The State of the Nation in numbers

(Graphic: John McCann/M&G)

(Graphic: John McCann/M&G)

The M&G Data Desk analysed the previous 29 State of the Nation addresses (Sona) delivered since 1994. In total, 97 530 words were pulled from the government’s website and categorised according to their dates and related speakers.

Of all the presidents, Jacob Zuma spoke the most about land. In 2013, 10% of his total 2 606 words were about land redistribution.

Runner-up Thabo Mbeki spent 5% of his Sona in 2006 highlighting land ownership patterns.
(In general, his speeches mostly focused on the economy and investment. In 2003, he mentioned the economy 20 times.)

About 2% of Nelson Mandela’s words and 1% of Cyril Ramaphosa’s were about land ownership, the former regarding the introduction of the Land Claims Court in 1996 and the latter about the need to accelerate land reform in 2018.

Another topic Zuma focused on was education. He referenced the term 14 times in 2013, the most of any presidential speeches.

And the number of words the presidents spoke during their addresses?

Mbeki on average spoke 3 809 words during his speeches.

Zuma filled his time on the podium with an average of 2 964 words —the least of all presidents. Mandela and Ramaphosa, on average, spoke a moderate 3 113 and 3 306 words respectively.

Kgalema Motlanthe delivered the longest Sona — 4 000 words in 2008.

Dinonofo Pico is the Eugene Saldanha Fellow for Social Justice at the Mail & Guardian, funded by the Summit Education Trust. Jacques Coetzee is the Adamela Data Fellow, a position funded by the Indigo Trust. 

Jacques Coetzee
Dinonofo Pico

Dinonofo Pico

Dino is the 2019 Eugene Saldanha Fellow for Social Justice at the Mail & Guardian, a position made possible with funding from the Summit Education Trust and administered by the Adamela Trust. With a background in physics and computing, Dino's speciality is in data journalism, and as part of the M&G Data Desk he helps brings hard facts and evidence-based precision to issues and stories affecting millions of South Africans.  
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