The nervous looking President Jacob Zuma after delivering the State of the Nation address

Since South Africa’s inception as a “democracy” in 1994, there has always been a tinkering on the edges of the country’s socio-economic problems. There is a lot of playing around with words and repeating the same themes in all the state of the nation addresses without any substance or walking the talk. And there is this sycophantic cheering cohort some of whom are awakened by the clapping of hands and join in, while at the same time wiping off the drool on the sides of their mouths because they had been driveling. One wonders what they would be applauding. No head of state has ever tried to grab the bull by the horns. In his 11th February 2010 ‘state of the nation’ speech, President Jacob Zuma said the economy was turning the corner. I disagree. The appropriate phrase Zuma should have used is ‘cutting corners’. The reason why Zuma and all his predecessors failed is that “the discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic by nature”. For example, we were conquered and owe our existence to conquest. Those who conquered us, some of whom Zuma praised in his speech, established themselves legally and economically as the privileged class of our conquered country.

The observable economic facts belong to that period of conquest and the economic laws the ANC government is trying to apply to resolve our economic problems also belong to that period of conquest and are not applicable now nor will they be in the future. Consequently, rural and economic development will also be affected because one researcher revealed that the practice of economic development has been reduced to the evaluation and implementation of disconnected projects. Underlying these projects is a dramatic paucity of understanding of how they fit into the broader economy and what their political implications are. Most particularly, there is a general incomprehension or neglect of the state as a social phenomenon and of its logic, role, and limits in the management of reforms. In terms of the practice of development, a crying need thus exists for a unifying framework that is both sufficiently comprehensive to explain the multidimensional facets of underdevelopment and sufficiently simple to provide a broad set of guidelines that can in turn be made more specific in particular historical, geographical, and ideological contexts to serve as a basis for policy formulation and political action.

Some of Zuma’s phrases such as “national unity” are extremely hollow. He is yet to acknowledge the role and contribution of the Pan Africanist Congress and the Black Consciousness Movement and their leaders in our struggle for liberation. In 1964 about a hundred cadres of POQO, the forerunners of APLA were hanged at Pretoria Central Prison for their role in the fight for liberation. The ANC hasn’t acknowledged these gallant freedom fighters. Zuma has taken after the much vaunted reconciler, Nelson Mandela who failed to acknowledge the role and contribution of the PAC and BCM and their leaders in his 11 February 1990 speech after he was allowed to leave the house at Victor Verster. Zuma acknowledged PW Botha, IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Helen Suzman but did not mention Govan Mbeki and Walter Sisulu. Yet he was met at the entrance of the National Assembly by Speaker of Parliament and Walter Sisulu’s son, Max. Moreover, Sisulu’s daughter, Lindiwe is a minister in his cabinet.

He failed to mention Govan Mbeki. Yet his predecessor is the son of Govan and he was singing at the top of his voice at the funeral of Govan Mbeki. Hypocrisy! These old men and those of the PAC and BCM such as Robert Sobukwe, Zephaniah Mothopeng, Japhta Masemola, Onkgopotse Tiro and Bantu Biko, contributed immensely and gave their lives so that we could be free and needed to be acknowledged. Had it not been for men like them, Zuma couldn’t have had the opportunity to have made that boring speech in the National Assembly. In addition to these glaring mistakes, the speech was flat and anti-climactic.

By Sam Ditshego

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