I'd score SONA a 30%

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IOL pic jun18 sona jacob zuma serious Reuters President Jacob Zuma. File picture: Sumaya Hisham

If you set your sights low enough, then President Jacob Zuma will never disappoint you, says Eusebius McKaiser.

A seventh State of the Nation Address; a seventh lacklustre performance.

But then again some claim consistency is a virtue.

The Sona cannot be expected, to be sure, to offer granular detail of government plans. Between the finance ministry and other state departments, that detail is still to come.

What I did expect, however, is a galvanising vision for this second Zuma presidency. And that I'm afraid wasn't forthcoming.

The president muttered the words “radical socio-economic transformation” promising the economy will be at the heart of his second term in government.

It raises an awkward question: did the economy never matter before? Or, if this is the galvanising vision for this term, can we infer government accepts responsibility for tardy economic growth, low job creation and persistent, deep levels of poverty and inequality?

To the credit of the president, he identified the right themes and on some issues even demonstrated unusual comfort with detail. But the balance between vision and detail could have been better.

The concession of an energy security crisis and its impact on our low growth figures is commendable.

I had feared he was again going to blame exogenous factors as wholly responsible but though he mentioned trends in the global economy he rightly devoted more time to thinking aloud about expanding sources of energy supply locally to ensure energy security, efficiency and affordability.

Of course the proof is in the implementation.

It's also very politically astute of Number One to have drilled down into the socio-economic crises in towns around mines. But here's the snag: that deals with workers who are organised and noisy. It's not a plan to deal poverty and unemployment a death blow.

And I'm afraid simply stipulating numbers like a million jobs in agriculture being unlocked is a wish list until proven otherwise.

Finally, I got prematurely excited - damn you Msholozi! - when the president said he was about to tell us his plans to heal the sick local government system. He lied. He bragged about 11 places that work. And he mentioned places due for emergency help.

That isn't dealing with systemic issues such as chronic shortage of skilled municipal managers or the impact of cadre deployment more generally or a dearth financial skill-sets at local level. The system is broken. Temporary relief in a few hot spots isn't enough.

Did JZ tick the right boxes? Sure but that wasn't the aim. It's the analysis that matters. And on that theme I'd score him an Angie Motshekga 30%.

Still a pass in some people's eyes though!

* Eusebius McKaiser is the author of the bestselling book Could I Vote DA? A Voter’s Dilemma.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.



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