South Africa's newly elected President, Cyril Ramaphosa, will deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Parliament tonight, amid high expectations and enthusiasm.
Ramaphosa was elected and officially sworn-in as the fifth President of the democratic SA on Thursday, following unprecedented political events in the country, which culminated in the resignation of Jacob Zuma as President on Wednesday night.
President Zuma tendered his resignation two days after the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), announced his recall at a special meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
Zuma’s recall was preceded by days of political uncertainty and anxiety, and in a never-seen before move, parliament was forced to postpone the State of the Nation Address that was scheduled to be tabled on 8 February. Parliament confirmed late on Wednesday that the address will now be held tonight.
SONA is an important event in South Africa’s political calendar and this early February tradition does not only allow the country to reflect on the achievements and challenges experienced over the past year, but offers the President a chance to set out government’s key policy objectives and deliverables for the year ahead. It’s one of the rare occasions when all three arms of the state – the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature - come together in one place and play out their constitutional roles in a public ritual symbolising the separation of powers between them in procession towards the National Assembly on Parliament Street.
Ramaphosa’s election as President of the ANC in December, and his subsequent ascendency to the highest office, has been met with positive sentiments and widely welcomed across sections of society.
Since his election, investors are seen to be having a much more optimistic view of South Africa than has been seen in the previous year.
As he takes to the podium tonight to deliver his speech, President Ramaphosa will no doubt face a nation full of hope for the future of the country, following days of political drama and anxiety.
He has served as the country’s Deputy President since 2014 and his election as the fifth President of South Africa since 1994 can never be seen as a miracle or somewhat unexpected.
President Ramaphosa is a respected politician whose political activism can be traced back to the early 70s when he was detained several times including during the Soweto student uprising. He is known for his rare leadership qualities and negotiating skills, abilities many say he developed in the course of his multi-faceted life in the labour movement, as the Secretary General of the ANC, as well as a successful businessman.