Sona… so what? We should all tune out of this presidential charade
This story first appeared in the Daliy Maverick
I’ve finally decided to abstain from this year’s event and future Sonas. South Africans can send a powerful message of discontent by collectively tuning out.
As an individual keen on events shaping South Africa’s economic and policy landscape, the President’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) – an annual spectacle marking the opening of Parliament’s new calendar year – used to be an occasion I observed with genuine interest over the past couple of decades.
Fast forward to the present, and things have changed. Come 8 February this year, I’ve decided to make more productive use of the hour (or longer, if the EFF decides to grace us with their usual circus antics) that President Cyril Ramaphosa is slated to use for what many anticipate to be a session filled with empty back-patting and electioneering prattle.
This year’s Sona appears poised for the repeated government self-adulation, with minimal acknowledgement of the nation’s grim reality.
I can almost hear the chorus of sceptics asking: “What took you so long?” The growing trend of tuning out of the presidential Sona charade has been palpable for years, and I’ve finally succumbed to the decision to abstain from this year’s event and future Sonas, until a more credible and sensible figure takes the stage.
Sona has morphed into Parliament’s annual Oscars gala, with politicians and guests bedecked in their finest, as if celebrating a year of effective legislating and government efficiency. Regrettably, reality paints a starkly different picture.
Frankly, I’ve grown weary of the myriad proposals and promises from past Sonas that have never materialised.
Aired during prime television time, Sona should serve as an opportunity for the President to furnish the nation with factual and substantive information on our collective progress over the past year. The public craves a comprehensive account of the good, the bad and the ugly, coupled with concrete plans from those in power to rectify our shortcomings and address challenges while capitalising on successes.
Frankly, I’ve grown weary of the myriad proposals and promises from past Sonas that have never materialised. The millions of jobs that were supposed to materialise and the smart city dreams that remain elusive – while other nations, globally and within Africa, have turned such visions into reality.
Sadly, our President seems to equate success with increasing unemployment and expanding the ranks of social grant beneficiaries, rather than fostering salaried employment.
Rest assured, Ramaphosa’s 2024 Sona is likely to echo the same hollow rhetoric, selectively highlighting a few positive events over the past year – perhaps our Rugby World Cup triumph (certainly not acknowledging Dricus du Plessis, South Africa’s UFC world champion). There will undoubtedly be self-congratulation regarding the ANC’s role in bringing democracy to the nation. However, don’t expect any remorse or apology for the lack of leadership from him and his underperforming Cabinet, which has left our state-owned entities, mining industry, transport and logistics, electricity supply, education, health, safety and security in shambles. The list goes on.
After years of seeking meaning or positive direction from each Sona and being perennially disappointed, this year I’ve decided to spare myself the frustration. I firmly believe that South Africans can send a powerful message of discontent to their government by collectively tuning out and turning off their television sets at 7pm on Thursday, 8 February 2024. Imagine the impact if media outlets joined this cause, collectively deciding not to broadcast the event or feature it in digital and print media. While the SABC may be hesitant to not participate, perhaps their technicians could conjure a technical signal glitch. Invited dignitaries should consider a no-show.
Citizens may want to change their social media status to “Not Watching Sona”.
This is my vision for Sona 2024: a collective, active citizenry across all sectors of society, making it the most significant non-event in South Africa’s democratic history. Because that’s precisely what it has become, and now it’s time to show the President: “Not Watching Sona.” Let’s make it happen.
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