May he fill our collective heart with hope

The spotlight is firmly on President Thabo Mbeki today as he spells out his government's priorities for the year ahead.

The spotlight is firmly on President Thabo Mbeki today as he spells out his government's priorities for the year ahead.

As he does so, he faces the daunting task of satisfying the myriad competing expectations, which reflect the widely divergent interests of people in a young democracy with the enormous developmental mandate.

What is paramount is the need for the government to be seen to be sensitive and responsive to economic and social imperatives.

Sowetan this week embarked on an impromptu exercise to gain a sense of readers' concerns and what they would want to hear from Mbeki's State of the Nation Address in parliament.

Judging from the views of readers of this newspaper, it is clear that bread-and-butter issues remain the primary concern of the vast majority of our people.

The masses unequivocally want Mbeki to give them hope. They want him to tell them whether he and his government have a plan to deliver them from abject poverty that has condemned them to a substandard existence.

They want jobs and to have a modicum of protection from the marauding criminals who rape their wives and daughters; plunder their possessions; and maim and kill them with seeming impunity.

This is their collective call from the heart.

Mbeki dare not disappoint on at least these basic expectations, lest he and the ruling ANC lose all credibility in the eyes of the people.

He and his government have not come out smelling like roses on the issue of crime, thanks to their bizarre denialist messages on what is perhaps the single most important concern among South Africans of all hues.

May he find the wisdom to use his speech today to assuage the hearts of the thousands of despairing South Africans who have lost their loved ones to rampant crime.

Mbeki's speech must strike fear in the hearts of criminals and inspire us - the law-abiding citizens - to keep faith in the capacity of the state to maintain law and order in our beautiful country.

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