A chipper President Jacob Zuma took a stab at opposition parties for obsessing “for a year about one person’s house” during his response to the presidency budget vote debate on Wednesday.
Calling for the seriousness of Parliament to be respected at all times, the president had the ANC benches in stitches as he raised the thorny issue of his upgraded Nkandla homestead, while Economic Freedom Fighters MPs looked on grimly and Democratic Alliance MPs heckled him.
“Some people could not pronounce Nkandla before, they have now learnt. N-khandla, they say,” he joked, repeating it four times while laughing.
“Even if you tell them the Nkandla report is being processed, it is going to come, they say Nkandla. Even if you are discussing serious matters, they raise points of order and say Nkandla. That is a problem. It again emphasises the poverty of politics in our opposition parties.”
Zuma said he only dealt with serious issues that were raised within debates.
“There is a broken president, in a broken country,” he said, making fun of DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s State of the Nation address debate speech.
“The opposition must say, for example, what is the alternative of their policies to the current policies. There are no debates in that area. Others want to stand for hours, one after the other, raising points of orders, points of privilege.”
Zuma still applying his mind
Reiterating that he was still looking and applying his mind to the Marikana report, Zuma said he, as the president, had to say what must be done about the recommendations.
“It is important therefore for us to be [patient]. Now that is a problem for the parties that suffer from poverty of politics, because they have no substantial issues to raise in Parliament. If you listen to our good friends, the opposition, I’m telling you, you can think you live in another world.”
Throughout his 50-minute speech, DA MPs heckled, shouted and made sarcastic comments as Zuma outlined some of the progress highlighted by various ministers during the budget vote debate on Tuesday.
When Zuma said that “some of the honourable members on the opposition benches need to accept the fact that reversing the legacy of apartheid will take decades; the damage was extensive; the structure of the apartheid economy will also take longer to transform”, some DA MPs shouted that he had done as much damage during his term as president.
Zuma said the issues raised by MPs on Tuesday, including load shedding, poverty and job creation, were being addressed.
“We will never rest for as long as there are still people with no food to put on the table in our country. You will recall, honourable members, that we have interventions in place already, which are igniting growth. The economic cluster is implementing the nine-point growth plan that I announced in the State of the Nation address in February.
“The plan is a response to four big challenges that slow down our growth. These include the current electricity shortage, the availability and cost of broadband, a regulatory environment that is cumbersome and labour market stability.”
Load shedding model
On load shedding, he said the government had completed a medium-term outlook model for the supply and demand of electricity.
“The model indicates that demand will exceed supply for the next 24 to 36 months. To increase supply, Eskom is implementing a structured planned maintenance programme to ensure that the availability of all power stations is improved.”
The president said it did not help the country when people just saw horror stories and not the “good story”.
“Our country is doing well under difficult global economic conditions. This is a period of unity in action and not point-scoring,” said Zuma.
In his closing remarks, he said elected leaders had a joint responsibility to build the country.
“Parliamentarians should appreciate this responsibility. Let me reiterate that Parliament is an important pillar of our democracy. Members of Parliament must demonstrate that they take Parliament seriously, so that our people can continue to look up to this institution. The conduct of some of the members of Parliament raises doubt about their commitment to the work of Parliament.”
Poor grasp of crises
Maimane said that by joking through his speech, the president showed a poor grasp of the seriousness of the crises and issues that faced South Africa and its people.
“From the energy crisis that promises three more years of load shedding and job-shedding to the economy, which has shed two million jobs and raised unemployment to 36.1% since President Zuma was elected to office.
“While the president continues to joke, more and more South Africans are falling into the clutches of poverty and our society becomes more and more unequal. Every time the president steps up to the National Assembly podium, the country is left with even less hope and an image of a jester, rather than a leader who has solutions to solving the country’s problems,” Maimane said.