Counting on the words in Jacob Zuma’s SONA2011

If the frequency with which some words appeared in President Jacob Zuma’s third state of the nation of the address are anything to go by, then jobs and development are foremost on his mind. He repeated “job” 27 times (30 if you count the 3 “decent work”) in his speech and “develop” 21 times. On jobs, he said:

“…we have declared 2011 a year of job creation through meaningful economic transformation and inclusive growth.”

“All government departments will align their programmes with the job creation imperative.”

“We are pleased to announce the establishment of a jobs fund of 9 billion rand over the next three years to finance new job-creation initiatives.”

With the word “policy” only showing up 7 times, I wonder how exactly those jobs will come into being. And on development, he said:

“…we are building a developmental and not a welfare state, the social grants will be linked to economic activity and community development…”

Incidentally, and on that point, my brother and I were at a restaurant when casual chit-chatter with the server led to this gem of a conclusion, “Babies are free.” She explained that all one need do in South Africa for a “free baby” is to have one of the critters then apply for a social grant. South Africa spends over R100 billion a year on social grants, which by far dwarfs what’s set aside for economic or rural development. President Zuma also said this:

“Close to 15 million South Africans obtain social grants from the State. We will phase in the extension of the Child Support Grant to cover eligible children under the age of 18 years.”

Fifteen million people on the dole? It’s dodgy maths, I know, but who is working if 30% of the population is on the dole and 24% is unemployed?

On competing priorities, “business” showed up 8 times in his speech, and “worker” and “labour”, 6. Other than doing away with labour brokers and the possibility of merging the SA Micro-Finance Apex Fund and the IDC’s small business fund, neither his use of “business” nor “worker” was linked to anything of weight, showing vague middle ground President Zuma’s government is walking. Cosatu, are you listening?

Other interesting counts: HIV (3), AIDS (1), education (6), health (6), Egypt (2), Mbeki (1), Mandela (5), crime (3), mining (6), corruption (4), apartheid (3), election (6), media (4) and freedom (3). The surprise mentions were, Facebook (3), Twitter (1) and pothole (1).  Words not featured: Heaven, nationalisation, Mubarak, revolution, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe.

An interesting comparison is the number of times President Zuma used the royal “we” versus the number of times he stepped up and said, “I”. The count is 131 to 5 in favour of our reigning champion, “we”. And who is we? Let’s found out:

We thank the Presiding Officers for allowing us this opportunity.”

“In the past year we have visited many villages, townships and suburbs.”

“However, we are concerned that unemployment and poverty persist despite the economic growth experienced in the past 10 years.”

“We” is the ambiguous body that South Africa looks to for service delivery. “We” is where South Africa looks to when there’s a pothole on our road, or no water and sanitation services in our neighbourhood. “We” is also that ambiguous mass that absorbs complains and shields ineptitude with no consequence. And “I”? Well “I” is high risk and so usually shows up when it’s obvious and stakes are low:

I have directed our police force to deal decisively with people who sell drugs to children in Cape Town and other areas.”

I will provide just a broad outline of our programme of action in this address.”

I thank you.”

On competing priorities, “business” showed up 8 times in President Zuma’s speech, and “worker” and “labour” 6.

One thought on “Counting on the words in Jacob Zuma’s SONA2011

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lloyd Wybrow, TO Molefe. TO Molefe said: Counting on the words in Jacob Zuma's SONA2011 […]

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