Thursday’s state of the nation address will be challenging for President Cyril Ramaphosa as frustrated South Africans are demanding more than a plan – they are looking for action and tangible results.
An analysis of perceptions from the February 2019 Sona, conducted by Citizen Surveys – a marketing and social research consultancy, specialising in national research studies – has revealed that 48% (18.2 million) of South Africans had either watched the state of the nation address on TV, read about it in the media or heard about it via radio or other channels.
According to the analysis, 63% (11.5 million people) of those who were exposed to the previous state of the nation address felt that it made them feel more positive about the direction of the country and that it was in fact well received by citizens of the country.
The effects of the February 2019 State of the Nation Address on South African's sentiments on the future of the country. Graphic: Supplied/Citizen Surveys
Could this have been the effects of “Ramaphoria”?
Following the major political changes at the start of 2018, the word Ramaphoria entered the South African vocabulary and it gave people hope about what lay ahead for the nation. For some Ramaphoria referred to the widespread perception that Ramaphosa had the pulling power to arrest the ANC electoral downtrend. For others it was a warm fuzzy feeling that brought with it hope of a new, better and improved South Africa.
“This coincided with the February job approval rating, where 56% (21.3 million) of South Africans indicated that they felt that President Ramaphosa was doing well in his role,” said Reza Omar, strategic research director at Citizen Surveys.
During his February address, Ramaphosa committed to, among other things, addressing and solving the problem of corruption and state capture. The president assumed office with the message to turn things around, to stop corruption and to reengineer the underperforming economy.
However, a lot has happened since February, including load-shedding, the national elections and the appointment of a new Cabinet.
According to Citizen Surveys, Ramaphosa’s commitment resulted in reduced perceptions of increased corruption from 75% in January to 70% in February 2019. The unfortunate implementation of Eskom’s stage-four load-shedding during March reversed the trend; leading to an all-time high of 82% in April. The drop in May to 75% indicates that South Africans believe that Ramaphosa will deliver on the ANC’s manifesto promises to reduce corruption and hold those guilty to account.
On many other levels, Ramaphosa’s February address set the right tone for him, but it was his actions and those of his administration that would determine whether the country moved up.
With 73% of South Africans believing unemployment is the most important problem facing the country [according to Citizen Surveys] it would seem that reversing the economy is the president’s biggest challenge.
South Africans share their opinions on the three most important problems the nation is facing.Graphic: Supplied/Citizen Surveys
“With the economy reversing course in the first quarter of 2019 and 73% (27.5 million) of South Africans believing that unemployment is the most important problem facing the country, followed by crime and poverty, it’s no surprise that growing the South African economy and attracting investment to create more jobs is currently President Ramaphosa’s biggest task,” said Omar.
Omar added that although Ramaphosa’s promise was well received at the state of the nation address earlier this year, according to the quarterly labour force survey results released by StatsSA in May, quarter one of 2019 saw 237 000 job losses and the unemployment rate growing to 27.6%.
Unemployment, crime and poverty are the three main problems facing the country according to South Africans and, according to Citizen Surveys, “these top three problems facing the country could all be somewhat alleviated by a strong stance in countering the unemployment crisis”.
These are the things South Africans want to hear about during Ramaphosa’s highly anticipated address.