O South Africa, thou art sick

By Prince Charles

The count down to the State of the Nation Address has started in the republic whose tourism slogan is “alive with possibility.” As a people, we are alive to the possibility (if not certain) that this year’s address will be filled with a litany of promises yet again. State of the nation addresses in South Africa have gone to resemble what Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin termed a ‘carnivalesque’, carnivalesque refers to moments when traditional rules and order are put aside, the world is turned upside down, and the routines of daily life are suspended. The term comes from carnival celebrations which people in Catholic cultures wear masks and have massive street parties right before lent. In our context, it is basically when the very politicians who have placed our nation in a precarious socio-economic position pretend to be the solutions to the very problems they’ve had an active hand in engineering.

Contrary to what the political actors would like us to believe, in South Africa we do not have ‘a good story to tell’, our nation is sick. Our nation is sick because the emperor is naked, our nation is sick because we have become tolerant of breaches to the rule of law, half the South African population is living in poverty, the majority of children in grade four are illiterate, young women are getting raped in universities, more than one hundred mentally ill patients died of starvation and resorted to eating paper and plastic because of poor planning and when a young woman stood on top of a building contemplating to end her own life South Africans jeered and told her to go ahead and jump; that is the true state of our nation.

Having realised that our nation is sick, as a young person what do I expect to hear on the state of the nation address on the 8th of February at 19:00? I don’t expect to hear populism; it is because of populism that the very existence of our nation is being threatened. I am however looking forward to finding out who will deliver the state of the nation address, I am looking forward to finding out when government is going to roll out free health care because I believe free education is indispensable to free health care. This is by no means an attempt to undermine the pronouncement of a fee free education, but it is an attempt to stimulate a critical and proactive debate; what is the use of a university degree when our average life expectancy according to the World Bank is fifty seven years? Mother and child mortality is higher than it should be and people are dying of treatable diseases every single day, so hopefully government will be able to look beyond its own interests and detail clear and pragmatic steps towards this direction.

I am looking forward to hearing what steps are being taken to ensure greater policy stability and further explanations of what radical socio-economics means for the poor; because it is apparent the ‘socio’ part seems to be an additional extra which some include while others exclude. The recently announced judicial commission of inquiry into state capture which will be headed by Justice Zondo has not detailed its terms of reference and scope hopefully that will be outlined in the state of the nation address and how this particular commission will be different from others because in South Africa not a single individual has ever gone to prison following findings of a commission of inquiry. Perhaps through those steps our sick nation can move towards a process of healing.

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