After two days of listening to opposition parties criticise his government as inept, corrupt and riding on the tailcoats of his predecessors, President Jacob Zuma sought to defend the ANC's "good story" narrative on Thursday.
He lashed out at the critics of the ANC government's affirmative action policies, and said he was confident ahead of the May 7 elections.
Zuma said that after the elections the country would enter a radical phase in which the government would focus on economic transformation and introduce programmes to address poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Although South Africa had achieved political freedom, Zuma said it was time to achieve economic freedom, and ensure that the ownership, management and control of the economy was further deracialised.
"Honourable [Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter] Mulder decried affirmative action, but in looking at the statistics, it is clear we need to do more."
The percentage of black people and women in senior management has increased from under 10% in the 1990s to more than 40% today, which Zuma said was a good achievement.
"But it is not enough. Each year, the employment equity report releases statistics that indicate that the economy is still controlled by white South Africans in terms of senior and top management positions.
"We must therefore intensify the implementation of affirmative action policies in order to deepen reconciliation and social cohesion."
Departing from his prepared speech, Zuma said: "It is important to look at reality. This cry about affirmative action does not want to disappear. And I think [there is] failure to understand the history of this … a deliberate, long-term programme to exclude the black people from the economy.
"To believe that, that [it] can correct itself is the biggest mistake. It can't."
Zuma said black South Africans were not complaining about their centuries of exclusion, and were willing to "walk together" and grow the economy.
"This is an unnecessary cry, which provokes a debate we don't want to enter into. I think it's a wrong cry."
Turning to the Democratic Alliance, Zuma said there were people who had benefited during apartheid who didn't understand the poor and pretended "to be coming from some other planet".
"If you want to see that, come to Cape Town. There are two cities in one. There is no improvement made to other people. It's as if they have not started. If anything, they are called refugees in their own country."
Zuma said he had noted the appeal of Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mario Ambrosini for the decriminalisation of marijuana for medical uses. Ambrosini has cancer.
"I was touched to see the man I have worked with for more than 20 years in this condition. I have asked the minister of health to look into this matter," he announced to applause in the House.
Zuma then concluded: "On May 7, we will take the good story forward when millions cast their votes in celebration of the right to vote gained for the first time in 1994."
Zuma said that he appreciated that the opposition's job was to oppose. "But I can tell you, the people know who make a good story, and on May 7, they will tell the story, no doubt."