A picture tells a thousand words‚ but a Sona analysis tells us what two presidents care about

Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa. Image: ALON SKUY
Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa. Image: ALON SKUY

Want to know just how hard President Cyril Ramaphosa had to work to unite the country after the reign of his predecessor‚ Jacob Zuma? Just look at how much time he dedicated to the topic in his inaugural state of the nation address.

This is exactly what Laura Grant and Alastair Otter of the Media Hack Collective did. The pair found that Ramaphosa dedicated 474 words of his Sona to nation building‚ compared to just 180 words on the topic used by Zuma in what turned out to be his last Sona in 2017.

“Social cohesion/nation building was right up there too because the new president has to win back the trust of a disillusioned electorate bruised by a constant barrage of ‘state capture’ headlines‚” the pair wrote in analysis published by Passmark.org.za.

This appears to show that Ramaphosa was pushing a specific agenda after the difficult Zuma years.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa dedicated a substantial chunk of his first state of the nation address in Parliament on February 16‚ 2018‚ to persuading South Africans to put ‘the era of discord‚ disunity and disillusionment’ behind them. ‘A new dawn is upon us‚’ he said‚” Grant and Otter said.

The pair’s analysis worked on the assumption that “the number of words the president devotes to a topic is an indication of the level of importance he places on that topic”. They‚ therefore‚ looked at the past six state of the nation addresses and the 12 topics that got the most airtime.

This showed it was not only nation building where Ramaphosa differed from his predecessor.

The new head of state uttered 530 words on the economy and economic policy‚ compared to 251 by Zuma. Ramaphosa also dedicated 494 words to jobs and labour relations‚ while Zuma dedicated 178 words to the same topic.

Zuma‚ however‚ spoke substantially more on education that Ramaphosa did. He dedicated 624 words on the topic compared to Ramaphosa’s 354. He also spent 490 words on agriculture‚ rural development and land redistribution‚ a topic Ramaphosa spent just 212 words speaking about.

It was black economic empowerment and radical economic transformation that got the biggest amount of Zuma’s attention – at 853 words. It was a topic that didn’t feature in Ramaphosa’s top 12.

“Education featured strongly in President Zuma’s last SONA‚ dominated by his response to the #FeesMustFall protests at tertiary education institutions. But the topic that got most of the president’s attention was radical economic transformation/black economic empowerment‚” Grant and Otter wrote.

The original story appeared on Passmark

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