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South Africa’s Ramaphosa touts ANC history in state of nation address

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Reuters


South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa used a major speech in parliament on Thursday to play up his party’s achievements over the last 30 years, but gave little detail about his plans to address the country’s current major challenges.
Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) party, which has governed since Nelson Mandela led it to victory in the first post-apartheid democratic election in 1994, is heading into its most competitive campaign yet.
Many polls indicate it will lose its absolute parliamentary majority in a vote expected to be held between May and August, forcing it to choose a coalition party to hold onto power.
South Africa is facing record power shortages and a logistics crisis at its rail and port operator Transnet which have strangled business activity and slowed growth in Africa’s most industrialised economy.
In his annual State of the Nation Address, Ramaphosa acknowledged these problems. But he laid out few new solutions, and was occasionally met with jeers from lawmakers.
“Over the last three decades … we have transformed the lives of millions of South Africans, providing the necessities of life and creating opportunities that never existed before,” Ramaphosa said.
He portrayed the ANC as having guided South Africa safely through challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and rampant corruption, and said the last five years had been a time of “rebuilding and renewal”.
The ANC came to power as the liberation movement that fought racist rule in South Africa. But many of today’s young voters were born after freedom was won and have grown up instead in an era marked by disappointment and disillusionment with the country’s leaders.
South Africa remains among the most unequal countries in the world with a gaping wealth disparity. Repeated corruption scandals have tarnished the party and undermined its moral authority in the eyes of many. The unemployment rate is at its highest ever, with more than 30% of South Africans out of work.
Many of South Africa’s economic woes stem from years of mismanagement and under-investment in state-owned enterprises, which Ramaphosa pledged to reform when he took office in 2018.
“The effects of state capture continue to be felt across society, from the shortage of freight locomotives to crumbling public services, from the poor performance of our power stations to failed development projects,” said Ramaphosa.
State capture is a term for the kind of systemic political corruption that defined the era of Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma. But some lawmakers jeered when he touted his corruption-fighting record. Ramaphosa survived his own corruption scandal in 2022.
In one bit of policy news, he said the state would extend and improve social grants it introduced during the COVID pandemic, without giving further details.
John Steenhuisen, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, called the speech “a laundry list of recycled projects and promises that have been made since 2018 that haven’t come to fruition.”
Analysts had predicted ahead of the address that it was unlikely to move markets.
“People know what the state of the nation is. It’s not good,” said Louw Nel, senior political analyst at Oxford Economics Africa.