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Difficult SONA for Zuma: analyst

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Amidst South Africa’s worsening economic and infrastructural woes, President Jacob Zuma on Thursday is expected to deliver the most anticipated State of the Nation Address (SONA) of his tenure. With threats from opposition parties to disrupt his speech, as well as questions over the country’s ongoing electricity crisis, many analysts are expecting a difficult showing for Zuma at SONA 2015.

The political environment is widely considered to be the most difficult for the president since his initial inaugurated in 2009. Apart from a rapidly declining economy and power system, Zuma is also facing questions over developments at his Nkandla homestead, as well as the controversial ‘spytapes’ saga.

“We know that service delivery at this point, according to my assessment, is at an all time low. There are serious water shortages throughout the country, especially in parts of the North West and Free State, and we also know about the electricity challenges. Putting all of this together, it’s really not a healthy situation,” political analyst, Prof Andre Duvenage told VOC’s Breakfast Beat on Thursday morning.

Much of the attention ahead of this year’s SONA has been on the securitization of Parliament ahead of an expected showdown between Zuma and EFF leader, Julius Malema. The latter has vowed to disrupt the president’s speech with questions over his refusal to adhere to calls to “pay back the money”, in regards to the Nkandla upgrades.

“The wildcard in this context is the EFF, and they are not sure how the EFF will behave themselves. My assessment is they are going to play within the rules, but also outside of it,” he said, suggesting the party would look to find loopholes in the parliamentary process to avoid being held accountable.

He added that the EFF would seek to use similar strategies to those used by the ANC to oppose the Apartheid regime.

“There will probably be forms of internal instability, points of order being raised, and maybe saying things whilst the president is speaking. This is the type of thing we can expect, although we know the security are all over the place, and will definitely clamp down on them,” he suspected.

As for the content of the address itself, the president is widely expected to stray from the “good story to tell” theme that raised eyebrows last year, with all eyes expected to be on how government will seek to cater to both the National Development Plan (NDP), as well as the fundamentals of the Freedom Charter which the ANC has vowed to return to.

Duvenhage noted there were currently big ideological differences within the ANC as well as the bigger Tripartite Alliance, and said the NDP was at the core of this.

“I believe there will be a focus on the NDP. I know there are groupings that would like to rewrite the Freedom Charter, but I don’t see him going that way and trying to change the Freedom Charter,” he said.
“He has to however deal with a number of catch 22’s, and there is no doubt the EFF and other opposition parties are going to do their utmost to derail him.”

Duvehange added that issues of land reform, service delivery, and the Eskom crisis could also be expected during Zuma’s speech. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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