State of nation address more like the sweet words of a charmer than real plan

President Cyril Ramaphosa and speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete arriving for the opening of parliament and the State of the Nation Address on Thursday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete arriving for the opening of parliament and the State of the Nation Address on Thursday.
Image: AFP/MIKE HUTCHINGS

If President Cyril Ramaphosa were a young man, charmer-boy would be the best way to describe him.

Only a charmer-boy would make Julius Malema reveal his bank-robber teeth in a parliamentary smile induced by a president who promises to sing a jazz song.

As Yale University don Timothy Snyder reminds us in his book The Road To Unfreedom, Joseph Stalin used to sneer that "jazz was a deliberate plot [by America] to reduce European listeners to mindless dancers incapable of normal sexual intercourse".

One wonders what Stalin would say about Malema.

But Malema was not the only charmed soul in parliament last Thursday. Also invited to Ramaphosa's jazz performance was Mmusi Maimane, who at the end of the show looked like a disoriented delinquent, screaming about un-arrested ministers when asked about his meeting with Ramaphosa.

To be fair, Ramaphosa the charmer-boy reached far beyond the walls of parliament. He took over our TV sets at home to make us feel as if we are entering a new South African paradise.

Mindful of the presence of both the decrepit and the young, Ramaphosa charmed adults by promising them a born-again Eskom. He excited school children by dangling iPads.

The problem with charmer-boys is that we know what they are capable of. They are quick to get into a girl's heart, and they vanish when a new life bulges in the poor girl's little stomach.

And so Ramaphosa vanishes when we return from his fantastical fiction into the real world. A simple reality check easily removes the gloss that hides the rough surface of Ramaphosa's promises.

The idea that iPads will make South African children read and write better betrays the idiocy of thinking that it is the paper on which the children used to write that accounts for their poor performance.

Give a smartphone to a yokel and witness his instant transmogrification, Ramaphosa seems to think.

Cut Eskom into three and its huge debt will evaporate, the jazz-conjurer's logic goes further.

Beyond the world of charmer-boys, we know that real life is hard. Youth unemployment is more than 50%. Such are the young people who occupy street corners in our townships because no one is employing them.

They are the South Africans in their 20s who have been thrown into the street by the dysfunctional public education system run by Ramaphosa's ANC.

The truth is, uneducated South Africans are in trouble.

Their jobs have already been taken by millions of Zimbabweans who work at our restaurants, filling stations and hotels.

What can Ramaphosa do about this? Nothing!

A president can appoint a commission to study technological revolutions, but millions of young nyaope smokers have already been left behind.

And so are millions of matriculants who pass with 30% every year.

This is our reality, not Ramaphosa's poetic fiction.

It is doubtful Ramaphosa has read Tyler Cowen's book Average Is Over.

We must therefore forgive our president for not knowing what he does not know. Anyone who thinks that the ANC government will create jobs when it failed to do so in 25 years must visit a psychiatrist.

Ramaphosa's promise to prosecute Zondo-commission criminals is indeed a welcome commitment. But the early gesture of arresting Angelo Agrizzi and a few correctional services ex-officials, while Nomvula Mokonyane and Gwede Mantashe get fatter in Ramaphosa's cabinet, is very telling.

The jab of a needle is painful, but it is ironically helpful when it exposes the hollowness of a specious bubble. It is better for a bubble to burst before it takes off than for it to dump its occupants mid-air.

Girls know how nice it is to be charmed. Maybe they must also share the pain of being left behind with a foetus whose father disappeared after the act.

Dear South Africans, be charmed at your own peril.

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