Monday, 16 February 2015

State of the Nation (Sona): By their words we shall know them.

Presidents may not always say it outright, but they all want to leave a glowing legacy long after their days in office are over.

Nelson Mandela was a unifier who steered this country clear of an impending civil war, while Thabo Mbeki was an intellectual who excelled on the international stage . President Jacob Zuma has proven to be a wily strategist who has outmanoeuvred enemies aplenty.
But since Zuma took over the reins in 2009, words such as "work" and "jobs", "economic" and even "energy" have popped up. File photo
But as Zuma's eighth State of the Nation (Sona) address approaches, The Times compared keywords used by the three presidents during their addresses to the country over the years to give us a better understanding of their leadership styles.

Mandela's five Sona speeches were dominated by words such as "govern", "develop", "programme" and "public".

Mbeki followed a similar path with words like "African" and "develop" cropping up regularly.

But since Zuma took over the reins in 2009, words such as "work" and "jobs", "economic" and even "energy" have popped up.

Dr Nicola de Jager of the University of Stellenbosch political science department noted that the word "work" came through "very strongly from 2009 onwards".

South Africans rate jobs as an essential characteristic of democracy and Zuma would have noted this, said De Jager.

" Unemployment is a key explanation for poverty in South Africa. Importantly, it means Zuma recognises both the demand and need for work," she said.

Unisa's Professor Dirk Kotze said Mandela's administration needed "a sound governance structure", and had to establish new governing institutions to develop new policies and had to set up a new civil service, which would explain the frequency of the word "govern".

It still featured during the Mbeki years, because "the same rationale applied with even more emphasis on effective implementation of the new policies".

Kotze added it was interesting that words like "democracy" and "constitution" were not used more frequently in Sona speeches.
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