Georgina Guedes

SONA a metaphor for South African government

2015-02-13 12:32

Georgina Guedes

The State of the Nation Address takes place at a bad time for me. I put my children to bed between 19:00 and 19:30, and there was no keeping them up to hear the prez speak.

So until I turned on the television and got back on Twitter, it was kind of like Schrödinger’s SONA – both disrupted and not disrupted until I turned on the box.
When I did, it was hard to believe that everything that had been threatened was taking place.

(Government could learn a thing or two about service delivery from EFF.)

Musi Mmaimane was ranting. Julius Malema was raving. (How cool do they all look respectively in black and red, by the way? It’s like they’re taking part some obscure role-playing strategy game that no one really knows the rules to.)

Anyway, Twitter provided the background with photos – and later video clips – of EFF being manhandled out of Parliament (delivered, I’m told, by people hanging out the loo windows since the mobile signal was blocked). Here, made manifest, are our worst fears. (Actually, in our worst fears, Malema is naked, so at least we were spared that.)

A missed opportunity

I had hoped that Parliament wouldn’t be disrupted. Sure, there was some childish part of me that wanted to see the furore, but President Zuma was NEVER going to answer questions on Nkandla, so EFF’s behaviour was always only ever going to bring about chaos and disorder, and no real satisfaction.

I had thought that perhaps they would hold back on asking the questions that Zuma is never going to answer in favour of questions that he just might. For instance, “How can you take pride in jobs created in the fourth quarter when employment always spikes in the fourth quarter, Mr President?”

Or: “If government has created 850 000 jobs, how come there has only been a 250 000 increase in employment – which is likely to drop away in the first quarter of 2015, Mr President?”

Unfortunately, nobody from the opposition was present in Parliament to ask those kinds of questions because they were all outside, ranting to news cameras and showing solidarity with one another. Instead, inside were a bunch of ANC toadies, clapping their hands and cheering as Zuma delivered his address to a one-party parliament (he’s dreamed of this day).

No f%&ks to give

But the thing that bothered me the most was his utter insouciance. He didn’t look stressed or even a little put out. He was well prepared for this spectacle and its outcome. In my mind, the oke has been trembling in his office, worry about the humiliation about to be heaped on his shiny head.

Instead, things played out exactly as he wanted, and he picked up where he left off as if he’d been waiting for someone to fix the sound levels. If unflappability was the mark of a good statesman (instead of, you know, accountability and honesty), Zuma would top the Buzzfeed list.

But I guess this SONA was a real-life metaphor for how our country is run. The ANC does the running (into the ground) with Zuma, sphinx-like at its apex, and the opposition parties are left (or pushed) outside, yelling their heads off and snappily dressed but achieving nothing.  

This is what it has come to, South Africa, and it’s a long road back to anywhere sane.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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