Georgina Guedes

The sadness of SONA 2016

2016-02-12 13:55

Georgina Guedes

Last night, watching the State of the Nation Address, I cried. I surprised myself because the chaos wasn’t unexpected. I knew it was coming.

And yet, somehow, with all those fancy people there in their finery, attending what is arguably the most important event on our democratic calendar, the fact that the event was so diminished that it took President Zuma 30 minutes to get through a single sentence, is a devastating indictment on what has become of our country.

Part of the tragedy was that he was interrupted while he was saying good stuff. He didn’t have the chance to get through the things that needed to be said – that this date was the 26th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, that this year is the 50th anniversary of District 6 being declared a “whites only” area, and that this year is the 20th anniversary of the signing into law by Nelson Mandela of the Constitution of our Republic.

These significant dates taken together are a powerful representation of how far our country has come. As President Zuma said, “We are proud of our democracy and what we have achieved in a short space of time. Our democracy is functional, solid and stable.”

And someone called out, “No thanks to you...”

Stand and deliver

Those must have been hard lines for President Zuma to read aloud before Parliament and the world, knowing that the very constitution and democracy that he is hailing, is the one that he is being proven to have fallen afoul of.

To say those things in the face of heckling, and to attempt to remain above the jeers at a time of such humiliation must be hard. I feel sorry for Zuma, even though I believe he is the architect of his own downfall (and it is yet to be proven whether he will fall).

And has he was interrupted and jeered and heckled, I cried. I cried because he spoke of such a powerful history of overcoming adversity and nation building, and yet he is not an emblem of all the good that this country stands for.

I cried, I think because I could feel the anger of the people standing before him. Those who have been disappointed by him – who, for sure, are grandstanding for political gain, but at the same time, are making urgent points about the things that went unsaid.

The unspoken

Zuma’s responsibility for the decline of the economy was not mentioned. In fact, we were encouraged to believe that this was part of a global slump.

The miners – those poor miners who can’t possibly have survived a week with no water underground – didn’t get a mention.

The fact that the elected head of our nation is a corrupt individual who bends the law of the land to suit his needs – well, I guess that was never going to be mentioned, was it?

So, while I watched Zuma attempt to deliver his speech, to talk about the good that his government is doing in difficult times, while being attacked for the person that he is, I remembered that there are other processes underway. These are processes that prove what he said – that our democracy is functional and solid and stable – but might very well lead to his undoing.

And I tried to remind myself that democracy and a leading constitution are not guarantees that people won’t do the wrong thing, but they might just mean that when people do the wrong thing, there’s a way to hold them to account. It’s all we can hope for.



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