Parties honour Mandela, then censure Zuma for lack of leadership

President Jacob Zuma told Parliament on Wednesday afternoon that he was happy to report that Madiba was responding better to treatment.

"We are very happy with the progress that he is now making, following a difficult last few days," said Zuma.

Mandela was rushed to hospital in the early hours of Saturday morning due to a recurring lung infection, the presidency said.

His condition was described as serious but stable.

"We appreciate the messages of support from all over the world. It is an honour for us as South Africans to share Madiba with the international community. We fully understand and appreciate the global interest in this world icon. We are so proud to call him our own," said Zuma.

He urged South Africans and the international community to continue keeping Mandela and the medical team in their thoughts and prayers.

All political parties who participated in the budget debate paid tribute to Mandela and sent their good wishes.

Pay tribute to Mandela
IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi asked all the men in the National Assembly to rise and pay tribute to Mandela.

He then saluted Mandela by citing his praise name saying "Ah! Dalibhunga" with the men repeating after him.

Zuma, who was delivering his last budget speech as the president before next year's general elections, promised that the presidency will this year take a hands-on approach, working closely with relevant departments and social partners to boost confidence in the economy.

"We will do this against the background of achievements on the economic front since 1994, which must be borne in mind especially when we face the current economic turbulence. 

These achievements remind us what our economy is capable of. The South African economy expanded by 83% over the past 19 years," he said.

Zuma boasted about the country's financial sector, which he said remained robust and healthy and was the reason South Africa weathered the 2009 financial crisis. He admitted that currently the economy continued to grow but at a much slower pace than previously expected. "This presents challenges for job creation and poverty reduction."

He acknowledged that the rand has become increasingly vulnerable to the global financial situation, including a strong US dollar environment. "There is very little we can do about the global economic crisis, but there are things we can do domestically which can assist to improve the resilience of our economy.

Not in the interest of the country
"We welcome the fact that all stakeholders agree on the need to stabilise the labour relations environment, especially in the mining sector," he said.

It was not in the interest of the country to have a tense labour relations environment, which is characterised by a weakening of collective bargaining mechanisms, illegal wildcat strikes, violent protests and loss of life.

"What we require from social partners is the commitment to resolve labour disputes peacefully and within the framework of the law, and in the interests of workers, employers and the country as a whole," he said.

He said the work of a ministerial team led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe continues to assist the mining sector to normalise the situation.

"We remain optimistic that a solution will be found."

Zuma emphasised that the government does not take sides and does not favour any labour union over others in the mining industry. "Our interest is in finding solutions."

He urged business and labour in other sectors that have just entered the bargaining season to ensure a speedier resolution of wage negotiations.

"We cannot introduce violence to labour relations and the killing of people. Most importantly, we must not move away from the collective bargaining system and the framework of labour relations that was introduced at the dawn of democracy."

Zuma warned that law enforcement agencies have been instructed not to tolerate those who commit crime in the name of labour relations.

Zuma also urged those who have different views on the National Development Plan to offer constructive inputs on the plan and not just debate for the sake of it. He said the plan, meant to tackle socio-economic development challenges, has been one of the foremost achievements of the country since 1994.

Zuma said given that the National Development Plan was a crucial guiding document for all South Africans, it has to be well-communicated to all. He said the government communication and information system and Brand SA will work together to ensure effective communication and marketing of the plan.

Strong opposition
But the opposition parties would hear none of it and called for the ANC not to nominate Zuma as presidential candidate ahead of next year's general elections.

"I appeal directly to the governing party to spare our country any future damage by not allowing President Jacob Zuma to contest the 2014 general election. 

"South Africa cannot afford one more lost year. If we are consigned to another six years of failed leadership, South Africa may never recover the lost ground," said Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko.

"In the life of a nation, rarely has a leader been so personally responsible for setting into motion a chain of crises as this president is. Every major crisis of the last year could have been avoided if the president had exercised principled and selfless leadership," she said.

Mazibuko said the past year has seen South Africa take a major step backwards in achieving Mandela's goals of freedom from want, freedom from hunger, freedom from deprivation, freedom from ignorance, freedom from suppression and freedom from fear with the government stumbling from crisis to crisis.

"It is an unavoidable conclusion that President Jacob Zuma's lack of purpose and direction is at the very heart of the problem," she said.

Crisis to crisis
Mazibuko said Zuma's failure of leadership had been manifested in five major crises.

– The Marikana tragedy;

– Poor response to the scandal surrounding the upgrade of his private home in Nkandla;

– Secrecy over the circumstances which led to the tragic death of 15 South African National Defence Force soldiers in the Central African Republic; 

– The landing of a private plane at the Waterkloof military airbase carrying guests of the Gupta family, who are known to be Zuma's close friends; and

– The creation of a nepotistic state within a state.

Cope response
The Congress of the People's Mosiuoa Lekota did not support Zuma's budget vote, citing poor leadership. "We had leadership in 1994 and thereafter. Today its absence is acutely felt by everyone."

He decried "a staggering deficit of accountability in our politics".

"We have rulers wanting no constitutional fetters," said Lekota.

He said symptomatic of the accountability "nightmare" is a failure of many ministers to answer questions [from members of Parliament].

"A government that should be looking after the people continues worshipping itself.

"With a net loan debt of over a trillion rand and debt service costs spiralling to nearly R90-billion, the fiscal space is gone. Your government dug us into a huge hole with no Keynesian outcome to show for it. You have put an immense burden on all our shoulders," said Lekota.

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