He floated like a butterfly and stung like a wasp, albeit harder. In his annual "state of the nation" address on February at the opening of parliament, President Thabo Mbeki pulled no punches in tackling popular perceptions and the crucial issues of the nation.
He wasted no time in reminding all and sundry that South Africa was an incontrovertible African country, and to spell out his vision for the development of the country and the African continent.
In a symbolic demonstration, Mbeki fitted in the missing piece -- South Africa -- into a giant jigsaw puzzle of the African continent. It was a homecoming.
In broad strokes, he asserted that the global struggle to eradicate poverty and underdevelopment was fundamental to the well-being of human society, calling on the world to push back the frontiers of poverty. He touched on progress made to eradicate centuries old legacy of colonialism, racism and apartheid.
Perhaps of most significance was his declaration of what is often denied, the primacy of Africa's position as the genesis of civilisation.
He pointed to a recent remarkable new find by South African archaeologists at the Blombos cave in the Southern Cape, that had evidence showing that African people were producing exquisite bone tools and delicately made stone spear points more than 70,000 years ago. The most spectacular find being a slab of ochre engraved with abstract designs 77,000 years ago.
Described by the South African museum as the world's oldest art form, the scientists say that the world must now look to Africa for the origins of the human imagination and ingenuity.
The home front
On the home front, Mbeki confounded his critics with an unsolicited report by academies from the highly respected university of Stellenbosch, a previously lily white Afrikaner university.
Eminent professors systematically analysed promises made by the president in his last year's state of the nation" address. By January 2002, 11 months after last year's speech, 65% of the promises had either been achieved or credibly in progress, while 16% had not been achieved. In conclusion this national success was cause for celebration.
This was evident in the significant increase in the number of South Africans who now had access to electricity, water, housing, health, and education.
Harping on the theme, Mbeki called on all South Africans to lend a hand to build a better life for all, and paid tribute to those patriotic South Africans of all races who had...