South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma’s reputation has in times past been roiled by quite a number of scandals and policy missteps. The most recent is probably the widely publicized contention to return the public funds he used to upgrade his living quarters at Nkandla, which has led to a currently running court case even after President Jacob Zuma had promised to repay some of the funds.
It’s no wonder that expectations for this year’s State of The Nation Address (SONA) ran really high and after it held yesterday, it did not fail to live up to expectations. Complete with solemn promises and continuous disruptions, it was indeed an interesting session. President Jacob Zuma delivered a sober address which experts consider critical to shoring up his presidency, where he promised to revive the country’s economy and cut excessive spending. He focused largely on the stagnant economy, promising especially to repair some of the recent damage caused by what is believed widely to be his mishandling of the finance ministry.
The heckling during the address which was delivered for the most part by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), began even prior to the start of the speech. The members of the opposition party, had arrived the venue sporting their trademark red overalls and matching hard hats, which was such a glaring contrast to the glamorous ball gowns and national costumes that most of the other guests were decked in. Beginning by singing songs of land ownership whilst insulting the president in songs referencing the Jacob Zuma Nkandla scandal, it really shouldn’t have surprised anyone when they carried their disruptions into the speech, breaking their promise to obey the parliament rules.
On one hand was Mr. Jacob Zuma, in his ninth state of the nation address since taking power in 2009, facing the country and Parliament more humbled than he had ever been, intent on highlighting measures which were later heard and were inclusive of policies to facilitate investment, streamline state enterprises and pursue nuclear energy. On the other was an opposition group that refused to listen to what they considered empty promises, shouting him down, managing to delay the start of the speech for up to an hour.
The Economic Freedom Fighters were eventually expelled from the parliamentary chambers, but not before the party’s leader, Julius Malema yelled “Zuma is no longer a president that deserves the respect from anyone,” continuing, “He has stolen from us, he has corrupted the economy of South Africa, he has made this country a joke and after that, he has laughed at us.”
South Africa remains Africa’s second largest economy and definitely its most sophisticated and analysts have already predicted a possible slip into recession due to government mismanagement, severe drought and China’s economic slowdown, so we do hope President Jacob Zuma meant every word of his speech in this year’s State of The Nation Address.