/ 19 February 2015

DA, EFF not impressed by jovial Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma laughs after EFF MPs were forced to leave the house.
President Jacob Zuma laughs after EFF MPs were forced to leave the house.

When President Jacob Zuma took to the podium in the National Assembly on Thursday, he was a totally different man to a week ago when he delivered his State of the Nation address. But so was the atmosphere in Parliament. There was no heckling, with MPs listening politely as he replied to the debate on his address, clapping at appropriate times.

Looking relaxed and confident, Zuma acknowledged the contributions made by the Economic Freedom Fighters’s Julius Malema, the Congress of the People’s Mosiuoa Lekota and the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi. However, he omitted the name of Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane, who this week described him as “a broken man leading a broken society”.

Zuma was heavily criticised after EFF MPs were forcefully removed from Parliament by armed police and security personnel last Thursday. The MPs had demanded that he answer a question about paying back a portion of the R246-million used to upgrade his private Nkandla residence.

Zuma condemned last week’s incidents, including the scrambling of the cellphone signal. “The jamming of the signals was unfortunate and it should never happen again,” he told MPs.

In what appeared to be a swipe at the EFF, Zuma said MPs should allow each other space to express their views in Parliament. “Even if we differ, I see no reason why we [should] get angry. Express views and allow others to have their views. If you are angry, you might say things you could not have said when sober. Many fight when somebody refers to them as a dog. Many people have called me that name, but I will never fight because I know I am not a dog. Soccer players say play the ball, not the man.”

EFF MPs seemed engrossed by their laptops, tablets and phones as they sat quietly, with Malema smiling broadly when the president said he did not know the difference between corruption and collusion. EFF and DA MPs sat with their arms crossed, and even Zuma’s jokes failed to break through their stony-faced wall.

Zuma agreed with African People’s Convention MP Themba Godi that the government is yet to bring about true economic transformation.

“It is for this reason that, 20 years into freedom, we are still grappling with poverty, inequality and unemployment,” Zuma said. “We have called for radical economic transformation. By this we mean actions such as the industrialisation of the economy, boosting and expanding agriculture and manufacturing and adding value to South Africa’s mineral wealth to open up opportunities for economic participation for more people and create jobs.”

He said the controversial land holding Bill will prevent foreigners from owning agricultural land and will not apply to residential property.