Firstly, let’s all calm down. Take a moment to stand up straight, shoulders back and relaxed with knees slightly bent, weight evenly distributed and now take a deep breath through your nose. And when I say deep, I mean into your pelvic floor. Or, rather, into your balls.
Repeat three times, exhaling forcefully through your mouth.
Done? Cool. Let’s continue.
IT’S AN ELECTION YEAR!
Read the above line again every time you hear someone comment on the lack of substance in the president’s speech. Every time an opposition party member bemoans the lack of action. Every time Patricia from accounting talks about how her childhood neighbourhood is still waiting for some kind of service delivery. Every time your father-in-law regurgitates an unlabelled opinion that crept into an over-worked junior reporter’s interview news story.
What exactly was the expectation when Cyril took office on the eve of #SONA2018? I know a new broom sweeps clean, but you need at least a bucket and a mop when trying to drain a swamp. And to follow on, what exactly was the expectation from a speech that announced an election date only three months away? We kind of need to buy him a proverbial dinner first by having his back at the polls before he’ll lay it all on the line for us.
President Rhamaposa did well in my estimation to play to the middle ground. He needed to remind the voting public that he is still firmly behind the land reform issue, give a report on the state of the free higher education initiative, show his commitment to strategic planning of the much-discussed radical social and economic transformation and take a hard line on corruption.
Announcing plans to start unbundling Eskom, handing prosecuting and investigative powers back to the National Department of Public Prosecution and calling for a pretty much wishing underperforming cabinet members well after the elections in his closing statements was a great way to pace a long speech about practical strategy to handle complex problems. Yes, his targeted job creation figures are well below what is needed to match the throngs of school-leavers. Yes, there were no action items put in place, but more committees and summits announced.
All he needed to do was show the little progress that has already been made – and even Cyril’s most vocal critics can’t deny that there has been progression – and demonstrate that he and the ANC are thinking about possible solutions. It was a rock-solid speech that hit all the right notes, played some fan favourites and disarmed the opposition.
The tired rhetoric of “the same-old ANC” coming from the DA and Freedom Front+ was expected and the EFF calling out the ruling party for plagiarising its manifesto was equally predictable. Although, it’s pretty difficult to claim plagiarism when your party is founded on the same guiding principles. But I digress.
Of particular interest to me was when the president started talking about the science and technology gains South Africa has already made with the Square-Kilometre Array project. It got really freaky when he started talking about the MeerKAT project in the exact same tempo that I laid out in my story about my visit to the site in early 2018.
Our country has made some incredible gains in the darkest of times and we should never forget that. This isn’t an endorsement for the ruling party, although the jury is still out on who I’ll be scribbling my cross next to come 8 May 2019, but merely an admission that Cyril dropped a fine state of the nation address.
That he delivered it from a previous generation iPad Pro, however, is very troubling. Isn’t his nett worth quite impressive? Surely a president’s salary and shrewd personal finance management means he can afford at least the latest technology? I’m sure the iStore could cook up a consignment deal for him. I believe our head of state should always carry the most up-to-date hardware to benefit from the new security features. As a point of order, I believe this should be addressed at once.