To restore public confidence in him and his party, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “January 8 statement” should report on the progress being made on the political economic recovery processes his government is purportedly undertaking, rather than making more promises.
That must be the only way to keep South Africans hopeful after hearing two January 8 statements loaded with promises of the ANC in government but facing seemingly intractable problems in an ailing economy and society.
The experience of South Africans thus far is largely negative, with insecurity on the energy front worsening an already abysmal economic situation. Public finances are significantly stretched and there does not appear to be any end in sight.
Meanwhile, the government has announced an economic recovery strategy, encouraged greater investment pledges by the private sector following two investment summits, and made countless promises around healthcare, education, and rural development and land reform.
There is currently a disjuncture between the citizen’s lived experiences and whatever measures to change the situation government and big business claim to be making. That is why the president cannot approach his January 8 statement as if it is against a neutral background.
In fact, it would be most preferred this year that we hear less abstract messages, which give the impression that politicians, including the president, have just landed from Mars with no background knowledge of what is happening in the country.
Although the statement is made on the anniversary of the founding of the ANC and is inwardly focused, its audience is not just those in the stadium and party members. It has become an important message for reading the likely programme of action and focus areas of the governing party in a given year.
As such, many in the private and public sectors consider issues arising from the January 8 statement among the most important in the strategic review processes for a given year as it happens just as the year starts before the state of the nation address and annual budget.
For those seeking to understand not just the content of the speech but also political dynamics, the body language of the president and his top six and the attitude of the crowd towards any of them is crucial. In fact, ANC factional battles and manufactured attitudes from supporters usually come to the fore in these gatherings as crowds my cheer those who have successfully mobilised them and boo those on the losing side.
This being a year of the National General Council, the attitude of the crown will be very important as it may show which faction within the ANC is currently winning the internal battle for the control of the party.
This January 2020 statement affords Ramaphosa one last major party political platform on which to restore public trust both within and outside his party. He should show what has been achieved and what bold actions are being taken to keep South Africa afloat, not just another mundane annual task.
When adopting a reporting rather than the usual purely futuristic approach, something to write home about must be found.
- Ongama is a lecturer and political analyst based at Nelson Mandela University. He writes in his personal capacity.