AfriForum says President Zuma laughs like Nero played the violin while fuelling the fires of racial polarisation

In a good-weather story regarding the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) of 2017, the Minister of Communications, Ms Faith Muthambi – during whose tenure media freedom in South Africa achieved several lows – this morning described the SoNA as “a celebration” and “a valuable source for those who wish to take the pulse of democratic South Africa”.

Tonight parliamentarians and security staff once again became embroiled in fights and serious allegations about violations of the Constitution, the use of biological crowd control measures, extremely crude language and hate speech were heard in Parliament. Various Members of Parliament justifiably alleged that the President had violated his oath of office.

In response to these tragic events, as so often before, President Jacob Zuma merely laughed.

Thereafter he boasted about education achievements, while thousands of children still do not have access to either schools or textbooks. He referred to a growth in tourism, without mentioning that the ill-considered policies of government had almost destroyed the industry.  He mentioned the payment of social grants, ignoring the fact that the current system is financially unsustainable and is driving the country towards a fiscal cliff.

In order to divert attention from this and numerous other problems, white capital has once again been used as scapegoat, and the business world threatened with “radical economic transformation”.

According to Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO of AfriForum, the events of tonight do not signify the pulse of a democracy, but rather that of a hybrid regime. The locus of politics has shifted to a field of power where democratic and non-accountable actors and processes interact.

“The intensified security measures leading to the delivery of the SoNA and the unaccountability of the President also proves the decline of the democracy to a hybrid state,” she added.

“The SoNA of 2017 and related events do not bear witness to a celebration, but rather to a tragedy. At a time when the country urgently needs wisdom, leadership and sustainable solutions, we are left at the mercy of a ruling party under the command of a president who laughs, just as Nero had (according to tradition) played the violin while Rome had been burning.”

Bailey is of the opinion that under these circumstances, civil society has an ever increasingly important role to play in order to protect and promote the interests of all South Africans.

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