Keep to point with meaning, Mr President

In four days President Jacob Zuma will deliver his State of the Nation address, unveiling his government’s plans for the year.

The thrust of the speech is pretty much decided, save for a few finishing touches.

Much like his predecessors, Zuma has tended to use the occasion to employ broad strokes, painting a rosy picture of past “successes” and talking up the year ahead. There is little detail. He is certain to be faithful to the past.

To be fair to the man, it’s the nature of such public events. But Zuma has had a tougher time on these occasions.

That’s because his delivery has tended to be more a soliloquy than a speech intended to capture a nation’s imagination and inspire us.

Remember his first State of the Nation, the disastrous address of 2009? You could swear the first time he saw the script was when a flunky handed him a copy just before he mounted the rostrum, such was his halting delivery.

Charming and affable he is, but speech-making is certainly not his forté. He should spare us another long speech, full of promises unlikely to be kept. He owes us a focused and detailed 15-minute show that we can listen to.

The troubled times we live in call for a different approach.What he should do is to identify three priorities, say job creation/economy, education and crime-fighting.

He should then tell us what the action plan is to achieve the goals identified. The rest of the agenda he should leave to his minions.

But politicians love the sound of their voices, so this won’t happen.

A pity, because, midway through his term of office, Zuma needs to score some tangible gains.

So far it has been mostly all talk, planning and more planning but not much else.

For a president elected on a wave of optimism and promise, a lot more was expected. Time is running out.

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Our redoubtable Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has an acquired reputation of being arguably the most undiplomatic politician in the land.

Small talk and glad-handing, crucial traits in a diplomat, are apparently not her strengths.

Which is why many, including the diplomatic corps, must have been puzzled when Thabo Mbeki named her his foreign minister. Able and competent yes. But she is no diplomat.

Stranger still that the Zuma government saw fit to put her name forward to head the AU Commission, a nomination which failed due to a lack of support from the AU’s member states.

The rejection was a rude awakening for South Africans, who’d been led to believe she was a shoo-in.

The post would have made her Africa’s top envoy, dealing with counterparts in the UN and other multi-state agencies, duties that require a consummate networker.

It has been speculated that her failure to land the post was due to big powers exerting pressure on African states not to support her nomination.

The theory goes that former colonial masters, principally France, would want an AU chair with the backbone of an amoeba, happy to acquiesce to their dictates.

The minister’s known lack of amity might also have counted against her. Dlamini-Zuma’s failure to get the nod has also revealed how deep the divisions run between Anglophone and Francophone Africa.

When decisions have to be taken, the former French colonies largely act in concert in opposition to former British possessions and vice versa.

Add into the mix a resentment of South Africa, seen as an arrogant big brother wanting to dictate to the rest.

So much for African unity. Welcome to realpolitik.

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The government is at it again, this time giving away the family silver to Cuba, to prop up that tottering, Castro family-run communist dictatorship.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies on Friday announced an “economic assistance package’’ for the island. A while back, Zuma wrote off a billion rand Cuba owed us.

Sure, we have scores of Cuban doctors working in our state hospitals. But they get paid and a portion of their salaries goes to their government. Fair exchange, I’d say.

ANC officials get misty-eyed when they talk about their fraternal comrades who rule that sorry island. Which is why they can’t see the difference between national interest and party interest.


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