We have had daily power outages, and mining, manufacturing, retail and many other sectors are haemorrhaging jobs. Both business and consumer confidence are depressed, and the best government can do is a state of the nation address (Sona) with pomp and ceremony, a red carpet and the latest fashions on full display. This is reminiscent of France in the days of Marie Antoinette, when she was told the peasants were starving because there was no bread and responded with the notorious phrase: “Let them eat cake!”
To my thinking, for a government that should be bent on introducing austerity measures to rein in wasteful expenditure a Sona of this sort is not the way to go. It is not only in bad taste but displays insensitivity. Though the cost of this year’s Sona has been trimmed to R4.7m, in the current economic climate it is still not value for money. It would have been much better for the president to merely invite the media to parliament and present his speech for live broadcast and publication.
That would achieve the same result and earn the president much respect and praise as a man determined to curb wasteful expenditure. Now the cost is likely to escalate as the practice cascades downwards to the provinces and municipalities in coming weeks, and will end up costing hundreds of millions of rand, with no return other than simple self-indulgence.
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