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President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation speech was not that bad. But it’s hard to recall one that has been so universally panned. No-one liked it, even though it made some concessions that should have won praise: the extension of the R350 grant; the extension of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefit to businesses that were closed by the lockdown; a promise to continue with public employment programmes; and a fairly bold commitment to opening up competition in the electricity market.

The problems are underlying ones: credibility and time. Many constituencies, especially the two most influential — organised business and organised labour — back Ramaphosa and want him to succeed. The problem is they are beginning to doubt that he can. It is also taking too long to get anything done, with the result that the impact of changes is diluted and they lose the impetus they could have had...

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