It’s that time of year again when our President addresses the nation with his vision and his big plans. But not before a red carpet with dazzling looks, a 21 gun salute, fancy cars, a Khoi praise-poet and lots of glam in parly Cape Town. Here we break down the main points of SONA 2019. Where do President Ramaphosa’s priorities lie?
The cabinet is smaller and more gender-balanced than ever. Half of our ministers are women. And it’s pretty great to see women in leadership roles, taking up SPACE. Spoiler alert: there were no dramatic disruptions. The president urges us to start reimagining, in a time of challenge.
The Boldest Promises
1. Two Million Jobs For Young People
2 million jobs in 10 years. This is a big one. He’s pushing entrepreneurship, small business and a national roll-out of small business incubation centers. He has engaged with young South Africans including entrepreneurs, activists, artists and community builders:
‘We cannot impose solutions on them, everything that has to be done must be led by young people themselves. They have told us very clearly what they want. They want to become employed. They also want to become employers… we have to support the fire of entrepreneurship that resides in them.’
2. Every 10-Year-Old Will Be Able to Read
The president made a huge promise regarding eduction. And he took it back to basics:
‘If we are to ensure that within the next decade, every 10-year-old will be able to read for meaning, we will need to mobilize the entire nation behind a massive reading campaign.’
The massive reading campaign will involve support for foundation school teachers. He’s also looking at introducing subjects like coding and data analytics at primary school.
3. We’re Halving Violent Crime
‘…if not eliminated.’ Again, this a big promise, even within 10 years. So what’s the plan? Well, it involves increasing police visibility and also employing more police, according to President Ramaphosa. But he went further:
4. Eradicating Gender-Based Violence
He pledged to work towards ending gender-based violence and feminicde, by working with civil society. The plan to eradicate what he called a ‘national scourge’ is to equip police and the court system to support survivors of gender-based violence.
This is something we desperately need in South Africa, as one in five women has experienced violence at the hand of a partner.
5. There Will Be Cheaper Data
Please, yes. Will we finally see the#datamustfall campaign realised? He pledges to promote competition within the industry, in order to lower rates.
‘We call on the telecommunications industry further to bring down the cost of data so that it is in line with other countries in the world.’
6. No Place For Corruption
The president is committed to building an ethical state. One that has no place for corruption, where there is no plundering of public money:
‘We need to ensure that public money stolen is returned.’
We’re waiting and watching.
7. Bullet Trains and Smart Cities
President Ramaphosa wants us to image a country with a bullet train that runs through the smallest towns through to the biggest metropolises. He also dreams of building new smart cities. As we embrace the fourth industrial revolution, he invites us to imagine. And to reimagine.
8. What Else? Hunger, Economy and Eskom
He also mentioned that in ten years, no South African should go hungry. Our economy will – we hope – grow faster than our population. On the land issue, he seems to have shifted from expropriation to reform. And it’s confirmed that the reserve bank will remain independent.
The president touched on climate change, HIV and Eskom too. He called Eksom ‘our collective responsibility as a nation’ and urged that those who use electricity must pay for the electricity that they use.
— Raised In Africa. (@paballo_patsa) June 20, 2019
His emphasis on global warming did not go unnoticed. It was addressed early on in the speech:
Together with the nations of the world, we are confronted by most devastating changes in global climate in human history. Extreme weather conditions associated with warming of the atmosphere threaten our economy, they threaten the lives and the livelihoods of our people #SONA2019
— Ranjeni Munusamy (@RanjeniM) June 20, 2019
President Ramaphosa listed 7 larger priorities which you can see here:
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) June 20, 2019
How Did The Opposition Parties React?
They certainly had things to say, and there seemed to be a common thread to the reactions: all dream, no plan. Opposition parties challenged the President’s dream, and asked HOW?
The DA’s Mmusi Maimane wasn’t too impressed, ‘Today the president didn’t give a plan… more rhetoric coming from the president.’
