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It was supposed to be the state of the nation address that would see President Cyril Ramaphosa move beyond the public relations gimmicks on the economy that have taken us nowhere and delivered three out of five quarters of declining GDP since the start of 2018.

With the electoral mandate he wanted — the lack of which had constrained him, according to his supporters — the president was expected to finally show us umqolo wakhe, his backbone in Xhosa. He would deliver a plan to fix state-owned companies and revive an economy that collapsed by 3.2% and shed 237,000 jobs during the first quarter of 2019...

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