ANC going for green energy, permanent basic income grant, Ramaphosa back for SONA 2.0 – Prof Theo Venter

Despite surveys and polls indicating that the ANC’s support in the coming elections could drop to below 50%, Prof Theo Venter, a political analyst at the University of Johannesburg expects President Cyril Ramaphosa to be back in Parliament to deliver the second State of the Nation Address (SONA) after the election. In a post-SONA interview with BizNews, Professor Venter analysed the ANC’s potential voter base. He said that the party could receive support from 30% of the rural vote and 10-12% of urban voters. Moreover, he anticipates that the implementation of a permanent Basic Income Grant, which he believes will be announced in the budget speech, could result in an additional 5% of the vote for the ANC. This would bring them closer to the 50% threshold required to stay in power. Venter described President Ramaphosa’s claims of ANC successes over the past 30 years as ‘unconvincing’ and expressed scepticism that more than 10% of stolen state capture funds will be recovered. Amid stage 6 loadshedding over the weekend, he dismissed Ramaphosa’s assurances of an end to the worst of loadshedding as political campaign rhetoric. Venter also commented on Ramaphosa ‘looking for a pen’ to sign the National Health Insurance legislation, suggesting that the President might be reluctant to sign the bill. The one positive aspect of the speech, he said, is that the ANC clarified it is going for green energy and a just energy initiative focusing on Mpumalanga, which is ironically a model that was very actively pushed by former Eskom CEO, André de Ruyter. – Linda van Tilburg

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Intro 
  • 00:29 – No disruption at SONA this time
  • 02:24 – Election date
  • 04:28 – The corruption issue
  • 05:43 – The Load Shedding issue
  • 09:49 – National Health Insurance
  • 11:59 – ANC’s chances in the elections
  • 14:05 – Is this Ramaphosa’s last SONA
  • 16:11 – Was this an Election speech
  • 18:06 – Interpreter’s body language
  • 19:07 – Emphasis on green clean energy
  • 20:37 – Conclusion

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Edited excerpts from the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Mixed bag, not convincing, numerous mentions of apartheid

The disruptions caused by the EFF since the President Zuma Nkandla affair up to the Phala Phala issue have become so common that the absence of any disruption during the recent Sona was disappointing. It used to be that after an hour of chaos, we could finally hear what the president had to say, but this time, there was no such commotion. I’d like to call this speech SONA 1, and if we use the American metaphor, we can call it SONA 1.0. SONA 2.0 will be the State of the Nation Address that will take place after the election. This is the State of the Nation Address before the election, and I think that’s important to keep in mind. 

It was a mixed bag. I haven’t done the counting yet, but I think the use of the term apartheid and references to apartheid were quite numerous. I believe that was the main focus of the SONA. The president talked about how things were thirty years ago and compared them to the current situation. He also created a fictional character named Tintswalo and talked about what happened to her over the last thirty years. While it was interesting, it was not very convincing.

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Throwing shade on Zuma – ten wasted years is back 

We expected something about Palestine. We expected something about Ukraine. We expect some of the announcements. We expected that he would use the opportunity to talk about state capture, which in my view, he did, to the detriment of Jacob Zuma. I could clearly read between the lines that he’s now referring to the ten years that we’ve lost. If I can take you back to Davos, 6 or 7 years ago, Cyril Ramaphosa said that Zuma was responsible for the nine lost years when he returned to South Africa. He got a hiding in the National Executive Council of the ANC and he had to withdraw it. He never used the term nine lost years until this SONA. For the first time, 10 lost years featured and that is definitely him talking to Zuma. 

It is likely that only 10% of money that the state is trying to claim back from corruption will be reclaimed

The presence of Members of Parliament who have been accused of corruption in the ANC’s front row in parliament is causing people to question the legitimacy with which Ramaphosa is speaking. It is a fact that some important members of the top six of the ANC, Paul Mashatile, Gwede Mantashe, and one of his trusted ministers, Zizi Kodwa, are all mentioned in the report by Judge Raymond Zondo. Furthermore, Ramaphosa himself has his own Phala Phala albatross hanging around his neck. He tried to provide a picture of 200 people who are being prosecuted for corruption and mentioned the amount of money claimed in civil proceedings for corruption. If we manage to recover even 10% of that money, it would be a lot, as most of the money is believed to have been taken by the Guptas and their cohorts, and it is unlikely to be recovered.

‘Over the worst of loadshedding’ is political speak, Eskom reliability still the biggest challenge 

I think claiming that we are over the worst of loadshedding is just political talk for the upcoming election. Loadshedding is a medium to long-term problem, and we need a sustainable solution. While it’s true that money is being spent on transmission and solar rooftops are generating energy, the biggest challenge is the reliability of Eskom. We are still experiencing loadshedding, and politicians like to make promises before the election to gain votes. However, there are hidden costs to their political speak. 

