The usual fanfare that accompanies SONA addresses was not there last night. Instead, it was a sombre affair, with many who would usually be in attendance, attending remotely. The core focus of Ramaphosa’s address was about the economy and Covid-19. As with many SONA’s in the past, the content of the speech sounded good, but what is most needed is action.
The economy is expected to decline this year with a gloomy picture painted by economists and financial institutions. Despite this Ramaphosa indicated that the South African government will do whatever it takes to ensure the economy bounces back from the unprecedented decline it has faced in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ramaphosa indicated the need to get the economy going to save jobs. The latest figures show that unemployment was now standing at a staggering 30.8%.
“As a result of the relief measures that we implemented and the phased reopening of the economy, we expect to see a strong recovery in employment by the end of 2020,” said Ramaphosa. He said the R500 billion stimulus package they announced last year they were able to provide cover to businesses and unemployed people. He announced that he was extending the R350 social relief grant to the unemployed by another three months.
The grant was first extended last October to the end of January and Ramaphosa has granted another extension. The ANC was also currently discussing the question of the Basic Income Grant. Some of the parties have supported the idea with civil society.
He also promised to continue in the fight against corruption with the Special Investigating Unit probing hundreds of cases linked to the PPE contracts. The SIU was roped in last year with the Auditor-General and other law enforcement agencies when allegations emerged of the looting of the Covid-19 funds. Political parties have also called on the government to rope in the other agencies to look at cases of corruption in the procurement and distribution of vaccines.