President Jacob Zuma presented what has been described as an upbeat State of the Nation Address to Parliament on Thursday afternoon spending some time highlighting the achievements of South Africa after 20 years of independence.
It is all about having a better life than before 1994 which few would argue against, but just how much of that was through the achievements of the Presidents who went before him – Mandela, Mbeki and Motlanthe? Just how much has the present incumbent achieved in his five years at the helm of government?
His presidency will more be remembered for scandals such as Nkandla, Marikana and Guptagate. And with thousands upon thousands still waiting for decent housing, clean water and a society free of murder, rape and vicious violence by criminals there are not too many that would stand up to applaud Zuma.
Apart from these basic rights, people are now concerned with how the government can build for the future on what they see as a legacy of unfulfilled promises. The President once again used the occasion to make more promises of creating more jobs, tackling crime, labour unrest and generally putting the economy on a better footing. Once again it seemed like more of a wish list than a viable proposition.
Unemployment is at the root of many of South Africa's woes and, while the President acknowledged that more jobs had to be created he gave no particular indication of how that would be achieved. Hopefully he was not referring to expanding an already bloated civil service – the largest in Africa. On labour unrest he said that “in no way can we have conflict that destroys the economy”. And on the freefall of the Rand he said that we will have to ride through “this period of turbulence”.
With only weeks of electioneering before the general election the President was obviously eager to list government's achievements and, in so doing, chose the past 20 years rather than the past five. But the picture in reality is quite different. While we concentrate on where the country is heading, many, if not most, of the ground root support for his party live in abject poverty in questionable housing with forever failing facilities. They are the ones he was hoping to give cheer to but for the most part much of it will have fallen on deaf ears.
This was his opportunity to give hope for the future, to unite the nation to work together as one and to invigorate the entrepreneurs to reach for more and gain more by creating employment. In that he failed and must have increased concern in the higher echelons of his party.
It is a certainty that this leader lacks the ability to inspire. He has no charisma, only questionable motives. And, above all, he has no plan for the future. In his hands the country will drift along from crisis to crisis all of which will be blamed on apartheid or whatever springs to mind.
He announced at the beginning of his term in 2009 that it was a time for change. Now is that time and it should not include this errant leader.
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