Most far-fetched argument in SONA – The success of district development model

I am involved in discussions regarding the financial instability and unsustainability of local governments, particularly in the North-West Province. The middle and upper-middle class, regardless of race, have turned to alternative solutions like solar rooftops, and this has affected the revenue of local governments. They used to put a 40-60% markup on Eskom’s electricity cost, but that is no longer possible. This has affected the revenue of local governments, which is why they are struggling financially. The President mentioned the District Development Model (DDM) in his speech, but I am sceptical of its effectiveness. I have seen it fail in the North West, where all the municipalities in the district are failing. The idea of the DDM is to bring together 

all the resources in the district to find a collective solution. However, if all the municipalities are failing, then what do they bring to the table? You bring failure to the table, you don’t bring solutions to the table. It is to most far-fetched claim of SONA that the DDM is a solution when it has not worked in practice.

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Ramaphosa does not want to sign the NHI

I believe there is a lot of pressure on the president not to sign the National Health Insurance (NHI) in South Africa. That’s why he seems to be searching for a pen, because he doesn’t want to sign it. The cost of introducing the NHI is too high. If we compare the challenges faced by Great Britain, one of the first countries to implement a comprehensive national insurance system, we can see why experts are not in favour of it. The president then shared an anecdote about people preferring to use state facilities instead of private medical facilities. However, I can provide him with ten stories that contradict his statement. When politicians discuss issues and explain them, they often make the mistake of assuming people will believe them. However, people at the grassroots level intuitively know when something is not working. There is no need to convince them because they experience it every day.

Expect permanent Basic Income Grant (BIG) in budget speech

What I heard when he was speaking about the value of social grants and the Covid grant is that it is going to become a permanent fixture. There was some new language used in the conversation which led me to believe that we are moving towards a general income grant or Basic Income Grant (BIG) that consolidates all the grants and benefits more people. However, we will have to wait for the budget to confirm this. 

It seems like a decision related to the upcoming election, as our financial situation is limited due to our high debt, lack of revenue, and the fact that our railway lines and harbours are not working. Ramaphosa did mention some potential solutions. The grant would be converting a current grant into a basic income grant that will sound good, but they still rely on the same amount of money being distributed differently.

Expect Ramaphosa to be back in July 2024 for SONA 2.0

The reason why I’m confident that he will present the second SONA as well, despite all the survey research, is that when the ANC goes to an election, they have 30% of the vote in the back pocket, and that is rural South Africa. They are still ANC-orientated. They can bank on 5% of the vote because of grants and all these things that they are providing because they are the government, they can dish out the blankets.  Now, to get another 10 to 12% in the urban areas is not going to be so difficult. So, I see the ANC in this coming election despite all the survey research and announcements close to 50%, maybe marginally below, and they may even be marginally above, but very close to 50%. I do not see them in the 40s or the high 30s. I think that is the opposition party’s figment of the imagination.

Ramaphosa has clarified ANC energy policy, going for green energy

That’s one part of the SONA that I think we can give President Ramaphosa credit  for because in the ANC there was a huge debate about getting rid of coal. They were talking about clean coal. Then eventually it seems to me in this SONA, Ramaphosa did clarify the ANC position, the government’s position, and that is we are going for green energy. That is, nitrogen and solar rooftop. It is all of these kinds of things. 

Then he specifically mentioned Mpumalanga. I think the fact that he mentioned Mpumalanga was because most of our coal fired stations are in Mpumalanga and the coal mines are there and the big pollution is coming from there. So, he sees Mpumalanga as part of our Just Energy model or initiative.  We must not forget that it was a model that was very, very actively pushed by André de Ruyter who got fired from  Eskom and now he is not mentioned in any good discussion, but the Just Energy Transition or Initiative, I would give Andre de Ruyter a few marks for that one, even though he’s clearly not mentioned.

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ANC is going to pull out all the stops to win the election expected to be held 22 May 2024

It was a State of the Nation address as we see in America, the State of the Union, where we see the king delivering the speech for the opening of parliament but ours was disguised in electioneering. You could see the electioneering, you could see the ANC. To reach 50%, they will have to use all the resources that are available to them and of course, the State of the Nation is one. The budget is the second one. The fact that the courts kept the EFF out of the process and the ANC will definitely indicate that as a win, although we know it’s a judicial issue and the arguments were quite valid and it was done by a joint sitting of three judges.

The ANC will definitely also use that and everything will be focused on the election from now until the 22nd of May. We expect that to be the election date. We know that the ANC can muster all their resources in the last month before an election. That is why I am a little hesitant to give credibility to a lot of these surveys saying the ANC has lost it. 

We learned that the election day will be announced in two weeks time and the reason for that being certain technicalities in terms of legislation, which Parliament still has to sort out before they can announce the election, although, Pierre de Vos, a very well-known constitutional lawyer, and professor in constitutional law, said there’s no need for that. You can have the election in terms of the Constitution.  So, I’m not exactly sure what the reasons for the two week extension are.  

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