See our video clip of some of the interview highlights here:
Philippi resident Axolile Gungqayo said if she was president of the country, she would cut back on the size of Cabinet. “Our Cabinet is huge. I think there is a lot of money spent on Cabinet.”
Indeed, during SONA 2o18, new President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government would initiate a process “to review, the configuration, number and size of national government departments.”
While he said Cabinet would be downsized, no official date has been given on when this would occur or which departments would be merged or removed and how this process would be done. Speculation of a Cabinet reshuffle has been rife. Opposition parties have called for the removal of ministers Malusi Gigaba, Bathabile Dlamini, Lindiwe Zulu, Nomvula Mokonyane and Mosebenzi Zwane, who were staunch Jacob Zuma allies and whose departments have come under much scrutiny.
Gugulethu resident Welekazi Zoyika thought that housing was the most pressing issue: “izindlu esihlala kuzo zihoko zohlala iihagu, you can’t stay kwindlu encinana ngolahlobo unefamily yakho, mhlawumbi kuzakubakho inguqulelo kuba besikhala singavakali.” Translation: “The houses we live in are only fit for pigs, you cannot stay with your family. Maybe there will be change now, because we have been complaining but nothing has come from our complaints.”
Surprisingly, the topic of housing did not come up during this year’s speech.
Gugulethu resident Zelda Mhlakaza, who is a member of the ANC Women’s League, said if she was president, the first thing she would focus on is health care.
Health was flagged in this year’s SONA speech. “In the next three months we will launch a huge cancer campaign similar to the HIV counselling and testing campaign” the President said.
The road towards a National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill also inched forward, wirh Ramaphosa saying that the time has now arrived to implement universal health coverage.
Certain NHI projects targeting the most vulnerable people in society will commence in April this year, as announced during SONA.
Philippi resident Makitle Ndabeni said he would focus on education, particularly illiteracy. “I would try to eliminate illiteracy across all South Africa because I believe a nation that actually can read and write, can be a powerful nation.” He added that the debilitating result of not receiving a quality education was unemployment.
In December 2017, results from an international study found that up to 78% of grade four learners could not read comprehensively.
During SONA, Ramaphosa announced that the government “will continue to invest in expanding access to quality basic education and improving the outcomes of our public schools”.
The Funza Lushaka Bursary programme plans to award 39,500 bursaries for Initial Teacher Education over the next three years, added Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa also announced that all public schools will begin offering an African language in 2018.
Ramaphosa also said that: “The Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative programme continues to deliver modern facilities to schools in rural and underprivileged urban areas across the country, with at least 187 schools being complete to date.”
While many interviewees were optimistic about the new Presidency, some questioned Ramaphosa’s links with the Marikana Massacre. They were concerned that this could taint his presidency, much like the unresolved issues that followed Jacob Zuma during his terms as president.
While Jacob Zuma may no longer be president, people still had strong feelings about the need for him to be held to account.
Malmesbury student Malereko Lebata said: “uZuma unamatyala amaninzi, if akabanjwanga ithi lonto apha eSouth Africa we support icriminals, ithi lonto abantu aba reyiphileyo kuzonyazeleka banga banjwa because sibone kwileader yethu. Akhange ibanjwe.” Translation: “Zuma has committed many crimes, if he is not charged it means that South Africans support criminals, and also, that people who have raped will not get arrested as our previous leader will have gotten away with it.”
Lebata was not the only one who felt that Zuma should pay for his actions.
Khayelitsha resident Vivienne Nomangesi Badi said: “uZuma kufuneka awabathalele onke amatyala akhe, asinamali kungoku.” Translation: Zuma must pay all that he owes, we don’t have money as we speak.
She spoke extensively of how people had suffered under Zuma. “Akhange siyibone into elungayo, icrime was too much eKhayelitsha, sihlutwa iibags. Asikwazi ukuhamba, akhange athathe notice, abantu abaphangeli, ba phangela kuthi, xasikhalaza, akhonto icacayo, kodwa bekukho umntu osesihlalweni.” Translation: “We did not see any improvement, crime was too much in Khayelitsha, we get robbed all the time, we can not walk around, Zuma did not take note of that. People are unemployed, we end up employing them, there was no direction, even though we had a leader.”
Badi hoped that Ramaphosa would emulate South Africa’s first democratic president, Nelson Mandela and make a real difference.
Emphasising the importance of the values of Nelson Mandela, Ramaphosa said in his speech: “Our task, as South Africans, is to seize this moment of hope and renewal, and to work together to ensure that it makes a meaningful difference in the lives of our people.”
Photo:(Top row) Andile Ngalwana, Malereko Lebata, Axolile Gungqayo, Vivienne Nomangesi Badi. (Bottom row) Kaylam Rogers, Makitle Ndabeni, Nolelela Kewuti and Zelda Mhlakaza. Photos: Hlumela Dyantyi