be dependent on foreign goods. That doesn’t help us much.

“If we buy locally, it means we are keeping the money within our economy and empowering local people. It’s high we change in order to move forward,” he noted.

Uwah added it is important to note that the President was not just paying lip service to the issue of buying locally because he was wearing locally made clothes during his address.

In his address, Ramaphosa called on all South Africans to deliberately and consistently buy locally-made goods.

“The suit, the shirt and the tie I am wearing today was locally made by South African textile workers working at the House of Monatic here in Saltriver Cape Town… Let us all buy locally-made goods to drive up demand in our economy,” said Ramaphosa.

He indicated within the next year, government will conclude agreements with retailers to stock more South African goods on their shelves and to actively promote the great products made by South African hands.

The country will also promote locally made products more actively to the rest of the African continent and the world.

“These measures are underpinned by our strong commitment to a macroeconomic and fiscal policy framework that will continue to boost confidence and investment,” said Ramaphosa.

Zwane said the youth unemployment currently at about 50 percent is untenable and young people should be supported to start their own businesses and create employment because jobs are hard to come by.

“The youth need to be supported. They cannot be ignored any longer. They should be assisted so that they start productive businesses,” he noted.

The economics lecturer was however sceptical about the President’s address on the issue of land, mining, agriculture, employment creation and fighting corruption, among others, saying he (Ramaphosa) lacked detail on how to tackle them.

“The President listed a very long list of issues that he would like to address but he doesn’t say where the money to do that will come from. The issues he raised are very critical to the economy so he should have outlined how they will be addressed. The most important issue is money. Where  will it come from given the country’s state of the economy? We cannot just be talking about plans at this point. We need the detail… the action plan,” he said.

Zwane indicated he was also disappointed that the President did not say anything on the issue of fuel, whose price affects many other things in the economy.

He said he also wanted Ramaphosa to talk at length about the lack of growth in the country’s economy and the foods prices.

Ramaphosa also spoke about the national power utility, saying the country’s poor performance hinged on Eskom’s failure to supply electricity reliably.

“One reason for the lacklustre economic performance has been the load shedding early this year, together with the continued uncertainty in the supply of electricity and the state of Eskom. The lesson is clear: for growth, we need a reliable and sustainable supply of electricity.

“Eskom is facing serious financial, operational and structural problems. The utility’s financial position remains a matter of grave concern… Eskom has sufficient cash to meet its obligations until the end of October 2019. We will therefore table a Special Appropriation Bill on an urgent basis to allocate a significant portion of the R230 billion fiscal support that Eskom will require over the next 10 years in the early years,” announced the President.

On the issue of land, he said he had received the report of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture, which will now be presented to Cabinet for consideration.

The panel’s recommendations will inform the finalisation of a comprehensive, far-reaching and transformative land reform programme.

Ramaphosa said in the immediate term, government will accelerate efforts to identify and release public land that is suitable for smart, urban settlements and for farming.

What political parties said

The ANC in the Free State last night said commenting on President Ramaphosa’s Sona is the prerogative of the party’s national office.

Speaking from parliament in Cape Town, ANC provincial spokesman Thabo Meeko said the province will take cue from Lithuli House, the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg.

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule had earlier indicated the ‘implementation of what the President has said is what is important’.

“We as a party will be monitoring,” he noted.

During his address, Ramaphosa invited leaders of opposition political parties across the spectrum, including the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) leader Pieter Groenewald –  whose party’s opposition to the government’s plan to expropriate land without compensation is well documented, to work together to instill hope among South Africans.

However, in response to the President’s pledge to assist the ailing national power utility Eskom,  DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the state entity should have been broken down long time ago.

Maimane voiced concern that the public purse will have to be used in fixing Eskom, despite Ramaphosa having indicated stringent control measures meant to ensure that those who consume power from the national grid pay for it.

FF Plus leader Pieter Groenwald told news network EWN that Ramaphosa’s talk of halving violent crime in the country is wishful thinking.

Meanwhile, Business Unity South Africa (Busa) president Sipho Pityana said in a statement the organisation agrees with Ramaphosa’s emphasis on economic growth.

The organisation praised Ramaphosa for his commitment to dealing with corruption, further welcoming the establishment of a commission that will focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution as another priority area of the country’s sixth administration.

Ramaphosa also spoke of the need for all parliamentarians to agree on taking extraordinary steps which might not sit well with others in fostering renewal and the creation of a country that all will be proud of.

“Let us agree, as a nation and as a people united in our aspirations, that within the next 10 years we will have made progress in tackling poverty, inequality and unemployment, wherein no person in South Africa will go hungry. Our economy will grow at a much faster rate than our population and two million more young people will be in employment,” said the President.

“Our schools will have better educational outcomes and every 10 year old will be able to read for meaning while violent crime will be halved,” he added.

Ramaphosa painted a painful picture of struggling black South Africans who have to endure years of unemployment even though they had completed their studies, further highlighting the plight of workers earning a salary but still not being able to make ends meet.

Among the seven priorities which the President committed his administration to, is the need to skill the people, transform the economy and create comfortable livelihoods for the poorest of the poor, economic transformation and job creation,

He said education, skills, health, consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services as well as spatial integration, human settlements and local government will also be prioritised.

This does not exclude driving social cohesion and establishing safe communities on top of creating what he said is a ‘capable, ethical and developmental state”.

“Has the time not arrived for us to be bold and reach beyond ourselves and do what may seem impossible? Has the time not arrived to build a new smart city founded on the technologies of the 4th Industrial Revolution? I would like to invite South Africans to begin imaging this prospect,” said Ramaphosa, calling his fellow countrymen to action.

On the international scale, he vowed to work for a better Africa and world during his term of office.

By: Martin Makoni & Ramosidi Matekane