OPINION: 8 New-ish + Notable SONA Highlights.

Amid political fatigue, Gina Fredman-Jacobson asks: Is SONA outdated?

South Africans are experiencing political fatigue, every single year we wait for the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to come around, anticipating announcements about implementing real change in the country and every single year we are more disappointed than the last.

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his third State of The Nation Address on 13 Feb (Thursday) and while he touched on some important points of concern, ultimately he didn’t offer up anything novel.

8 New-ish + Notable Things That Were Presented:

1. Nine new TVET (Technical and Vocational Education Training) colleges are being built in Sterkspruit, Aliwal North, Graaff Reinet and Ngungqushe in the Eastern Cape, and in Umzimkhulu, Greytown, Msinga, Nongoma and Kwagqikazi in KwaZulu-Natal.

2. A University of Science and Innovation is being established in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng. Ekurhuleni is the only metro in the country that does not have a university.

3. SheTradesZA, a platform used to assist women-owned businesses participate in global value chains and markets, was introduced. “The empowerment of women is critical to inclusive economic growth”.

4. South Africa’s first smart city is coming to Lanseria, Gauteng in the next decade. “It will not only be smart and 5G ready, but will be a leading benchmark for green infrastructure continental and internationally.”

5. The Domestic Violence Act will be amended and Sexual Offences Act will be amended with a broaden definition of a sex offender (no definition given) as well there will be a new law passed to tighten bail and sentencing conditions in cases involving gender-based violence.

6. Around R128 billion in both government and private funding will be spent of more student accommodation. “The young people who are at university and TVET colleges face serious accommodation challenges. Some don’t even have places to sleep after lectures and resort to sleeping in libraries. We are going to spend R64bn over the next years in student accommodation, and will will leverage at least another R64bn in private investment. These building projects are ready to start,” he said.

7. South African Airways (SAA) is being restructured in order to no longer be dependent on government funding.

8. The government will be allowing municipalities to buy electricity from private suppliers as a solution to the ongoing internal problems with Eskom. “The reality that we will need to accept”, President Ramaphosa said, “is that in order for Eskom to undertake the fundamental maintenance necessary to improve the reliability of supply, load-shedding will remain a possibility for the immediate future.”

Read the full speech here.

Although all eight points are relevant to the social and economic climate of South Africa, absolutely no specificity was given about any of them and everything else mentioned just felt like a regurgitation of things said in previous years with a spin on it. The truth that I think most South Africans are realising is that SONA is outdated and it has been for many years. Perhaps it’s time the government just released its plans in the national news papers?

The only thing worth keeping a watch on is whether or not the government can keep their promises and implement real change. Remember: When we feel like they’re not doing what they have promised it is our civil right but more importantly our civil responsibility to hold them accountable in every single way we can.

The municipal elections are in 2021, next year, please vote. Its your duty.

Feature image via via designed by Zoya Pon.

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