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Vol 44 No 4

Published 21st February 2003

South Africa

Said and unsaid

President Thabo Mbeki's State of the Nation speech at the opening of parliament on 14 February has left many feeling he slighted the nation in favor of a largely symbolic foreign policy initiative. He devoted the first part of his speech to Iraq, a crisis on which he can have a minimal effect, and downplayed more pressing issues. The most urgent include his biggest foreign challenge, Zimbabwe, and at home, AIDS and crime. The rest of the speech brought lots of good news, including higher-than-expected economic growth, legislation on black economic empowerment, increased child-welfare grants and state investment in infrastructure. Nevertheless, his initial focus and the things he missed out resulted in a public relations disaster: it sounded insensitive and uncaring.

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