Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane on Tuesday told the National Assembly that President Jacob Zuma had no honour and deserved no respect, and called on him to resign.
Speaking in the debate on Zuma’s state of the nation address last week, the official opposition leader said the speech had proven that the president lived in a parallel universe, oblivious to the plight of ordinary South Africans.
Maimane said while razor wire kept protesters away from the legislature last Thursday, “the president was tucked safely away somewhere on Planet Zuma”.
“Planet Zuma is a place in a parallel universe, far, far away from the lives of ordinary South Africans… a place where a swimming pool can be called fire pool,” he added.
“We learnt more about Planet Zuma than the country we live in because, you see, on Planet Zuma there is no jobs crisis.”
Judging by the president’s narrative, there were also no problems in the education system or with the country’s cash-strapped parastatals, Maimane added.
Contrasting the DA with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) who disrupted the speech before being ordered out of the chamber last week, Maimane said the DA had stayed and heard Zuma out because it respects Parliament.
“We stayed to the bitter end because this is what the people of South Africa expect of us. They expect us to be here in this Parliament, making it work.
“But we did not come out of respect for Jacob Zuma, we cannot respect a man who puts himself and his rich friends first, while the people of this country suffers. Jacob Zuma is not an honourable man because if he was, he would do the honourable thing and resign.”
Maimane was twice interrupted by members of the ANC who implored him to respect the fact that Zuma remained the president of the ANC. Speaker Baleka Mbete corrected them to make the point that he was the President of the Republic and told Maimane to show restraint in his remarks.
Mbete also reverted to the sub judice rule to prevent Maimane from expounding on Zuma’s concessions in the Constitutional Court last week where his legal counsel accepted that the president was bound by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s directive that he reimburse the state for a portion of the upgrade to his Nkandla home.
But Maimane carried on largely undeterred, and said Zuma had proven the undoing of the ANC.
“The President is not alone on Planet Zuma. Its gravitational pull is so strong that the entire ANC has been sucked into its orbit, and it cannot escape.
“The party that was once the defender of freedom has now become the defender of just one man.”
As Zuma sat slumped in his chair with a pained expression, Maimane added that he could see the ruling party benches cringe as the president laboured through a lacklustre speech, but that in truth they should be embarrassed because they had failed to stand up to him.
“We noticed the glum faces and muted applause on the ANC benches. We saw Cabinet members wince as the President laboured his way through his speech. And who can blame them?
“But not one of you has the guts to speak out against what is happening. It is, quite simply, a failure of leadership. You should be ashamed.”
He ended his speech by asking Zuma how he managed to live with his conscience given the harm he had done to the country.
“Mr President, your neglect has created a society of 8.3 million jobless people, many with nothing left to lose…
“On Planet Zuma you can carry on dismissing the aspirations of young, black South Africans. You can keep on betraying their hopes for a brighter future, and govern as if their lives don’t matter. But here in the real world, each one of those lives really matters.” – African News Agency (ANA)