Listening to the parliamentary debate following last week’s SONA speech by the President it occurred to me that maybe it should be renamed FONA (Fantasy of the Nation Address) in future.
The title “State of the Nation” suggests, to me at least, a present tense. Rather as a company’s annual report is intended to produce an audited snapshot of the financial health of a company at a certain point in time (with some very notable recent exceptions) , surely the SONA should give an honest appraisal of where we are now and what the government (for want of a better word) plans to do to improve on the situation.
The fantasy bit about creating a brave new Wakanda with bullet trains, blue light escorted flying saucers and penthouse apartments for members of parliament on skyscrapers high enough to remove them from the stench of the sewage running down the streets should be tacked on at the end for amusement value only.
I suspect that if one took a poll of ordinary South Africans (that is, those of us who actually have to earn a living rather than sit around tweeting racist comments from a foreign embassy and sponging on the taxpayer), with a scale of 1 being not at all happy and 10 being deliriously happy about the state of the nation, we might get an average score of three.
My domestic worker’s main concerns are not the same as my concerns but South Africans of all colours seem to agree on many things. High on the list is unemployment, followed by decent housing, poor transport, an unacceptably high crime rate, education and medical care. Which is precisely why it would be unwise for the President to present a real state of the nation address because we all know the answer. The state-owned enterprises are a disaster with Eskom consistently carrying off the prize for most disastrous. Crime is appalling, our education system produces the dumbest kids in the world, the healthcare system is fine in parts but only if you are lucky enough to live near one of the hospitals that actually functions as a hospital, and the rail network is a daily nightmare for workers desperately trying to get to work.
Most worrying though is government corruption and the fact that, despite the Zondo commission, absolutely nothing seems to be done to prevent the situation from continuing. In fact, many of those found wanting by Zondo and even by courts pre-Zondo are now heading up government committees which will allow them to hobble any initiatives Cyril might have which don’t suit them. The Ace of Spades, despite being the central character of a book called “Gangster State”, which doesn’t paint him a very favourable light, is Secretary General of the ANC. Are we to assume that Pieter-Louis Myburgh made it all up because he wants to make the shortlist for this year’s Barry Ronge Fiction Prize?
I totally support the legal premise of innocent until proven guilty. But that assumes that the rule of law is applied to all without prejudice. If I smash the window of my local jeweller’s shop and run off with three Rolex watches I might be lucky enough to get away with the robbery if nobody was watching. But if my image has been caught on security cameras and three witnesses saw me I would expect the police to turn up and keep me in custody pending a trial. I’m still technically innocent of course but there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to suggest that I won’t be suing the police for wrongful arrest.
Why is this not happening with those who have already been fingered by investigators? And how, in heaven’s name, could a political party in good conscience elect those same tainted individuals to high paying, influential posts once again? Unless, of course, all the talk about cracking down on corruption and putting the ANC house in order was just a lot of pre-election bullshit. In which case, fellow citizens, we can expect the country to slide further into indebtedness and to witness the creation of a new superclass. Those who stole the most will be the ultimate survivors in this game and the rest of us will be the little people who just have to suck it up. Go and read George Orwell’s Animal Farm!
Maybe I can be afforded the same luxury as the President; that of having a dream, however unlikely. My dream is that the President sets up a credible special court to deal with government corruption. The brief of the court is that legal filibustering and deliberate delays are not permitted and would accumulate penalty points for the accused. Justice must be swift, fair and seen to be done. Those whose declared innocence is a subject of national mirth are to be rounded up and arrested in front of the TV cameras. This is known as the “perp walk” in the US and is reserved for those who are most likely to be found guilty. The accused are to be held in custody in a normal SA prison cell until the end of the trial which would be a great disincentive to delay the proceedings. The result would be phenomenal. Confidence in the president would be boosted considerably, South Africans would feel that they weren’t being shafted all the time, investors would start taking SA seriously and we might have a slim chance of being taken seriously as a country once again rather than being regarded as just another African basket case. But, sadly, it’s just a dream and will probably stay that way.
David Bullard is a columnist, author and celebrity public speaker known for his controversial satire.
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the IRR.
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