Sona 2015: Will Zuma own up?

During the 2014 State of the Nation address, Jacob Zuma went on and on about having a good story to tell. Will he face up to his failures in this year's address, asks Haji Mohamed Dawjee. (M&G, David Harrison)

During the 2014 State of the Nation address, Jacob Zuma went on and on about having a good story to tell. Will he face up to his failures in this year's address, asks Haji Mohamed Dawjee. (M&G, David Harrison)

Last week, the presidency called on social media users to suggest topics and issues Jacob Zuma should include in his State of the Nation Address.

During the 2014 address, Zuma went on and on about having a good story to tell. The only thing telling about that story was his talent for waxing lyrical and being a gifted actor.

Last year saw the escalation of the Nkandla scandal; the swearing-in of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) into Parliament; a pay-back money spectacle in the National Assembly by that same party; house speaker Baleka Mbete saying she “did not recognise”; Zuma magically being able to paint public protector Thuli Madonsela as the bad guy ­– and plenty more disruptions and controversial behaviour within the house, which served as an apposite reflection of the country’s overall disposition.

The public did not hesitate to respond to the presidency’s request via the social media platforms. The call was met with several suggestions; I haven’t counted them, but the most popular suggestion seems to be that the president should tender his resignation right there and then, with most users saying that would be warmly welcomed and incite a lot of happiness.

The top five suggestions
After filtering through a decent amount of suggestions, here are five that appear to be most significant. It’s the good story South Africans really want to hear. And they want it to happen in the shortest, most succinct address possible. Admittedly, when it comes to Zuma’s ramblings, that’s wishful thinking what with all the spectacle adjusting and giggling and dramatic pauses he is bound to exercise between lengthy sentences.

1. Pay back the money: No. This has not died down. In fact, the “pay back the money” debacle has pre-emptively coloured the entire address this year. The discourse around this year’s address seems to be about the EFF and how they will intervene during the president’s speech, demanding once again to know when he will pay back the money owed on his Nkandla compound. Some commenters have said any interruption of his address will be disappointing. The fact remains though, that should Julius Malema and his party not act on their promise to stage a protest during Zuma’s speech, they will seem, well, rather lame and antirevolutionary (in words they would use to best describe their own inaction regarding the aforementioned promise). Watch this space … or rather the television – or maybe don’t. I suspect if this does happen, the live broadcast will suddenly cut. Again. At least this will guarantee that Zuma’s ramblings are short and sweet.

2. Education: We can only hope the president highlights the need for an increase in the quality of education. Just be up front about this, Mr President. Don’t open with some line about how employees of the department are deserving of teachers’ apples. The public would really appreciate the whipping out of a metaphorical ruler so that the same employees get a bit of a wrist slapping, for the sake of the future of the nation and the skills and resources they deserve.

3. Load-shedding: Switch on the lights, Zuma. The power cuts are affecting jobs and the economy. The chandeliers at Nkandla probably don’t reflect this, but trust me, the rest of the country is experiencing dire consequences due to Eskom’s incompetence. We all know that when it comes to government and parastatals, it’s definitely not just Eskom that leaves us in the dark. Zuma has long been a gold medallist at trying to pull the wool over citizens’ eyes. And I’m pretty sure the lengthy post office strike has several undelivered envelopes and packages still blindly wandering in dark alleys.

4. Community empowerment: And no, we don’t mean driving through rural areas with flashy cars and throwing out the odd ANC-branded paraphernalia. The people have enough ruling party T-shirts (and DA embellished T-shirts too, if we’re being honest). They need resources, they need more accessible public servants and service providers. They need skills and they need employment. They’re not just androids waiting to elect you.

5. Your resignation: Yes it’s far-fetched. Delusional. And well, it’s a pretty ridiculous suggestion and it probably sounds more like it was suggested in jest instead of with sincere insistence but the best thing you could do for the ANC and the future of the party, as well as its credibility and whatever is left of yours, is just own up, be accountable and drop the mic. Exit the building. “Zuma out”. Basically, quit while you’re not so ahead. In not so many words, the public suggests you spend the rest of your days spending Monopoly money building Monopoly mansions and using Monopoly’s “get out of jail free card” instead of managing to successfully evade any deserving consequences dished out to you.

Spirit-lifting opportunity
The State of the Nation Address is an opportunity for the president to lift the spirits of the country. To report on the progress made in the past year, the achievements, the outcomes of promises fulfilled and policies actioned, as well as the way forward. But it’s also an opportunity to face the public and own up – to be accountable for failures and face the priorities head on.

“The Presidency appreciates the participation of the public in the preparations for the State of the Nation Address. All inputs are valuable and are being taken into account in the President’s address to the nation”, said a statement released by the presidency last week. 

Well, we need a little bit more than the presidency’s appreciation. We need a little more than your notion to take things into account.

We need all of the listed things above, in a practical and visible sense.

We don’t need your appreciation, we need your action, so that for a change, we can appreciate you.

 
Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is the social media accounts director at Ogilvy PR. She was previously the deputy digital news editor and social media editor at the Mail & Guardian. Haji has an honours degree in journalism from the University of Stellenbosch and continues to write columns for the M&G. Read more from Haji Mohamed Dawjee

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