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20.06.2019 South Africa

S.Africa president to deliver state-of-nation address

By AFP
Ramaphosa's speech will be scrutinised for his plans to revive South Africa's sickly economy.  By Fabrice COFFRINI (AFP)
JUN 20, 2019 SOUTH AFRICA
Ramaphosa's speech will be scrutinised for his plans to revive South Africa's sickly economy. By Fabrice COFFRINI (AFP)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will Thursday deliver his first state-of-the-nation address since the ruling ANC party won elections in May, with the crisis-hit state energy company high on the agenda.

Ramaphosa, who will speak to parliament in Cape Town at 7:00pm (1700 GMT), came to power last year and has vowed to revive the economy after the scandal-tainted presidency of Jacob Zuma.

But unemployment remains near record-highs and the country's gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 3.2 percent in the first three months of 2019.

Power monopoly Eskom, which generates 90 percent of the nation's energy, has debts of $30 billion (26.5 billion euros).

Its potential collapse is seen as the biggest threat to spurring growth in Africa's most developed economy.

Eskom imposed a period of rotational power rationing in February, plunging offices, factories and homes into darkness for long hours and sparking public anger at the ANC government.

Peter Attard Montalto, an analyst at London-based Capital Markets Research, said no overall Eskom rescue plan was expected in the speech, though new measures to ease the crisis were likely to be announced.

"Expectations are raised very high around Eskom... (but) government is unlikely to have taken detailed decisions yet on the way forward," Montalto said in briefing paper.

The speech "is really not the time to be undertaking complex communications with creditors on restructuring."

South Africa's unemployment hovers at over 27 percent -- soaring to over 50 percent among young people.

The ANC won the May 8 election with 57.5 percent of the vote, its smallest majority since it led the fight against apartheid rule that was replaced by multi-racial democracy in 1994.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance opposition party, called for Ramaphosa to take on corruption and "place the nation's interests ahead of the ANC's interest."

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