Yesterday was a definitive South African day. The much anticipated State of The Nation speech was even more disappointing than I thought it would be. The topics covered in the speech were a good indicator of where the headspace of our leadership is at. But what was most teling was today's front page headlines. None but one led with the State of the Nation story.
I can imagine the country's leadership comrades desperately trying to figure out what the issues are that matter to people.
"We must dish them all the positive stats we can – 200 000 more houses, X many more people connected to the electricity grid, matriculation pass percentages up, etc. Oh yes, and let's jump onto the rape thing because its a hot topic. Ummm what else can we use?”
But JZ’s achievements of the last year are inconsequential when put into the context of SA’s challenges. Yes, the NPC’s Plan and the NEDLAC agreement (the implications of which he might have had the decency to explain to us) will be implemented but those promises feel empty and removed from reality. In short, the speech lacked the substance upon which credibility is built.
How is it, I thought, that we are actually expected to accept this veneer of leadership. Can I imagine the Presidents of other nations delivering this speech?
But here's the real insight: when I flipped through the news stations later for commentary and analysis, the leading story on ALL was the Oscar Pistorius shooting.
Then it occurred to me that perhaps the Oscar Pistorius story was the State of the Nation speech.
Who would have guessed that our hero Oscar Pistorius has a history of domestic issues? That he lives in a high security estate and yet feels sufficiently insecure to need to arm himself. What other insecurities made up our hero's fragile core?
Welcome to the great South African paradox. We want the bling, the veneer, the solution but we don’t appreciate what it takes to get there.
And that's exactly why JZ’s speech lacked satisfaction for me. It offered no credible values nor infrastructure on which to build hope.
The Pistorius story and JZ’s speech leave me with a hollow feeling. I’m equally saddened and disappointed by both but unlike Oscar, the president has a real obligation to all South Africans.
I don’t want to know how many houses are connected to the grid, I want to know how he is going to ensure affordable electricity flows on that grid. And while he is at it, explain why we’re so slow on the renewable energy front.
I don’t want to about the 1913 Land Act, I want to know how he’s going to deal with the land redistribution/restitution issue.
I don’t want to know that matriculation expemptions have increased, I want to know that he knows that a matriculation exemption is no longer a relevant benchmark. I don’t want to know that we’ll be focusing on improving math and science again. You said that last year, and the year before and things still don’t add up.
I tuned into the radio once again this morning to hear what the analysts had to say about JZ’s address. The first analyst felt ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the speech and that apart from the veiled indication of possible tax increases, there was much positivity in the speech.
There we go again, I thought, lets put on that veneer of optimism lest we feel challenged to question our integrity. I flipped radio stations, looking for the Oscar story and a fix of reality instead.