State of the nation a potential election platform for Zuma


File: Parliament is currently working on a plan to meet a Constitutional Court deadline to change legislation that will allow independent candidates to stand in the next elections.

CAPE TOWN - Thursday’s State of the Nation Address comes at a crucial time for President Jacob Zuma and the country, with elections looming.

Analysts say Zuma will have to deliver an inspiring and significant speech if he is to allay fears around the weakening rand, violent service delivery protests and on-going mine strikes.

The annual state of the Nation Address is a perfect occasion for President Jacob Zuma to sell his presidency and his party to the nation. 

“I think there’s a great opportunity handed to Jacob Zuma, I think on a platter, because we celebrate 20 years of democracy this year, and in a sense as the head of state he comes to parliament and is able to take credit for many of the successes of the new democracy, whether they were in his term or not,” Judith February of the Institute for Security Studies suggested.

The growth of the economy, social grants extended to 16-million people, connecting hundreds of communities to electricity, water and sanitation – these are some of the gains made since 1994, and are expected to form the core of Zuma’s speech.

But he cannot ignore those who feel they’ve been left out.

“The president will have to think about the way in which he’s going to address the mood of the country. Which in many parts is angry, is resentful, where people are feeling deep levels of inequality,” February added.

Zuma’s speech comes just three months before the national elections, and it is an uncertain time. The economy is shaky, the rand has hit its lowest level since Zuma took office, and ongoing mine strikes exacerbate uncertainty.

The election already seems to be about job creation.

According to political analyst Richard Calland, Zuma has to reassure the public about job creation.

“We all know that there is a large number of first-time voters coming into this election, many of them are unemployed and are very worried about their future. He’s got to say something very clear, very distinctive, very concrete about what his government will do to help them in the coming years,” Calland said.

And as Zuma takes to the podium, opposition parties will undoubtedly be watching closely to find fault.

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