Danger: mind-broadening ahead
19 February 2018 00:00 (South Africa)
Opinionista Brij Maharaj

Ramaphosa’s SONA: First Edition

  • Brij Maharaj
    Brij Maharaj

    Brij Maharaj is a professor of geography at UKZN who believes (perhaps naively!) that a fair, just, non-racial and non-sexist society is still possible in South Africa.

An imagined first State of the Nation Address to Parliament by ‘President’ Cyril Ramaphosa.

Greetings in the name of Radical Economic Transformation. I stand here before you on the shoulders of giants, especially my immediate predecessor, from the land of skyscrapers where oil flows like water – except there is no water – very much like Cape Town (before the rand starts yet another tumultuous descent, sorry, this is an error – I warned Secretary-General Ace Magashule that the SONA will no longer be written in Dubai by you know who…). Okay, let me get back to my original script…

My dear South Africans (that means everyone regardless of race, gender, religion, tribe, language, caste, sexual orientation, political affiliation or geographical origin), I greet you in the name of Luthuli, Tambo and Mandela, with the blessings of the Gods (I cannot name them all, and the Hindus have too many, covering all aspects of governance), and with the wisdom of the ancestors.

I acknowledge my former intimate friend, Roelf Meyer, in this august gathering, who taught me to appreciate the finer aspects of life, such as trout fishing and bidding for prize bulls. The faithful can be assured that I will take no bull from anyone, regardless of the wealth, BEE status or Struggle credentials – manufactured or otherwise. Also, greetings to Donald and Narendranath who requested private video streaming.

I also greet my aspiring counterpart Julius and remind him that governing goes beyond wearing red hard hats and overalls with Breitling watches. The people cannot be fooled all the time. Mmusi Maimane will also acknowledge that life is tough at the top. It is easy to capitalise on the fatal flaws of my predecessor, but things begin to fall apart the moment there is a sniff of power. We must meet for coffee and exchange notes.

Fellow South Africans, I am humbled by the huge responsibility you have placed on my broad shoulders. I thank you for your faith and assure the public that as your servant I will not betray your trust. I hereby declare that all who are paid from the public purse in government are indeed your servants, who shall serve you faithfully.

No more shall there be long queues outside government offices such as Home Affairs. If you are over 60 like me, government is developing a strategy to deliver your important documents personally at your residence. In addition, the days of German limousines are over. All government ministers will be issued with standard white Toyota Corollas manufactured in Durban (without blue lights).

Never, never, never in this land shall there be corruption and criminals in government. Your state shall never again be captured and governed from Dubai and Saharanpur, or any other part of the universe. Government ministers will not be allowed to take one-day holidays to Dubai. All government officials will be subjected to a compulsory lifestyle audit.

There are two more important announcements in this regard. First, the Scorpions will be re-established. Those who oppose this decision have something to hide. Second, a corruption ministry – sorry, I meant anti-corruption (corruption permeated government at the highest levels under the watch of my predecessor (some suggest that there was active participation; I will leave that to the NPA and judiciary to sort out) – will be established. It will be headed by two ministers of the highest integrity, and who endured vicious vilification, yet never veered from the principled positions in terms of challenging and exposing the corrupt – Thuli Madonsela and Pravin Gordhan.

There has been much talk in the public domain about amnesty for the corrupt. I want to state upfront that there will be no pardon or exoneration for the corrupt. The rule of law must run its full course without fear or favour. No one is above the law and leaders cannot use public funds to try to avoid the consequences of their nefarious actions.

Friends in Parliament, you will notice that government has provided you with a well-known soft drink imported from Atlanta in the USA, instead of water, because of the severe drought in Cape Town. Minister Mokonyane has just assured me that her department intends to resolve the water crisis in Cape Town by introducing urine therapy from India. She has promised that more details will follow, and I am wondering whether this will be a form of recycling for the flush (please bear in mind that she was appointed by my predecessor!).

My priority in government will be to focus on merit rather than celebrate mediocrity and incompetence. The latter was pursued vigorously by my predecessor and this basically brought our beloved country to its knees, and was viewed by progressives inside and outside as a betrayal of the struggle for democracy, especially when this was reduced to filling the pockets of a few families. This is basically tantamount to stealing from the poor and is unconscionable.

In my view, merit must start at the school level. Here we need to take a page from the experience of South African Indians. Since their origins as indentured labourers (a new form of slavery), this community has made education its number one priority, and the dividends from this investment continue to pay.

It is common cause that besides the private and former model C schools, education is a disaster zone in SA, and we embarrassingly feature at the bottom of the pile in various international benchmark indicators and tests. All teachers must write competency tests in the subjects they teach. Cellphones will be banned during school hours – for teachers and pupils. And at university only students who pass will be funded. We cannot reward failure.

We are also known as the nation of absent fathers and Gogo mothers. Fathers must take responsibility for their children and government is developing mechanisms to this end.

Friends, this is the Madiba century, and we should heed Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s advice: “Mandela started something and invested the better part of his life in freedom, in that project, and yet we have not followed through with it.”

We need to revive and advance the national reconstruction and reconciliation project in order to honour Madiba’s legacy. Or else the future may well be too ghastly to contemplate.

I want to conclude on an unusual note (which will also be unpopular within my inner circle). I have decided to engage with my public critics (like those who write self-opinionated columns in Daily Maverick) and invite them to quarterly meetings at Tuynhuys. It will provide me with an opportunity to win over my critics, or for them to persuade me to change government policies. I look forward to such intellectually challenging encounters. I will value the wise counsel of intelligent blacks (and all other colours of the rainbow nation).

Finally, I invite the opposition parties to work together with the ANC government in a process of constructive engagement, where we cast aside our differences (which anyway does not make us enemies), and put the country first. I also intend to form a social compact with the faith sector to restore values, morality and integrity, which were lost during the reign of my predecessor.

God bless South Africa. DM

Brij Maharaj is a geography professor at UKZN. He writes in his personal capacity.

  • Brij Maharaj
    Brij Maharaj

    Brij Maharaj is a professor of geography at UKZN who believes (perhaps naively!) that a fair, just, non-racial and non-sexist society is still possible in South Africa.

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