Faith Daniels

SONA2017: Should we tune in for Zuma's plan?

2017-02-09 08:25
Army personnel take a stroll before the dress rehearsal for the opening of Parliament. (Paul Herman, News24)

Army personnel take a stroll before the dress rehearsal for the opening of Parliament. (Paul Herman, News24)

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Every year at this time, we gear up for the big parliamentary address. We want to hear our president speak as the doors of Parliament opens. Granted, maybe not everyone wants to hear him speak, but some among us still await that all important speech, setting the tone for all things parliamentary (for the most part) that will follow. 

It’s a different tone, a different feeling, and a bit of a different country each time. But be honest now – do you remember what the president spoke about last year? 

Amid the nine point plan update and the vagueness about the economy – remember the mentioning of how a parliamentary move to Pretoria should perhaps be considered? 

Yep, how easily we forget. 

Ahead of this year’s speech, there’s much talk about the tight security measures and especially the involvement of state security. The EFF was quick off the mark on this one. Its Commander In Chief tweeting “…no amount of security presence can deter us…” Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come. 

The usual protests planned don’t seem so usual this year. The Save South Africa campaign on Wednesday gave what it called “the real state of the nation” address. It’s a campaign that has had prominent voices supporting it throughout last year. I listened to an ad released of a laughing President Jacob Zuma, and then a call to action, emphasising the fact that the state of our country is no laughing matter. They have a point. 

Zuma will address the nation at a time of much pressing turmoil. Last week Gauteng’s Health MEC resigned amid a health scandal that cannot be explained away, justified or even properly comprehended. How does one really explain why and how 94 psychiatric patients died while at unlicensed facilities. Was saving a buck really the driving force? 

As more emerge on this tragedy, calls are also being made for the premier and other officials to vacate their positions. The former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu rightfully resigned. The comments made on social media in the wake of these developments were interesting to observe to say the least. Some applauded her for stepping down. Such is the state of our nation that we applaud people for doing the minimum; for doing the thing that doesn’t even set things right. 

That said, it was probably such a shock to our systems to see an MEC resigning after a scandal that the applause was almost a reflex, because this doesn’t happen in Mzansi. 

Others though, called for criminal charges and further probing of the situation. Any of these measures won’t bring loved ones back to grieving families, but in the end what we want is for it to never happen again. 

It should scare us into heightened awareness of what exactly is happening in our health facilities every day and the care that people receive. 

So will our president speak about this? Will he deliver a heartfelt address to the affected families? Will he assure the nation that government will not allow this to happen again? 

At last year’s State of the Nation Address Zuma highlighted the zero percent fee hike for tertiary institutions – with a fees must fall movement in full swing. This year institutions decided on hikes not exceeding eight percent. But we are far from the free education being demanded. It doesn’t look like it will be our reality in the near future. 
Will the president speak directly to students and assure them that there is a concrete plan in place to move us closer to this goal? Or will he just refer back to the higher education commission instituted to probe these matters and tell us that we will all await their recommendations? I bet the latter. 

As schools re-opened across the country, yet again, we reported on children who aren’t placed in classes on day one. The demand for education is increasing, and every year it’s a battle in some quarters to place them all. Every year.

Will the president speak to these issues? Will Zuma assure us that our government has a decent plan to deal with this situation? A plan that will ensure that no child is left behind – from day one? I doubt it. And that is why we should all worry about the real state of our nation.

- Faith Daniels is a seasoned radio and TV journalist, and is currently head of news at Kagiso Media’s Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 

Read more on:    zuma  |  jacob  |  sona 2017

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