The ANC yesterday said opposition parties had dragged the level of debate on President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address down to a shameful level, after several party leaders used it to call for the president’s resignation.
“Instead of reflecting substantively on the president’s important progress report and crucial government priorities for this financial year, some of the parties have indulged in empty electioneering rhetoric, personal attacks, name-calling, and abusive unparliamentary language,” ruling party spokesman Zizi Kodwa said.
The two-day debate on the president’s opening address to Parliament was intended as an opportunity to reflect on matters of national importance, Kodwa added.
He accused the Economic Freedom Fighters in particular of disrespecting the legislature.
“However, since 2014, with the arrival of the EFF, Parliament’s image has been desecrated through attention-seeking disruptions, profane posturing and downright disrespectful conduct to the institution, fellow parliamentarians and the public whose aspirations rest on the shoulders of the institution to better their living conditions.
“Those who derive pleasure or entertainment from such circus are guilty of myopia and have no interest on the future of our nation at heart.”
Kodwa went on to describe Zuma’s ninth State of the Nation Address last Thursday as one of the most important of his tenure.
“President Zuma has presented to the nation one of the most important addresses of his presidency, full of hope, progressive interventions to address the socio-economic challenges confronting South Africa and key declarations of intent to advance our nation.”
However, opposition leaders said the address was hollow and a clear indication that Zuma was out of touch with the plight of South Africans.
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane told the National Assembly the president resided in a parallel universe which he mockingly termed “Planet Zuma”.
Maimane concluded: “We cannot respect a man who puts himself and his rich friends first, while the people of this country suffer. Jacob Zuma is not an honourable man because if he was, he would do the honourable thing and resign.”
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa told President Zuma the time had come for him to effect a dignified exit, while Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema apologised to the country and former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela for his role in helping President Zuma to power.
Several ANC MPs leapt to Zuma’s defence, lashing out at opposition party MPs for insulting the president. As Gauteng Human Settlements MEC Jacob Mamabolo was delivering his speech, Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu interrupted him, asking whether he would take a question.
“What would you say to the people of South Africa about the dishonourable, despicable behaviour of the members of this House who continue to insult, disrespect, agitate against the President of the country, what would you say to that?” she demanded. Mamabolo did not mince his words as he pounded opposition MPs, describing them as “fanatics of racism and violence”.