Sona debate: Which politician got in the best jibes?

President Jacob Zuma will on Thursday respond to two days of parliamentary debate regarding his State of the Nation speech delivered last week. 

He'll have a fair amount of vitriol to wade through after his party, the ANC ,exchanged barbed comments with the opposition for two days. 

There were plenty of claims to deal with as each party tried to make the other look bad, or themselves look good. And then there were just plain insults and put-downs flying back and forth. 

We round up the most fiery quotes of the second day of debate. Who got in the best jibes?

  • "After all that media hype over the weekend about the opposition bringing out the big guns, I did not even see a water pistol." – Minister of Public Service and Administration Lindiwe Sisulu. Sisulu's speech was one of the most fiery of the day as she lambasted the opposition, and even issued a few "shut ups" when heckled. 
  • "President Mandela called you a Mickey Mouse party. In fact, he was being very generous. Mickey Mouse is a popular, likeable character." – Sisulu again. 
    The above was aimed at the Democratic Alliance (DA), as was much of her speech. Mandela made the famous quip about the Democratic Party, as the DA was then known, when it was still run by Tony Leon. Sneaking in a reference to a Disney character in her speech? Full marks.
  • "The DA … start their story with one Helen and end with the other Helen … They start with Helen Suzman and end with Helen Zille who actually doubts herself and had to go out to hire a president!" – Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi​.​ Motsoaledi was not far behind Sisulu in the race for most acerbic speech. 
  • Motsoaledi opened Wednesday's debate with a full assault on the DA's recent bungling of a proposed merger with Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele. "People do get confused about who their real father is. There may be several legitimate reasons for this. But to actually get confused who your mother is, while staying with her in one house and go out and look for another woman and try to make her your mother. It is a first even in this harsh world of reality it has never happened. It occurs only in a dream world of insanity."
  • Meanwhile, poor Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba got the last speech of the day when most members of the House were itching to get out into the balmy Cape Town air. He made it count though, with a run-down of his own set of claims about his party's successes and the DA's failures. There were fewer political insults from him, but he did manage to get in one priceless jibe: "Jobs grew in the employment of domestic workers in the Western Cape. OK, perhaps the madams were taking on more worker, but hardly as a result of DA policies."
  • The DA themed their responses on "the real story", reacting to the ANC government's catch phrase "We have a good story to tell". "I hope the quality of [Wednesday's] debate is better than [Thursday's] when we heard nothing but 'stories' from the ANC's side of the house." – Tim Harris, DA finance spokesperson.
  • Harris held his own, despite a fair amount of heckling, and also stuck to facts and claims with minimal attacks on the ANC. That job, it seemed, was left to his party's federal chairperson, who delivered the most cutting speech from opposition that day, calling Zuma's State of the Nation speech a "self-congratulatory, self serving, intellectually dishonest stories … seemingly written by an advertising agent … selling a fabrication wrapped in a myth inside of a fairytale". – Wilmot James, DA federal chairperson and trade and industry spokesperson. 
  • James didn't stop there. On Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, who campaigned against the youth wage subsidy in his capacity as a South African Communist Party general secretary, he had this to say: "One side of him provides young people with education, the other side of him prevents them from getting jobs … you, sir, are a walking contradiction."
  • Others in the opposition were more poetic in their quips, like Annelie Lotriet, DA spokesperson for higher education and training, who opened her speech with the opening lines of Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities. "When the winter of the ANC's despair comes to an end, it will be the DA's spring that restores the hope of South Africa."

And others used their know-how in their area of expertise to make their point.

  • "Prisons are overcrowded, controlled by the prison gangs, and a hotbed of widespread corruption and maladministration – veritable universities of crime … Mr president, your only solution to overcrowding is to simply release prisoners through presidential pardon. The result, in your most recent pardon in 2012, less than a month later, 43 people who were pardoned were back in jail for reoffending." – Dianne Kohler Barnard, DA police spokesperson. 
  • "Mr president, in your address you strangely lauded the Medupi and Kusile power stations as an example of the good story your government has to tell. The fact that both these projects are massively over budget, severely delayed and singularly responsible for our protracted energy crisis is once again neatly left out of your story." – Lance Greyling, DA spokesperson on energy.

Of course, this is all part of the run-up to the elections on May 7. Till then, expect more backbiting between our politicians.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Verashni Pillay
Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Khoisan people march to constitutional court

List of demands includes recognition of indigenous rights and the scrapping of apartheid racial classification as ‘coloured’

Eskom fails to approach courts in property ‘garbage sale’

The power utility said it would go to court to declare ownership of land not registered to it, but has not done so

Improving cross-border trade policy is vital in solving the African...

Governments need to invest in agricultural and trade infrastructure, better farming methods and in intra-African trade

Women climbing the corporate ladder need good mentorship – from...

We need to help younger women grow and to handle the difficult situations in workplaces

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…