CAPE TOWN - Expectations for President Jacob Zuma's state-of-the-nation address varied widely on Wednesday, with some wishing it would culminate in him announcing his retirement.
It was time for him to confess to his failures when he opens Parliament on Thursday, the Congress of the People said.
"Thursday evening is going to be a zero-sum game for Zuma," said Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota.
"The president should confess in Parliament that he has failed the nation and should announce his resignation from active politics with immediate effect."
Lekota said he expected Zuma would "piggyback" on the achievements of late former president Nelson Mandela and his successor Thabo Mbeki to hide the failures of his five-year term.
"Beyond that, he will make vacuous promises, skirt challenges, and offer nothing concrete at all," he said.
Lekota went as far as labelling Zuma a "walking disaster".
The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa), in its wish list, said Zuma should focus on the "critical challenges" facing the country.
These included addressing the problem of apartheid-era spatial planning.
"Twenty years since the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa as a Rainbow Nation has made steady progress in the areas of education, health, HIV and Aids, economic growth, employment creation, income distribution, rural development, housing, access to water, sanitation and electricity.
"However, not much has changed in the townships where the majority of our citizens reside," said Fedusa general secretary, Dennis George.
Support for the National Health Insurance system was also critical for the future of the country.
"This is the only way to ensure that South Africa has a world-class public health care system that can cater for all its citizens."
While the country had seen improvements in the number of work opportunities created, much more needed to be done.
"It is critical for the country to create opportunities by increasing exports, to develop a more competitive infrastructure, reducing the cost of living for low-income and working people, support for small businesses and the creation of a labour market that is more responsive to new economic opportunities."
Zuma needed to give clear direction on how government intended to deal with the economic and social impact of service delivery protests.
"Violent protest action over poor service delivery is the order of the day, as more people feel dissatisfied about the provision of drinking water, sanitation and housing. Fedusa is concerned about the violent nature of the protest actions and has witnessed more people being killed and injured in these events," George said.
Trade union Solidarity cautioned Zuma against making "expensive promises" on greater government spending.
"In particular, the union will keep an eye on the implications it holds for taxpayers, cultural minorities and job security," said spokesman Piet le Roux.
Increasing spending would put more pressure on the country's taxpayers.
"The more president Zuma promises to do and spend, the greater the pressure will be on the taxpayer, a pressure that will also result in increases in government debt," Le Roux said.