South Africa’s State of The Nation Address (SONA) is a yearly event where the president of South Africa addresses the parliament on the current state of the country. The speech is attended by South Africa’s most important political officials as well as former presidents, members of the judiciary and the various Diplomats and Ambassadors to South Africa.
The State of the Nation Address is usually made available in all South Africa’s official languages. There are eleven official languages in South Africa – Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga.
Every year, the president addresses the current situation in the country, the problems of the current economy and possible solutions for them.
2008’s SONA was a memorable one because it was the first speech since President Thabo Mbeki was removed from power. Also notable were the absences of FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela – former presidents of South Africa.
The speech also marks the beginning of the year for the parliament.
The subject matter of the speech evolves constantly depending on the situation in the country. While the premise very much remains the same, it’s the subject matter that evolves to keep up with the current situation of the country.
Jacob Zuma, who is the current President of South Africa, has had the privilege of giving the speech in recent years.
An almost unanimous consensus deemed President Zuma’s 2016 speech ‘safe’ and underwhelming. Some even went as far as calling the speech boring.
However, his approach to the speech was understandable considering the general tension around the country at the time.
His speech was criticized for wanting to appease everyone, which many said was not supposed to be the purpose of any State of The Nation Address.
The speech largely addressed the energy issue of the country. The president emphasized the significance of affordable nuclear energy.
The nuclear energy topic has remained a controversial one for the duration of Zuma’s presidency.
He also addressed the role ‘Labor’ plays in the economy; “Labor is a key stakeholder, and if it doesn’t buy into plans made by government and business – those plans aren’t going to work. The long strikes we have seen show tensions in relationship between labor, government and business.” President Zuma said.
The President also promised to implement cutbacks, especially where government offices were involved, in a bid to save the country’s money.
Zuma addressed other topics, some of which include the minimum age balancing act, the economy, tax amendment act , university fees and racism.
However, despite his range of topics, the entire affair was considered underwhelming. The speech which should have been inspiring was instead business-as-usual. Although President Zuma’s overall decorum was commended for being humble, statesmanlike and better than his attitude the previous year.
There are promises made every year during these speeches. When addressing the problems of the country and solutions to them, there’s no way promises won’t be made on how to fix the state of the nation.
In his 2009 speech, he promised to create about four million jobs by the year 2014 with the Expanded Public Works Programme. By march 2014, 4,071,292 job opportunities were created.
However, many criticized the accuracy of the number saying a substantial percentage of that number were only temporary jobs.
In his 2010 State of the Nation Address, President Zuma promised ‘to increase to the number of policemen and women by 10% over the next three years’ to aid in reducing the growing rate of crime in South Africa. However, this promise was never actualized.
While there was an increase in the number of policemen and women hired, the 10%mark was never hit.
In 2011, in President Zuma’s speech, he promised to expand the scope of women’s reproductive health rights and related services.
However, GroundUp – a community journalism website – found no evidence of any programme being launched to execute this promise in their 2014 and 2015 investigations. Currently, this promise has not been fulfilled.
In 2014, the president promised to abolish mud schools and other similar structures.
The fulfillment of this promise is currently in progress with the Department of Basic Education’s Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative.
However, the programme is currently far behind its expected target only so far rebuilding a quarter of the number schools.
In 2015, president Zuma promised to take steps necessary to improve the water condition of the country. Some of those steps included training 15,000 plumbers and artisans who would be responsible for fixing taps in their local communities.
So far, the plan which will take place over the course of three years is currently in progress. Artisans, plumbers and even water agents have already begun receiving training.