The chief role of the state of the nation address is to disappoint people. The reasons send important messages about our politics.

Last week’s address seemed to underwhelm the markets, while people on the streets complained that it said nothing about their lives. Few voices seemed impressed. This has become routine — few state of the nation addresses have triggered excitement and, as democracy has grown older, one that impresses people is rare indeed: perhaps the only one that has done so recently was Cyril Ramaphosa’s first, which many people loved simply because he is not Jacob Zuma.

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