Pandemonium and the podium
Last Thursday the nation witnessed the State of the Nation Address, once an event of dignity and pride with a respectable address from the head of our country, to a disastrous scene with MPs being pepper-sprayed and forcibly removed from the chamber; others walked out following the chaos. Student writers of The Journalist speak out about our leaders and democracy, the entertainment factor of SONA and our giggling Number One.
Can countries go on vacation? How does one organise a cleansing ceremony for an entire country? Iyavaleka icountry?” This is a tweet I had posted shortly after witnessing what happened last week. It sums up my mixed feelings regarding the state of our country. 23 years into freedom, I think South Africa is grappling with what freed
om really entails. Who is really free? Who is still trapped in economical frustrations and constitutional unrests? Despite the disruptions, I do think that what is currently happening is bound to happen for our democracy to mature. In my culture, one goes through a cleansing ceremony after having gone through grief or a series of unfortunate ordeals. South Africa, to me, symbolises such an individual. We need a complete turnaround strategy in order to avoid the same trajectory as other liberation movements on our continent.
In the light of the student protests over the past two years, Zuma seemed, on the surface at least, to briefly address the concerns of millions of students around the country by mentioning that there would be an increase in NSFAS funding. But the reality is far from the podium from which Number One gave his address. More and more students are complaining that they have not received a response at all from NSFAS about funding for their studies this year. Some students have complained that the funding body replied to their applications too late to make the deadline for university registration. What are these students going to do for the year? With more young South Africans having to throw in the towel, our society is building a new generation of angry youth. The MPs are hypocrites, and they’re putting the future of young people (and therefore our society) at risk.
Zuma is one president everybody would love to loathe. But cut the old man some slack, will you? For starters, he is not above the constitution and parliament like the opposition makes him out to be. He is fully aware of the rule of law and he won’t dodge the judicial bullets forever. The ANC chief whip clarified the matter quite meticulously when he said it is not the time nor the place to prosecute Zuma. Let the judicial branch of government deal with him accordingly. I fail to understand how the EFF and the DA seemed to forget that. They jumped the gun unnecessarily. If they didn’t want to listen to the President of the Republic of South Africa then they should have left parliament peacefully instead of causing a havoc and pin it on one man, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. What exactly are they distracting us from? Whose battle are they fighting? Are their actions of those who have the best interests of the masses at heart? Who is fooling who? What do you expect Zuma to do when he is being used as a scapegoat by the media and the opposition parties? How do we interpret his laughter when the DA and EFF are violating the rules of the parliament? I would also laugh at whoever attacks me verbally or otherwise. What else must I do? Why are the opposition parties ignoring some of the good things the ANC government under Zuma’s stewardship are doing on a daily basis?
The public now watches the SONA for entertainment instead of their interest about where the country stands. There was a huge amount of immaturity and carelessness. MPs worked against each other and were physically aggressive. The nation tuned in, but a full hour was wasted because some MPs refused to sit down and hear President Zuma’s speech. This has been happening for the past two years. What kind of leadership do we really have? After the EFF was removed, the president stood at the podium, said ‘finally” and then giggled. Does he understand the depth of division that he has created? Pepperspray and cable ties were used by law enforcement and brought back my own memories of teargas and rubber bullets during the #feesmustfall protests. We live in a violent and dangerous society and citizens are going to follow what is being done by their political leaders. I saw this happen at my own municipality after SONA where EFF members disrupted municipal houses all over West rand. This is the beginning of a bigger problem and if government doesn’t do anything about it, I believe there will not be a democracy to defend.