The nitty-gritty of the nation

On Friday President Kgalema Motlanthe delivered his first and, by the look of things, his last State of the Nation address before the two houses of Parliament and to the nation by television.

Customarily, Motlanthe, as presidents do, told us about the state of the economy, the political landscape, education, crime and all such banalities. Customarily, as presidents do, painted an upbeat, if not rosy, picture of the state of things and made rousing clarion calls to join hands and work together to curb the less rosy things, such as corruption and crime. But none of this is a fair summary of the state of the nation right now.

A cursory look at the news events of 2009 thus far might give Motlanthe a whole new angle on his speech material. He might then have taken to the podium on Friday morning and said:

“The speaker of the National Assembly, judge president of the republic , deputy president of South Africa, blah, blah, blah and all protocols observed. It is my pleasure to repeat the call by my predecessor, former president Thabo Mbeki, that it is business unusual.

“For a start, there is a pregnant 24-year-old who is making national news. This young woman is reportedly making phone calls to radio stations asking to be married. Some media have even suggested that this youthful comrade would like to be the first lady of the country, even though she wouldn’t hold the title long enough to buy a new wardrobe. We can only wonder what it is that the media know that we do not know.

“And word also has it that the first lady and the president are separated. That the president sleeps alone in his house. The first lady, we are told, is taking all this in her stride. Further afield it appears that yet another female comrade at Albert Luthuli House is linked romantically to the president, having just ended her 17-year-long marriage.

“Moving on. The president of the ruling party, the former deputy president of the republic and the future president of this country, is, by all accounts, going to marry his fourth wife before the next fiscal year. We can only be proud of and happy for Msholozi Jacob Zuma for finding himself one more soulmate and companion, especially during these trying times.

“It is my submission, and I know you will agree with me, there is nothing a man needs more in days of trouble than family support. The bigger the family, the better.

“Let’s change the subject. I am also proud to say that, as we start the 15th sitting of our democratic Parliament, we have put the ghost of Zimbabwe behind us. Unlike the previous leadership, we have finally found closure in the country of our northern neighbours. The party that won the previous election has agreed to lead the opposition and become junior partners in a government of national unity, in the true tradition of African democracy. We welcome among us representatives from the gallant Zanu-PF and the exhausted MDC.

“Continuing in the spirit of forgive and forget — it is again time for South Africans to exercise their democratic right to choose leaders who will represent them in the national and provincial legislatures for the next five years. I can only hope that our people exercise the true spirit of reconciliation as espoused by our founding father, Nelson Mandela, and forgive those public representatives who looted the country and enriched themselves at the expense of service delivery. Live and let live. We are a young democracy and losing a few hundred million rands to negligence and inexperience is something we can learn and grow from.

“Last, I would like to wish all the political parties luck as they prepare for what looks like the most exciting election since 1994. We are once more experiencing the electric atmosphere of that unforgettable first time: political intolerance, breakaway parties led by counter-revolutionaries, preposterous promises and an abiding enthusiasm from some of our leaders, both inside and outside government, for the inflammatory statement laced with impunity.

“As you know, this is probably the first and the last time I will address this joint sitting as president of the republic [pause for warm laughter]. But I look back and I am proud that in a short space of time we have uprooted the cancers in our society — the Scorpions, the head of the NPA and, hopefully, before the end of this parliamentary session, the SABC board. This last cure will allow the public broadcaster to work happily with the state without running interference from the opposition parties and the nauseating critics among us.

“Thank you. It was brief but exciting.”

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