SONA 2014: The Platitude Factory

Instead of the State of the Nation Address inspiring and spurring South Africa to greater heights, it is a bland and uninspiring affair.

The pattern has been set since the commencement of his presidency: make some outrageous promises which clearly would never be attained and then press the snooze button until the next SONA or General Election.

Even discounting the fact that Jacob Zuma is an uninspiring insipid speaker, his whole delivery is known to make the most afflicted insomniacs nod off to sleep. Given that I have more important things to do with my life such as clean my toenails, I have never had sufficient time to watch SONA on TV. Even the 12th rerun of a 1950’s soapie is preferable.

On Tuesday evening at 16:20 as I drove out of Barlow Park on my way home, I tuned in to listen to Xolani Gwala on 702 Talk Radio. Unfortunately Xolani was mid-way through an interview about what one could expect from the SONA but equally importantly what issues it should be addressing.

What one expects to hear from the interviewee is a whole host of motherhoods-and-apple-pie together with a supporting list with items of secondary importance designed to appease every voting segment known to mankind including lesbian Chihuahuas and non-pedigreed Alsatians.

Instead of merely changing the station temporarily and listen to the latest Bok van Blerk hit on Jacaranda, I stayed tuned. The reason for my curiosity was the reply: crisp and incisive. I instinctively turned up the volume.














Xolani: So do you support the establishment of a Minister of Small Business?

Interviewee: No. I do not.

Xolani in his incisive way continued: But isn’t that what South Africa needs to create the much needed jobs which are so sorely lacking?

Interviewee: You are correct both in needing more jobs and more small business but this will merely be another bureaucratic institution with another bunch of forms. It will create yet another hindrance instead of a help. There are already countless institutions with whose mandate is to provide exactly those types of services. Why re-invent the wheel? Empower them to perform or close them down.

I was intrigued. Who was the interviewee? He was clearly intelligent and urbane. Instead of belabouring a point he would make it succinctly and crisply without being haughty and all-knowing.

Then it came to the issue of leadership. This arose partly in response to the previous question vis-à-vis a new Ministry. The insightful comment that was made was that too many Ministries actually impede service delivery as they require the endorsement of yet another set of bureaucrats each with their own agenda.

From a leadership perspective if the primary task is to create more jobs, then the leader has to impose that mandate. That requires tough decisions in that it will anger certain factions and vested interests but without firm leadership, that decision will flounder on the competing interests and no action will never be taken.

I caste my mind back to my expectations of the 2014 SONA: a set of slogans to appease the mass of ANC supporters but it would be lack-lustre and lack substance. Without the backbone of resolute leadership, nothing but empty promises was the order of the day.














As I did not wish to be disappointed again, I set my expectations abysmally low – how low can one go – so as not to be disgruntled.

I then focused on the interview again. The interviewee had genuinely impressed me as a person who not only understood the challenges facing South Africa but also how they could be addressed. At this juncture I was curious who this person was. He was obviously a black person with what I would term a South African voice as opposed to a black voice. Probably he had been educated in a Model C school interacting with many white children.

The contrast between this Interviewee and Jacob Zuma’s style of presentation was at the very ends of the spectrum. By now, all but the most ardent ANC members would already be waiting for the boring somnambulant speech to end. Polite applause, as if on cue, would greet the name Mandela whenever his legacy was alluded to. Clearly not an inch of the orator, Jacob would mumble and stumble through a wish list of ideals. In contrast I found this interview providing renewed faith in South Africa and its people.

As the interview terminated, the Talk Show Host, Xolani Gwala, concluded with: “I would like to thank the Parliamentary Head of the DA, Mr. Mmusi Maimane for agreeing to be interviewed.”

Is that not what South Africa requires? A business-like no-nonsense approach to it problems backed by leadership and a willingness to take the tough decisions that are required to make South Africa great again.

Perhaps in time, Mmusi Maimane will get his turn.


Or am I just dreaming?



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