We Laugh Through the Tears – SONA2015

We Laugh Through the Tears – SONA2015

I wouldn’t have missed the State of the Nation Address last night for anything in the world. Although I can’t say with any certainty that I recall any SONA prior to 2015, all South Africans knew that last night’s event was one not to be missed. The trailer, the reviews, the press releases, the interviews all billed this to be the “Must Watch” of the year.

And we weren’t disappointed. Or maybe we were because as laugh-out-loud as the event was, only an idiot would not realize that what we were watching was in fact a tragedy dressed up as comedy.

It was a night of hashtags. #bringbackthesignal as the ruling party had unconstitutionally blocked signal in the chamber, #bringbackthewater as some of the MPs were thirsty and apparently the taps were dry (not that I believe that an MP has tasted municipal water since the late 90’s) and then #bringbackthesound when SABC 3 mysteriously and suspiciously managed to eliminate the sound and then echoed it back to us in strange tongues. #donotadjustyourtv would have been another apt one for the evening but there are only so many hashtags that one can take.

The speaker of the house was predictably dismal, the DA predictably firm and rational but what I did not predict was that Julius would emerge man of the match. He was respectful and calm and there is no doubting that whoever has coached him has done a superb job. It was The King Speech all over again, and had there been sound (which there wasn’t), I would have expected triumphant music building to a crescendo as Malema presented his salient points to the house (before being unceremoniously removed by maybe the SAP or maybe not). Needless to say SABC3 coverage missed a few of the scenes that we would have wanted to watch but I am sure we will be able to get them when it comes out on DVD.

And then there was the State of the Nation Address. Appalling in the extent to which it failed to address anxiety of the nation, it began with a laugh. And whereas we might have been (and were) rolling on the floor in hysterics prior to this, when the president laughed it was no longer funny. This was no time for mirth and the fact that he chuckled sent shivers down my spine. Perhaps not as much as when he plugged into and fuelled the plague of xenophobia that has ravaged many areas of the country, by stating that foreigners will not be able to own land. What that means is yet to be understood but one thing is for sure, it will do South Africa no favours.

I didn’t watch the end. The evening had peaked too soon and no bizarre display of South African swimmers or 3 girls from Polokwane (or wherever) could possibly buoy my spirits. We had seen the dissolution of parliament; we had seen the desperate attempt of the ruling party to maintain control unconstitutionally by jamming signals and then with force. And then, to add to it all, The President of South Africa laughed. He laughed out loud.

Last night was a water shed moment for South Africa. It was the Rubicon speech all over again when South Africans needed something, needed change and instead were left wanting. My hope and prayer is that this morning the ANC wake up feeling saddened by what transpired, saddened by what has become of this magnificent country and most of all that they realize that this is indeed no laughing matter.

Follow me on Twitter@HowardFeldman

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