#SONA2017 – High expectations, divided opinions

File: President Jacob Zuma presents the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) to a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament (National Assembly and National Council of Provinces) on 11 February 2016 at 19h00. Photo: Flickr.com/GovernmentZA

PRETORIA – Days before President Jacob Zuma delivers his 2017 State of the Nation Address (Sona), opinions from a cross-section of South Africans are starkly divided on the expectations from the presidential presentation.

“He [Zuma] needs to be practical when he addresses the nation. He has previously spoken on the three matters that need urgent attention – health, education and corruption in South Africa. What is he going to say now to make people take him seriously? He must try and be radical,” Lesiba Teffo, law expert at the University of South Africa (Unisa), told African News Agency.

“He must be practical, otherwise his whole speech is just a recitation. We know that he will talk about corruption, delivery of textbooks in Limpopo, the health system but when you look at it closely, it is what he has previously told the nation years ago.”

Zuma is scheduled to deliver the address in Parliament on Thursday evening.

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Teffo said Zuma should announce interventions to cut out corruption.

“He needs to suggest something concrete, which South Africans can believe and buy into. It [Zuma’s intervention] has to speak to the state of education and the provision of health systems in this country. In my considered opinion, the situation is now worse than it was before 1994 – that is the bottom line,” said Teffo.

“There [are] always those who say there was also corruption during apartheid. Nobody denies that, but it is worse now. Incidentally, this is not what I’m saying but it is what people within the ANC are saying. A few years ago, they would have disputed this, but now they are fighting over these issues.”

Good governance expert, Tshwane University of Technology’s professor of public affairs Mashupye Maserumule, said given what was happening in the country’s universities, South Africans expect progress on higher education.

“What are we going to see in so far as funding of higher education is concerned? What will be his direction in the State of the Nation Address? That will obviously set the tone for the position of government on this critical issue. For me, what tops the agenda of expectations now is largely around the question of higher education. It is something South Africans are talking about so much right now,” said Maserumule.

“The other issue relates to the delivery of services, particularly for the poor. There are issues of Sassa [the South African Social Security Agency] not being able to provide the grants because of contractual issues. The poor people of this country expect him to say something on that. Obviously they expect a sense of assurance – they want to know what is going to happen to their money.”

Maserumule said any interruptions of the distribution of the social grants will mean “the ANC will feel the wrath of the poor”.

He said the death of 94 psychiatric patients across Gauteng last year should also find a space in Zuma’s speech.

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On the streets of the Pretoria CBD, small business owner Aletha Mncube said she will watch the live coverage of Zuma’s speech on TV, anticipating radical steps to promote and protect local business.

“We need protection from the state. Right now we are being pushed out of business by foreign business owners who don’t even pay taxes. Our government has to give us loans to grow our businesses, otherwise our shops will soon close. We are on the verge now,” said the mother of five.

Musa Kgomo, who drives a taxi plying the Mamelodi/Pretoria CBD route, said he had no time for speeches.

“Will the speech feed my family? I have to be sitting in this seat everyday, so that I can feed my family. Young people have lost faith in speeches. We have been told, for a long time now, that things will improve in this country. But where is the improvement? If you spend time we watching their speeches on TV, then you will die a poor man,” said the taxi driver.

Africa News Agency

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