Opposition lays into Zuma's State of the Nation speech

Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary leader Athol Trollip on Monday lambasted President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation speech, saying the current crop of African National Congress leaders is not comparable to the previous generation.

“Your first year in office has hardly been stellar and your call for 2010 to be a year of action really rings hollow in our ears,” Trollip told Zuma during debate in the National Assembly. “Why? Because we have heard all these exhortations before ... Why should 2010 be any more a year of action than 2008 or 2009?” he asked.

Trollip said Zuma had ignored the Auditor General’s assertion of almost total breakdown of financial management. Among other things, the Eastern Cape health department had overspent its budget by R1,8-billion with no measurable improvement in healthcare provision. As a result creditors had not been paid, and small- to medium-sized enterprises had closed and been sequestrated, leading to job losses.

On presidential pardons, Trollip urged Zuma to resist the temptation to abuse his position of power to pardon his “friends”.

“Beware also of taking the nation’s intellect for granted. You cannot use the pardon of one person as a smokescreen for the pardon of another. Pardons should be considered only in cases where there has been a travesty of justice.”

Zuma also needed to give unambiguous leadership about how jobs were going to be created and the economy stimulated as South Africa pulled out of the recession.

Improved performance was the only thing that could keep Zuma and the ANC in power.

“The reality is that the current crop of ANC leaders is not comparable to the previous generation; certainly not to the person we are paying tribute to in this debate [Nelson Mandela]. Food for thought indeed,” Trollip said.

‘We have not captured that glitter of hope’
Congress of the People parliamentary leader Mvume Dandala said that South Africa has lost the hope provided by Mandela, but the many challenges can still be defeated.

Mandela was a strong leader with a sense of honour and a strong moral focus, he said.

“He raised our eyes to what we can become as a nation. He trusted and respected the law and allowed himself to be tested by the law. He insisted upon the separation of the state and party powers.

“He spurned patronage in all its forms. He had depths of compassion for the poor, always treating them with utmost dignity.

“Twenty years on, we have not captured that glitter of hope.

“We have debilitating poverty for millions of our people. In a country with our resource base, it is simply a shame that so many people live below the breadline.”

These problems could be defeated, provided the true state of the nation was acknowledged and the nation was rallied and galvanised to rise to the challenge.

He asked why South Africans should believe Zuma now when, among other things, he promised 500 000 jobs or job opportunities, but almost a million jobs had been lost.

Land redistribution would not meet its 2014 target. Many of the farms bought by government under this scheme had dropped in productivity, if not been left as ghost farms threatening the livelihood of communities.

“Our food security as a nation is under threat. Why should South Africans as a nation believe you now, Mr President?”

Meanwhile, the leader of the Independent Democrats (ID), Patricia de Lille, joined the chorus of opposition speakers who lambasted the ANC for the interest held by the party’s fund-raising organisation—Chancellor House—in Hitachi, the supplier of billion-rand boilers to the Medupi power station.

“To the ID it is unethical and immoral that a significant percentage of the proposed 35% electricity increases each year for three years will go straight into the ANC’s coffers via its front company Chancellor House,” De Lille told the house.

“It is with dismay that we must recall that Chancellor House was the name of the building that housed the [Nelson] Mandela and [Oliver] Tambo law firm. Indeed, by straying from the higher set of ethics espoused by Nelson Mandela, the ANC and the government have made a mockery of his legacy.”

Kenneth Meshoe, the leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, also joined in the hunt to decry the ANC’s profiteering from the Eskom build programme.

“Is it true, Mr president, that the ANC’s share in this deal ... is worth more than R5,7-billion?” he asked. “If this is true, Mr President, then this would be another form of corruption by the majority party.”—Sapa, I-Net Bridge

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