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What to expect from Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address this week



President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to deliver his annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday (9 February).

SONA marks a critical time for the public to hear what the government’s planned and prioritised for the year. With South Africa’s ongoing record load shedding and cash-strapped consumers battling to survive amid a cost of living crisis, all eyes are on the president to deliver solutions.

The address is anticipated to highlight obstacles and present plans to enable development initiatives during the upcoming fiscal year.

Indications are that president will put particular focus on the ongoing electricity crisis, rampant crime, struggling consumers, employment and further social assistance.

Acting director general of government communications, Micheal Currin, said the upcoming SONA is expected to be one of the most important ever.

“Firstly, we do find ourselves in a global context of very low economic growth. I hope that South Africans, generally (and) business and labour particularly, understand that at this SONA, we have to make interventions to bring about economic growth,” said Currin.

“Secondly, it’s a watershed moment because there are many issues that we are conscious of. We are conscious of the constraints on energy; conscious of the rampant criminal activity and other challenges (and) we have to make decisive interventions on that,” he said.

He said that this year’s SONA would be a ‘wake-up call’ to public servants, following public outcry for them to be better and fulfil their duties as publicly elected officials.

Energy crisis

Similar to SONA 2022, the country’s energy crisis will likely be at the forefront of the address.

The presidency recently provided a six-month update on the implementation of the National Energy Action Plan initiated under the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM); this, however, focused on the short-term developments of the plan.

The long-term aim of the plan is to end load shedding altogether and to achieve energy security by adding new generation capacity to the grid; talk surrounding this can be expected.

At a recent ANC strategy meeting on 30 January, the governing party aligned itself with the idea of declaring the Eskom crisis a national state of disaster.

The president said that work was being done within the government to establish whether the legal requirements of a national state of disaster are met and what specific actions the government could be empowered to undertake.

“A national state of disaster will enable us to have the instruments necessary to fully implement the challenges that our nation faces,” he said at the time. It is widely expected that if a state of disaster is to be declared, Ramaphosa will make the announcement during his address.

South Africans and businesses will also be looking out for mention of a proposed ’emergency package’ of solutions mentioned by ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula to address the crisis.

It is also expected that further measures – like the rollout of rooftop solar and other policy changes – will be brought up in response to the crisis.

Economy and Employment

Economic growth expectations for South Africa have declined in light of prolonged load shedding while the country reels from domestic inflationary pressure on top of interest rate hikes.

In October 2020, Operation Vulindlela, a joint initiative of the presidency and the National Treasury, was founded to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms to drive economic growth; an update on the progress of this can be expected.

The president is under pressure to show that South Africa’s economy can still grow, despite the challenges, and will likely focus on new projects announced and further investment by the government into infrastructure developments as a means of expressing this path.

He is also expected to address the country’s unacceptably high unemployment rate. The president will undoubtedly make mention of the initiatives launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic – which he previously said filled over 800,000 positions – he will be hard-pressed to spin or ignore the country’s high levels of youth unemployment and discouraged work seekers.

Union federation Cosatu said that it expects the president to sideline talk and promises and deliver a clear programme and set clear implementation benchmarks and timeframes to address these issues.


Corruption is among the key areas of concern for South Africans. In the previous year, several corruption-related cases were enrolled in the country’s courts, with some convictions secured.

“This as multi-disciplinary units, which bring together a range of law enforcement agencies, are identifying more implicated individuals and entities and preparing cases against them.”

The president will also be under pressure to confront the issue of high-profile persons being involved in the looting of the state. The progress involving initiatives such as the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2020-2030 is expected to be provided.

Civil action group Outa expects the president to announce significant support to strengthen the criminal justice system and institutions hollowed out by state capture, and action to implement the recommendations of the State Capture Commission to combat corruption and organised crime syndicates.

It also expects the president to introduce significantly enhanced protection and support for whistleblowers, following the threats against and even murder of those who have brought corrupt activity to light.


Ramaphosa, in July 2021, announced the reinstatement of the Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, which was set to run until the end of March 2024. Talk around the same or further social assistance can be expected by the president tomorrow.

Set at R350, it benefits unemployed citizens, most of whom lost their jobs when the pandemic hit.

The grant was introduced in May 2020 as a temporary measure however has been extended several times since then. In October 2022, the government announced that the SRD grant would be extended to the end of March 2024.

Cabinet reshuffle

It has been widely speculated that the president will also announce changes to his executive team at the address – however, mixed messages have been emanating from political insiders.

Ramaphosa has no choice but to shuffle his cabinet, with several vacancies and new resignations creating obvious gaps that need to be filled.

The question has become one of timing. According to reports, the president was primed to announce the changes this week during the address – however, other indications have emerged that he would prefer to wait until a few weeks after the address to make the moves.

Current transport minister Fikile Mbalula is taking up the full-time position of ANC secretary general; deputy president David Mabuza has confirmed his resignation; the Department of Public Service and Administration is still without a permanent minister; and several of Ramaphosa’s most vocal political opponents and detractors – who actively tried to bury him in December 2022 – are still sitting on the executive.

There is also pressure on the president to address the most obvious shortcomings among his team – with energy minister Gwede Mantashe and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan still in charge of collapsing Eskom and other failing SOEs.

Outa said it is expecting Ramapohosa to announce a reshuffled cabinet, “with the removal of obstructionist incompetence and the appointment of competent leaders who place South Africa’s interests ahead of their own.”


As has been the case for SONAs for the last decade, South Africans can expect the EFF and other parties to disrupt proceedings.

The EFF has already made it clear that it will disrupt proceedings, while other political parties said the Phala Phala farm scandal needs to be addressed by the president.

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