Apart from the fact that the EFF sat quietly and listened to the speech, was this year’s SONA noticeably different from those of recent years? Yes. Right at the end, in the sixth last line, President Ramaphosa said:
“We are at a moment in the history of our nation when the people, through their determination, have started to turn the country around.”
There is a lot in that sentence. Firstly, not since 1994 has a President found it necessary to talk of ‘turning the country around’. Previous SONAs have assured us that we were moving in the right direction, though possibly not fast enough and not without encountering obstacles and opposition. To speak of ‘turning around’ is to concede quite explicitly that we were in fact heading for the rocks.
Secondly, it is ‘the people, through their determination’ that started the turnaround. Not the ANC; not the alliance; not the government. It is the resilience of our people, expressed in myriad ways, from street protest to radio talk-shows, from investigative journalism to court applications, from withholding their votes to changing their loyalties, that has counted. The people saw through the lies and dissembling of Jacob Zuma and his cronies, and sent a message. Just about enough of the delegates to the ANC’s December conference understood the message.