Paul Brooks: Krugersdorp, South Africa: 19.35 GMT, 9 February 2023
I'm in my rather dingy guest accommodation in Krugersdorp, South Africa, just a mile from the heart of Munsieville township, my second home, watching the obscene spectacle surrounding the President's annual "State of the Nation Address" (Sona).
As I struggle to watch on my phone-linked laptop with shaky wi-fi due to the third lengthy power cut of the day, the first obscenity is the Oscar-style red carpet on which the elected representatives of the people parade like film stars, many wearing haute couture and bling worth tens of thousands of Rand, en route to the venue for President Cyril Ramaphosa's address.
Amongst the "stars" is Mmamoloko "Nkhensani" Kubayi, Minister of Human Settlements (responsible for housing policy) in all her expensive finery - that's her in the blue dress below. How do I explain her display of contempt for the millions who live in makeshift shacks with no water or sanitation, like the family of severely malnourished triplets my colleagues and I have been discussing today, seeking to establish a support package to avoid starvation!
The second obscenity was in the form of a violent protect by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) who stormed the stage and delayed the start of the President's address for over half an hour - behaviour that would never be tolerated in a primary school playground.
The third of the many obscenities of this year's Sona came in the address itself when, after more than forty minutes of excuses about daily power cuts (they call it "load shedding"), which are crippling businesses across the country, the President announced with pride that the ANC-led government had approved plans to empower indigenous farmers by increasing the production of cannabis and hemp!!
The one hopeful comment in the address was contained in a statement was an admission that "pervasive corruption and theft" has crippled the power generating capacity of South Africa. It’s good to know that the President is now apparently aware of the facts that every sane citizen of South Africa has known for years!
I believe in prayer combined with action for the poor. Let's pray that the nation's political elite will start to believe too, because they, like us, are accountable to a higher authority who understands more than anyone that rescuing the lost and the broken involves sacrifice and pain, not vanity and Prada!