President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address on 7 February is likely to be one of the most important speeches that the president delivers in any year.
That’s according to a new explanatory report by the People’s Assembly which states that the speech is a tremendous PR opportunity for the president to simultaneously lay out his agenda and reassure doubters – both local and foreign.
“The SONA will be the last of the fifth administration, and as a result, it will largely be a report back on the administration’s progress and achievements over the past five years,” it said.
“It will also be an opportunity for the president to lay out his priorities for the year ahead.”
Who writes it?
According to the People’s Assembly, the speech is the result of collaboration among a large number of officials in the government – including policy advisors, researchers and speech writers – and outside advisors and thinkers.
Traditionally, the forum of director-generals, the ANC’s January 8th Statement, NEC Lekgotla and the Cabinet Lekgotla play a central role in shaping the speech, it said
Meetings are also held with business leaders and labour, all of which help influence the speech.
“The target audience consists of different constituencies, which includes MPs, citizens, trade unions, business leaders, foreign investors, foreign governments and credit rating agencies,” it said.
“The media, pundits and stakeholder groups, will dissect every word to make sense of what it all means for particular sectors.”
What to expect
According to the People’s Assembly, memorability is probably the best way to measure the success of this type of speech and this is seldom achieved (last year’s Thuma Mina speech is an exception).
It added that the reaction from the gallery, public (via social media, polling), political opponents and the markets will be known instantly and will be a talking point for days after.
“Many of the ideas in the speech are long-term visions, while some proposals won’t be successful or will be implemented progressively,” it said.
“President Ramaphosa’s maiden SONA speech lasted about 1 hour and 20mins and had approximately 5,800 words.
“Presidents Zuma, Mandela and Mbeki averaged around 5,000, 6,000 and 7,000 words respectively in their speeches.”
Because Ramaphosa is fluent in several languages you should also expect him to showcase that skill, it said.
“Change, renewal and hope were some of the central themes in his speech last year. Expect more of the same as well as an emphasis on his plan to grow South Africa.”