SONA debate: President Zuma ‘the wrong man for these times’
Last Thursday, President Jacob Zuma delivered the 2013 State of the Nation Address as the country reeled following the arrest of South Africa’s Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius on a murder charge. On Tuesday, the two again shared the public spotlight. As the country watched entranced on the first day of Pistorius’s bail hearing, opposition parties in Parliament took turns to lambaste Zuma, laying the groundwork for a renewed demand that the president face a vote of No Confidence. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
It was a day on which President Jacob Zuma gave true meaning to the phrase “grin and bear it”. Opposition parties in Parliament have been baying for his blood ever since they tabled a motion for vote of no confidence in the president last November. On Tuesday they used the debate on Zuma’s State of the Nation Address to tear into his leadership and poke holes in the government programme of action he laid out last week.
With the announcement of a new entrant into the political arena on Monday in the form of businesswoman and academic Mamphela Ramphele, opposition parties seemed even more determined to prove their worth.
Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said the State of the Nation address “not only failed to inspire South Africa, it was devoid of new ideas and vision”. She said the nation had waited expectantly for Zuma to explain how government would implement the National Development Plan.
“The president should have plainly set out how the NDP would be put into action and its proposals implemented to fix the economy, education, crime and corruption. Instead, he offered a reheated version of last year’s broken promises based on spin and lip service, stitched together with announcements about task teams, processes, and accords.
“Ours is a president who says one thing to appease South Africa, and then does another to please himself and his inner circle,” Mazibuko said.
She said the “worst betrayal of all” was Zuma’s “abandonment” of the Youth Wage Subsidy, which she said he allowed the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to “water down”.
On the issue of rape and sexual violence, Mazibuko urged Zuma to participate in a national dialogue, “to end this evil with the same clarity of conviction that marked the fight against Apartheid.
“In our society, women are told not to wear mini-skirts in case they ‘provoke’ men to rape them. Battered wives are asked what they did to ‘anger’ their husbands. And political leaders who refer to their female counterparts as ‘little girl’ and ‘the madam’ and ‘wild whore’ and ‘my dear’ are tolerated. It is in this context that one in three women in our country can expect to be raped in her lifetime. It is in this context that every eight hours, a South African woman is murdered by her intimate partner.”
Mazibuko said she would be re-tabling the motion of no confidence in Zuma as soon as the Constitutional Court ruled on technicalities regarding the issue in March.
“South Africa is a great country being let down by a weak president. He is the wrong man for these times,” Mazibuko said.
Zuma sat stony-faced through most of Mazibuko’s tirade, as MPs heckled in his defence. However, he smiled as she left the podium.
Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota was equally brutal. He compared the renovations at Zuma’s Nkandla residence at taxpayers’ expense to the expansion of Adolf Hitler’s home in the 1930s.
“In passing, may I say that the manner in which Adolf Hitler expanded Berghof and the way in which the Nkandla estate was expanded merits a close examination,” Lekota said.
He said Zuma had announced that the minister of finance would be reviewing the tax system, yet there was no attention paid to recovering the millions of rands wasted and disappearing through corruption.
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi explained why his party had joined the move by opposition parties to press for a motion of no confidence.
“The ANC believes the state is there to be pillaged, abused and disrespected for the self-enrichment of the ruling class. The rest of us believe the state is an instrument to serve the people of South Africa, to meet the needs, wants and aspirations of our people. There is a fundamental divide between the ruling party and the people of South Africa, and that divide is growing,” Buthelezi said.
“I felt my president should know why I no longer have confidence in his leadership. I am not standing in this House to attack him, or even to criticise what his government has done. I am standing here as a citizen who has lost hope and lost confidence, and who sees no way for us to continue on this path.
“The time has come to close the first Republic under the ANC, which is characterised by corruption, lack of vision and lack of leadership,” the IFP leader said.
The ANC rallied to defend Zuma. ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga condemned the coordinated attack on the ANC by the opposition parties.
“It is an antithesis of a multiparty democracy system, which provides for diverse and multiplicity of political views and interests, to have the throng of political leaders from diverse ideological persuasions dancing to a tune of the neo-liberal and conservative agenda of their political master. Surely the constituencies of these parties did not elect these leaders into Parliament to serve the DA, to seek DA’s permission before making statements on matters of national importance, and to advance the political fortunes of the DA,” Motshekga said.
“These views [in the debate] would be dressed in different suits and faces on this podium, but we know that they were cooked in a blue pot,” he said, referring to the predominant party colour and its “Blue Blits” campaigns.
Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said this year’s State of the Nation Address was about reporting on the progress made since the 2012 speech and to discuss the programme of action for 2013.
“It would have been total folly to present a new vision again in 2013 on top of the vision the president presented in 2012, which has only just begun to be implemented. But, of course, the opposition wants us to be stuck on endless visions so that they turn around and ask the question, ‘where is implementation!’ When you implement the vision, they turn around again and ask, ‘why is there no new vision!’,” Gigaba said.
Young Communist League leader and ANC MP Buti Manamela drew some blood for the ruling party in an animated speech in which he accused Mazibuko of presenting to the House speeches pre-scripted by DA leader Helen Zille.
“Speaker, I actually went through the trouble of preparing my own speech, not just my accent,” Manamela said to howls from the opposition.
He said the opposition found fault not with the content of Zuma’s speech but the mere fact that it was delivered.
“If opposition parties were there when Jesus walked on water, they’ll have accused him of not being able to swim.”
Manamela said the DA had made the youth wage subsidy “their own pet project”, and without it there was no State of the Nation Address. He said the DA wanted to use the subsidy as the launch for their election campaign, “banking on vulnerable young people”.
Manamela said the tabling of the motion of no confidence in November had been a “cunning plot” by the opposition to ensure that president Zuma was not elected at Mangaung.
The debate on Zuma’s speech continues on Wednesday and the president will respond to it on Thursday afternoon. DM
Photo: SA President Jacob Zuma (Greg Marinovich)