16/02/2018 15:07 SAST | Updated 16/02/2018 15:22 SAST

5 Issues Ramaphosa Must Tackle In #SONA2018

Land, education, state-owned enterprises, employment and the economy.

Cyril Ramaphosa is sworn in as the new president in Parliament. February 15, 2018.
POOL New / Reuters
Cyril Ramaphosa is sworn in as the new president in Parliament. February 15, 2018.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's inaugural state of the nation address (Sona) comes at a vital time for him and for the ANC – it needs to underscore his priorities as the newly elected head of state and campaign for voter confidence come the 2019 national elections.

To achieve this, Ramaphosa will have to tackle various issues that encapsulate the current public debate in South Africa.

These are the five points Ramaphosa must address in his Sona on Friday evening:

1. Land expropriation without compensation

The ANC's national conference in December last year resolved to start a process to amend Section 25 of the Constitution and enable land expropriation without compensation. But in the fine print of the Ts and Cs, it was stated that this will happen only once the resolution passes a sustainability test that ensures it does not affect "agricultural production, food production and other sectors of the economy".

READ: 'Expropriation Without Compensation Will Collapse Economy'

Little indication was given as to how government plans to implement this resolution. Ramaphosa must outline precisely how, in the short and long term, the ANC will expedite this process.

2. Radical socioeconomic transformation

During their campaign tours, both Cyril Ramaphosa and his then-presidential rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma focused their rhetoric on the premise of "radical economic transformation". The endeavour centres on fundamentally changing the current structure of the economy, increasing black ownership and breaking monopolies.

Ramaphosa will need to indicate how he plans to deliver on this promise, without hurting investor relations and shaking the confidence of conglomerates who have an impact on the markets.

3. Free higher education

In another controversial decision at the ANC's national conference, Zuma announced that government would fully subsidise higher education for poor and working-class students, ignoring the findings of the Heher Commission into higher education, which found the fiscus couldn't afford it. Zuma had reportedly not consulted with the universities or National Treasury before making the announcement, leaving many to wonder how this plan will be funded over the next five years.

READ: President Jacob Zuma Approves Free Higher Education For Poor And Working-Class Students

It is argued that funding will have to be pulled from various other essential sectors, like health, to fund the operation. Ramaphosa will have to provide clarity on how this will be done without breaking the fiscus.

4. Employment

About a quarter of South Africans are unemployed. Although there are 37.5-million people of working age between 15 and 64, 15.5-million of them are not economically active, including students. This forms one of the influencing factors that leads to half the nation living in poverty.

To ensure a tick next to the ANC box at the polls, Ramaphosa will have to address this, and quickly. A big part of job creation will also focus on revitalising the small-to-medium-sized business sector. A formal plan needs to be detailed.

READ: SA Unemployment Rate Has Dropped, But Not Everyone Is Happy

5. State-owned enterprises

In November 2017, Ramaphosa in his role as leader of government business revealed a 10-point action plan to restore the country's ailing state-owned enterprises. These economic drivers – like Denel, Eskom, South African Airways, the SABC and Transnet – have been ravaged by corruption and maladministration, their losses forcing government to dig deeper into its pockets for multibillion-rand bailouts.

Ramaphosa has already taken steps to replace the management structure at Eskom. His scope will now have to extend to other parastatals.