African / Blacks / Boys / Girls / Men

South African President Zuma Promises Free WiFi in Informal Settlements and a Focus on African Boys in His State of the Nation Address

On Tuesday night, June 17, President Jacob Zuma gave the State of the Nation Address. If I’m correct this was Zuma’s sixth State of the Nation Address in total and first of his second term as Head of State. But you wouldn’t say.

South Africans have become used to headman Zuma and his uninspiring, compromised, leadership. He is cunning, Zuma. That’s why he is the President of the African National Congress (ANC). That is the reason he has been able to climb and hold on to the highest political position in the land. So he is clever black man, we should long have gotten disabused that he is an idiot.

However, the previous five years have been characterised by charges of corruption, sexual indiscretions, political gaffes, and cultural defensiveness. He has not managed to rise above factional palace politics. He has not led.

The truth is I couldn’t care less if Zuma was a bisexual preacher, with husbands and wives in every country in Africa, plus a harem of Nordic concubines for his days off from the marital homes. However, I’m afraid that, with the exception of a few ministries like health, the Zuma years will in future be seen for having been the lost decade of our liberation. Where is the decisive leadership which South Africa so desperately needs?

The State of the Nation speech did not give much hope that we are on a new course. Unless you owe your position to him, or have your head so far up your ANC backside, the address was another insipid performance. It was demotivating, unimaginative, full of the old usual promises.

It is not as if we don’t have enough problems. I was hoping for anything than the usual “together we will move the country forward blah blah”.

I was hoping for something, any sign of recognition on the part of Zuma that we are losing the race. We are running out of excuses. The ANC has been in power for 20 years now. Zuma is having a second term as South Africa President. Why are they afraid to drag the country to that place of great imagination to which the liberation struggle was attracted?

I was hoping for many things. For one, I hoped that Zuma would finally realise that, since Zulu is one of the languages of South Africa, a language that he is really gifted in, it is best if he delivers his speech in the language he is obviously good in. That wasn’t to be the case. Why is he afraid to be good?

I was hoping to hear something concise, focussed, startling – not all the woolly and incredulous promises he preached to us – save for the exhortation that South African’s must use Mandela day next month to clean, clean, clean – what a soiling of Mandela’s idea – something like, “There will be free WiFi in all informal settlements and black townships”. Dream on. But why not? Because likelihood that Zuma’s government can be that farsighted to see the opportunities for innovation and empowerment that ICT can offer, well, it’s almost non-existent.

And on the central subject of newafricanmen, I was hoping – of course against hope – for something gutsy and heartfelt along the lines of President Barack Obama’s initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper”. I was hoping he would say something like,

alongside African girls and young women, African boys and young men as a group are facing severe challenges in our young democracy. Many young people still have to enjoy the fruits of our long struggles for freedom from oppression. The are confronted on a daily basis by different forms of violence. How can I live with this knowledge?

My government has programmes to prevent sexual and gender based violence and other programmes to empower girls and young women with education and skills. These programmes are not as effective as they could be. We design better programmes.  We must support black families to raise amazing girls and encourage young women to succeed. This is important not just for these families, but for the future of our country. When girls succeed our nation will lift itself higher.

We realise that, however, we are not doing much about their equal challenges facing black boys and men. We are going to swiftly move to design, implement, and monitor national programmes focussing on males. We are going to put energy and thought in programmes to restore the collective sense of purpose of African men. We are going to create opportunities for education, skills, and decent work. We will support men to reconnect with their children and larger families. We will educate boys to succeed to be what they want to be. We will support them to stay in school, love non-violence, desire equality, realise the futures they would like for themselves, educate them into the best of life-giving, generative, values my people refer to as Ubuntu, being human. We are serious about creating pathways to success for all girls and boys in our country. Without them we don’t have a future. Thank you.”

I will keep on hoping.


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