South Africa: Zuma delivers “no hope” State of the Nation

President Jacob Zuma arrives at Parliament to deliver his 2016 State of the Nation address. Credit: GCIS.

President Jacob Zuma arrives at Parliament to deliver his 2016 State of the Nation address. Credit: GCIS.

South African President Jacob Zuma has delivered his annual State of the Nation address in the country’s parliament. After more than an hour of disruptions and interruptions, mostly by members of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters, Zuma finally got down to business. Or did he?

The Conversation Africa’s Politics and Society editor Thabo Leshilo and Voice of Wits presenter Tsholofelo Semenya put some questions to Professor Susan Booysen. You can listen to the audio or read the transcript below.

Taking off your professional hat for a moment, what did you make of Zuma’s speech as a citizen?

The frustration index was very high. South Africa is facing a massive crisis in so many respects, and Zuma didn’t quite rise up to the occasion. But then the entertainment index was very high for all South Africans, whether they are interested in parliament and politics or not.

The Economic Freedom Fighters in some ways lived up to expectations and provided the entertainment.

What did you think of the substance of Zuma’s speech?

There was really no meat around the bone. It felt like he made many old announcements, talking about things we already know about. And MPs applauded around issues of history – things South Africans have known already for a year or two. It was canned applause.

There was no urgency, no enthusiasm. If things are going to be done differently (in future), the speech didn’t put that across. Zuma repeatedly said “we must look at it” and “we must do”, or “there is a task team, there is a commission”. We are beyond that time of deliberation. We need action.

It’s been the standard fallback of the Zuma years – “we’re busy” – but the action is not there.

I was monitoring the rand/dollar exchange rate during the course of the speech. It was R15.69 to the dollar when he started. By the time he finished it was R15.84. That’s not huge, but it almost reflects the speech. There wasn’t wild enthusiasm, a sense that we’re getting the answers we’ve waited for – or that things are going to turn around.

The #FeesMustFall movement and student protests were mentioned just once in the speech, and only briefly. This angered people on Twitter, with some saying the protests had brought government to its knees and Zuma barely mentioned them. What did you think?

To be frank, I was shocked at the lack of recognition for that huge and ongoing moment. It forced the government to implement existing policy and to somewhat change policy. It had deeper repercussions; (it opened up issues of) deeper transformation and the anger of young people.

I don’t think government was quite brought to its knees, but its knees were bending. It really is an ongoing moment.

Local government elections are coming up later this year. How does the governing African National Congress (ANC) look in those polls, considering how important they are?

The ANC has never in its 22 years in power looked as weak as it does at the moment. It looks weak as a governing party. It is riven by factions. There are wars at local level. There is such discontent in the ANC.

These elections will be about building hope, and about making sure that citizens and voters still feel the ANC can bring them that hope as the liberation party.

This was not a moment of generating hope.

Thabo Leshilo is the Editor of The Conversation.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.The Conversation

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12 thoughts on “South Africa: Zuma delivers “no hope” State of the Nation

  1. Black South Africa is just falling back into the mud huts and Starvation that the White Man pulled them out of, not so long ago.

  2. african culture and style, african ways are way ahead and beyond the future of the world. E.g. internet circles are like tribes, e.g. signs and communication. I wish i were a black man

  3. @adrian- above all recognise this, that this space this reality this world is a gift to all, all you came from zero babies and life gracecoulsy gave us the chance to be able to perceive something. God exists. Africans are spiritual, real.

  4. @nikolov
    Your a funny guy!
    “Internet circles are like tribes”
    Yeeeaaahhhh, sure they are buddy, put down the meds and maybe just rest for a bit ok?

  5. Well I think when the ANC got rid of Thabo whose feet were not on the ground, and put Zuma in, whose feet were mired in the ground, they took a step back from the promises of Mandela, who pioneered the move from the Kraal to a democratic parliament. It is simply not a surprise when the chickens come home to roost. South Africa is slowly sliding back in time, despite fancy titles, medals, empty promises, and pie in the sky predictions. Mandela’s dreams are shattered by the corruption and greed of the ANC.

  6. Leave my president alone. He screws his five wiwes, 10 girlfriends, some of his cousins, the ANC, the opposition, and the whole South Africa. Viva Zuma Viva

  7. South African is yet another example – – like Zimbabwe — of what happens when White males are eliminated from a country, and incompetent Blacks take over.
    I bet many Blacks in SA are longing for former White rule – at least they were safer, and the country was prosperous. Same for Zimbabwe.

  8. ‘Actions speak loader than words’, but when those words are discribed by outside sources with words like: ”entertainment”- i don’t believe we can expect alot of action.

  9. South Africa has structural issues

    1. High unemployment and the resulting increase in crime because all manufacturing has been outsourced to China, resulting in the closure of hundreds of factories around the country.
    2. Uncontrolled borders and immigration, an influx of millions of unskilled migrants from neighbouring territories has placed a large burden on limited resources. The country cannot look after it’s own citizens so migrants are making the situation worse. Additionally the Nigerians are heavily involved in crime, drug trafficking and prostitution.
    3. Bribery and corruption at all levels of government and industry.
    4. Low productivity due to people promoted to high positions but are not capable or skilled in filling these positions, training and mentoring should have been the first steps.
    5. a new Black elite that is unfairly exploiting the country’s wealth at the expense of the masses, sadly the masses are being short-changed
    6. Poverty and hunger for the majority of the people
    7. South Africa is the biggest trading partner of China in Africa, the Chinese are exploiting the mineral wealth and resources of South Africa at unprecedented levels, China has become the new colonial power in South Africa and Africa,
    8. Reverse discrimination.
    9. Breakdown of Law and Order
    10. Heavy press censorship, infringing on freedom of the press and speech
    11. a One party state, the ANC is the leading political party and the government and is not friendly to opposition
    12. Most of the original principles of the ANC party during the freedom struggle have been forgotten, the white oppressor has been replaced by the
    black oppressor, sadly blacks oppressing blacks and others by inequality, unfairness and financial hardships.
    13. The use of revolutionary style politics is not practical after the revolution is over, policies that develop the country and it’s people is what is
    required.
    14. State Coffers are used as personal purses by most government officials and politicians in high places, a classic example is the deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, he has now become of of the wealthiest people in Africa, having helped himself to Gold Mines to the tune of over a billion US dollars,
    this is a disgrace and sad because millions of people around the country have not enjoyed the wealth of the country, for example, school children with textbooks, schools with only one toilet, there are hardly any libraries around the country, a limited amount of universities, a lack of medical supplies and equipment in hospitals, people living in corrugated houses, yet Cyril Ramaphosa and others continue enriching themselves at the expense of the poor.

    Cry the Beloved Country.

  10. It takes a special kind of skill to destroy the richest country in Africa, but I’m confident Zuma has that skill. Mandela would weep.

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