The EFF’s Julius Malema wasn’t hopeful either: ‘The president said nothing about the land … The days of dreaming are over … When you say bullet train, where and when? … We’ve got a new plan called dreams, post-1994 was supposed to be the implementation.’
And a Few Others
The FF called the speech ‘a wish-list’ and the ADC called it ‘a very nice dream speech’. The IFP’s Buthelezi said: ‘I wish I could believe they were achievable… I cannot imagine where the money’s going to come from.’
But Minister of Public Works, Patricia de Lille, said: ‘I think the president was very honest in admitting all the problems we have’, although she did admit that his plans were ambitious.
Here’s What He Left Out
1. A Solid Plan for Implementation
As numerous opposition parties pointed out, there was a lot of dreaming and imagining. Huge ambitions were set out. While he did allude to strategies and summits, there wasn’t too much by way of specifics.
In fairness, the vision was one that inspired hope. And he was honest af about the problems we face as South Africans. The president’s speech certainly stirred us to reimagine another future – and to do so together. This is valuable. Dreaming big – and dreaming together – is a powerful thing.
But as for the how and the nitty-gritty? We’ll have to wait and see. Let’s not forget to hold him (and the government and ourselves) accountable.
2. The Decriminalisation of Sex Work
Sex work is work. And President Ramaphosa promised to recognise that by reviewing some outdated laws. But it seems that sex-worker rights weren’t worth a mention at SONA. When he signed a declaration on gender-based violence in Johannesburg, he told a number of organisations that the government is looking to decriminalise sex work.
Sex workers remain at huge risk of rape, murder and assault because they are marginalised by both the law and society. As a result, they are often exploited and abused by the police.
3. The Gender Pay Gap
Well, it wasn’t mentioned at all. In South Africa, the gender pay gap was reported at 28% just last year. This means men earn around 28% more than women. Certain countries, like Iceland, have made the gender pay gap illegal. Isn’t it time we take a stand here, too?
4. Accessible Sanitary Pads
Yes, sanitary pads’ tax is now a thing of the past in South Africa. Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, announced the decision in parliament last year. But making the sanitary pads tax-free does not make them accessible (or totally affordable for that matter).
Many young girls are not able to go to school on their period, because pads are too expensive. Pads and tampons are also inaccessible in certain areas. What’s the result? South African girls miss up to a quarter of their school year. This means that 7 million girls miss school every month because they can’t access these products.
We still have a long road ahead here. And this problem isn’t being followed-up.
After All That Politics, Let’s Indulge in Those Red Carpet LOOKS
The President’s Locally-Made Suit:
No, it’s not Gucci or Armani. The suit he’s wearing is SA-made (as is the tie and shirt). It comes from Salt River in Cape Town. And it’s dashing af. This look is a statement in itself: Let’s support each other. And President Ramaphosa chose it for a reason. He encourages us to BUY LOCAL:
‘If all of us buy locally made clothes we will be able to drive up demand which will grow in our economy’.
— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 (@CyrilRamaphosa) June 20, 2019
The Minister Of Justice and Couple Goals
This couple is very cute tbh. Our new Minister of Justice, Ronald Lamola, and his wife. Lamola is one of our youngest leaders:
— MCM (@mosmooches) June 20, 2019
Police Minister Bheki Cele and his wife absolutely killed the runway. This dress tho 😍
— Rendani Sindrellar (@Rendani_Ma) June 20, 2019
Also, the slayage of this pose, guys:
— Briefly – South African News (@brieflyza) June 20, 2019
So You Just Stopped Calling, Huh?
And the man who wouldn’t stop phoning us every day, pre-election:
— Mabine Seabe II (@Mabine_Seabe) June 20, 2019
A Whole Runway Lewk
This was a highlight indeed.
— Stuart with a UA (@StueyMax) June 20, 2019
Impossible to miss this dress worn by our Public Protector:
— Briefly – South African News (@brieflyza) June 20, 2019
Lastly, this could be in a look book:
View this post on Instagram
The president ended off with a beautiful Ben Okri quote: ‘Our future is greater than our past’. And that, we hope, is something everybody can get behind.