One of the enduring catchphrases from President Cyril Ramaphosa's maiden state of the nation address [SONA] was the words "send me". Understandably, it trended on Twitter under the hashtag #ThumaMina – the title of the Hugh Masekela song the president was quoting. But what meaning must be deduced from this aphorism, and is it being sufficiently exploited to realise the impact 2018 SONA desired from society?
For some, #ThumaMina became an entry point to express a desire to be present when there's blood on the floor – affected primarily on those considered wrongdoers during Jacob Zuma's reign. Not surprisingly, it also became a reference point for your typical perpetual glass-half-empty doomsday naysayers. Folks who repeatedly punt negative Ramaphosa sentiments based primarily on a gut feeling instead of tangible and defendable facts.
But there was also a strong positive sense of renewal and optimism expressed throughout social media platforms and the media. Individuals committed to put hands on the saddle and become active role-players in the remake and renewal of South Africa.
Considering this voluminous response, one would expect somebody, say perhaps the Government Communication and Information System [GCIS] or the ANC's communications unit, to have seized the moment and directed the narrative around #ThumaMina through a colourful campaign. Thus far there's been dololo intervention. But all is not lost yet. Maybe something's coming up in due course.
The point is that what should be a profound and potentially strong mobilisation call to action, is now at risk of becoming another once-off mention, and a captivating phrase likely to be forgotten.
The state president's subsequent publicised public appearance after the 2018 SONA was on February 18 at a South African National Defence Force interfaith service. His speech did not leave an impression that #ThumaMina should be a thing for members of the defence force as they go about their lives as soldiers and citizens. An obvious missed opportunity, or an indicator that the communications machinery around the state president needs to be jacked up?
Imagine the possible effect on society if in the coming months the state president were to amplify his call to action around #ThumaMina – while demonstrating his commitment through action and continuously reporting on what he's doing in line with this call.
An argument can be made that a #ThumaMina or #SendMe type response to the 2018 SONA should have been foreseen, and proactive action around it would not be an unfair expectancy. But with that proving not to be the case, one would still expect a reaction that seeks to own and direct, not dictate, the conversation around this easy-to-sell message.
Imagine the possible effect on society, if in the coming months the state president were to amplify his call to action around #ThumaMina – while demonstrating his commitment through action and continuously reporting on what he's doing in line with this call – but also putting it to every South African to introspect and carve a role for themselves as both individuals and collectives.
Now add to that imagination – each member of the ANC's top six publicly committing to a specific action aligned to #ThumaMina that they will undertake and repeatedly report on throughout the year. Also add to that ANC NEC members, Cabinet and ANC parliamentarians.
Each of the #ThumaMina commitments should not necessarily be associated with one's employment obligations. Instead, it must speak to your personal vigour as a citizen to renew yourself and country. Important to note about all these persons is their accessibility to the state president and his supporting communications machinery. They should be able to galvanise around this common course.
A golden thread which runs through the 2018 SONA is a desire to engage and mobilise key stakeholders around fundamental government priorities. A jobs summit, investment conference, youth working group, digital industrial revolution and presidential economic advisory council... Are these not ready-made platforms to sell a #ThumaMina ethic of sorts to South Africans in their individual capacity and as collectives?
What about calendar dates like Youth Day, Freedom Day, Heritage Day, the Nelson Mandela centenary and many others. The good thing is that all these are upcoming moments. Let's wait and see what gives.