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SONA: The state of the South African nation

Zuma

The President’s address

President Jacob Zuma delivered his much anticipated state-of-the-nation address (SONA) on 11 February 2016. For once, South Africans did not feel far removed from first-world countries such as Italy. Italy’s parliament had its fair share of screaming and shouting when Berlusconi still ruled the roost. South Africa’s Cape Town-based parliament was alive and well with disruptions within the first hour of the address.

Opening shots

First up to shout down the desperate speaker of parliament, was Lekota, leader of the COPE (Congress of the People) party. Insisting that he was raising a “point of order”, he ended his rant with claims that the President cannot be called “honorable” and is therefore not fit to address parliament. Lekota removed himself from the chamber just as the Speaker was about to eat her microphone.

Next up was the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, who is a favourite with (mostly) younger voters and the labour unions. Malema warned days before the SONA that he would start the session by insisting that the President explain why he fired the Minister of Finance. By now pipped at the post by Lekota, Malema took his turn at disrupting the President’ speech. He was ultimately joined by the rest of the EFF members, chanting “Zupta must go”. Zupta was a brand new term that combined Zuma’s surname with the Gupta family name. The Guptas are in bed with the President and his immediate supporters – to the extent that they managed to land an international private plane at a Pretoria military airfield with family and friends on board who did not have any valid passports.

One hour later

The speaker quickly got shot of the EFF crowd by having them removed from the chamber. By then it was nearly an hour into the President’s address and he hadn’t said much. The balance of the SONA was void of anything substantial, except for a surprising statement about austerity on the part of the government. Few people can recall much about previous SONAs that mentioned savings by limiting overseas trips, reducing the size of delegations and clamping down on official dinners and lunches. At last, the President started paying attention to the perception (fact, actually) that many members of parliament and ministers wallow in luxury while their poor comrades are sinking further into poverty. These statements are also conveniently timed with his undertaking to pay back some of the expenses on his Nkandla home. Local elections are coming up and timing is crucial for Zuma, who needs to do major damage control.

Any volunteers?

South Africa is looking for a new leader. Many South Africans have given up hope of finding our next leader within the existing ruling ANC party. It’s not a job that can be outsourced to some powerful international consultancy, unfortunately.

Sources

Kopano Tlape/DoC (Zuma photo)