President Cyril Ramaphosa's third state of the nation address (SONA 2020) was overshadowed by opposition party, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) who caused chaos that led to the brief suspension of the house on Thursday.
The house was temporarily suspended and had to wait almost 2 hours for the president’s speech to start.
EFF Leader Julius Malema and his party argued with the Speaker Thandi Modise over the presence of former President FW de Klerk (the last president during apartheid South Africa), seeking his removal from parliament.
Malema accused De Klerk of having blood on his hands along with a host of other issues that caused disruption and marred SONA 2020 proceedings.
Ramaphosa's address In his speech, Ramaphosa tackled the country's economic crisis, which he said is facing a “stark reality”.
He added that the "stalled economy" has not achieved any meaningful growth for over a decade.
With the unemployment rate at the highest it has ever been and with state owned enterprises like Eskom and SAA failing to stay afloat, many were looking to Ramaphosa's speech to provide solutions for the crumbling state.
Ramaphosa told the joint sitting of the National Assembly, "Our economy has not grown at any meaningful rate for over a decade. Even as jobs are created the rate of unemployment continues to deepen."
"The recovery of our economy has stalled as persistent energy shortages have disrupted business and people’s lives. Several state owned enterprises (SOEs) are in distress and our public finances are under severe pressure."
Is Eskom a dead horse that needs to be flogged? At SONA 2019, Ramaphosa had no solutions regarding Eskom, but rather offered the power utility another massive bailout, allocating a significant portion of the R230 billion fiscal support he said Eskom would require over the next 10 years.
Almost a year on, Eskom was again at the centre of his speech, with no clarity on what needs to be done to rectify the issue.
Ramaphosa stated that South Africans had suffered with the effects of a constrained electricity supply for over a decade.
He added that the load shedding over the last few months has had a debilitating effect on the economy and the people.
“At its core, load-shedding is the inevitable consequence of Eskom’s inability over many years – due to debt, lack of capacity and state capture – to service its power plants.”
Ramaphosa said 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.
He pledged that the government would implement measures that will fundamentally change the trajectory of energy generation as Eskom works to restore its operational capabilities.
Some of the measures he said would significantly increase generation capacity outside of Eskom include:
A Section 34 ministerial determination will be issued shortly to give effect to the Integrated Resource Plan 2019, enabling the development of additional grid capacity from renewable energy, natural gas, hydro power, battery storage and coal;
To open bid window five of the renewable energy IPP and work with producers to accelerate the completion of window four projects;
To negotiate supplementary power purchase agreements to acquire additional capacity from existing wind and solar plants and to put in place measures to enable municipalities in good financial standing to procure their own power from independent power producers.
Ramaphosa also touched on rail investment and that The Central Line in the Western Cape and the Mabopane Line in Pretoria will receive R1.6 billion spent. New stations, better trains and upgraded rail-tracks have all been promised.
There was also the promise of stronger tourism security. He said that to support the growth of the tourism industry, the South African Police Service (SAPS) will increase visibility at identified tourist attraction sites.
He also said that R700 billion will be spent on boosting infrastructure such as student accommodation, social housing, independent water production, rail freight branch lines and broadband rollout over the next 10 years.
Ramaphosa also said that he would be tightening the ship going forward and told Parliament that he would be issuing performance agreements with all ministers” before the end of this month.