President Jacob Zuma will deliver the 2017 State of the Nation Address in Parliament this evening. Picture: NIC BOTHMA

President Jacob Zuma will deliver the 2017 State of the Nation Address in Parliament this evening. Picture: NIC BOTHMA

President Jacob Zuma will take the podium in Parliament this evening for his last state of the nation address as president of the African National Congress (ANC).

Zuma said he is “calm” ahead of his address as he does not “give into pressure” on 947 radio station this morning.

Some South Africans are hopeful for announcements detailing realistic strategies that will help stabilise the economy and catapult the country out of the encroaching paws of junk status. However, many sceptics remain.

Bumpy road to SONA 2017

The build-up to this evening’s address has been anything but smooth.

The Presidency announced that in addition to the presence of the South African Police Service, Zuma will have more than 400 soldiers at the address “to maintain law and order”.

Opposition parties are up in arms over this decision and called it an “unprecedented move” as another breach of the Constitution.

However, Parliament has said that the South African defence force “will not be deployed within the precincts of Parliament and the chamber”.

It added that the only time this may happen is when there is a “threat to life and property that is of such a nature that the South African police cannot handle”.

Parliament disruptions and protests expected

Members of Parliament (MPs) representing the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have made it clear that they will intentionally disrupt Zuma’s address as they do not “recognise him as a fit leader”  and believe he has failed to uphold his oath of office.

The EFF has on several occasions caused disruptions in Parliament which has led to the removal of the party’s MPs.

Civil society organisations have also released statements in opposition to Zuma and plan to protest against him outside Parliament.

Political instability shrouds economy

Last year the country’s political landscape was dominated by the local government elections, which revealed the Democratic Alliance’s majority win in metro’s such as Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay, while the ANC maintained its stronghold in eThekwini and Buffalo City.

Political instability was said to be one of the highlighting causes that contributed to the country’s economic instability. This was largely underpinned by the Hawks’ attempt to implicate Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in fraudulent activities.

Economic growth

The rand has also taken a fair beating in the last few years. The sudden removal of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in December 2015 culminated with David van Rooyen’s week-long stint in the position sent the rand into freefall. Brexit also had an effect on the economy and President Donald Trump’s appointment now has the potential to impact trade and, in turn, economic growth.

On average, for the past five years economic growth was 1.75% year on year, compared to an average growth rate of 2% in the past decade.

What does SA expect from SONA 2017?

Political experts say some of the following are things that need to happen urgently in order to put South Africa in a position from which it can begin moving forward again. They include:

  • Putting leadership battles to rest within the ANC as it hinders the functioning of government
  • Placing a strong emphasis on rebuilding the economy
  • Investing in infrastructure and promoting good trading practices while maintaining and establishing strong trade partners
  • Promoting transparency within parastatals
  • Continue striving towards improved housing, access to healthcare and service delivery
  • Implementing constructive methods to deal with the drought crisis
  • Bringing irregular expenditure under tight control.

As for some of the predictions for SONA 2017– Sipho Pityana, one Zuma’s biggest critics, said he is expecting an “underwhelming and a disappointing 2017 State of the Nation Address”.

At the Real Sona hosted at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town yesterday, Pityana said: “He (Zuma) is a leader not befitting the honour of presidency. Nepotism, corruption and state capture are the real state of the nation.”