By Bongani Hans, Leanne Jansen and Kamini Padayachee
Durban - People who are paid social welfare grants but who vote for opposition parties were stealing from the government.
That’s according to KwaZulu-Natal Agriculture and Environmental Affairs MEC Meshack Radebe, who was speaking in the presence of President Jacob Zuma in Greytown during his provincial roadshow on Tuesday.
Radebe’s previous portfolio was social development.
“Nxamalala (Zuma) has increased grants, but there are people who are stealing them by voting for opposition parties,” he said.
“If you are in the opposition, you are like a person who comes to my house, eats my food and then insults me.”
Radebe said those who intended voting for opposition parties should “stay away from the grant”.
The human rights organisation Black Sash called on Radebe to retract his comments, which were made in Zulu to a rural audience.
Provincial spokeswoman Evashnee Naidu said the constitution placed an obligation on the state to provide for those who could not provide for themselves.
“It is an obligation on the government of the day, irrespective of the party, and it calls into question the understanding by the MEC of his previous portfolio.
“To attach party alliances to who should be receiving the grant goes against the aim and spirit of the constitution and blurs the lines between government and party (sic), which is unconstitutional.”
DA provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu said the comments were “insulting and misleading”.
“The money for social grants comes from the taxes people pay. This is purely ANC propaganda.”
Mchunu said the party was threatening people to obtain votes.
“It is a intimidatory tactic, but we do not think people will be fooled or misled by his comments (which) seemed to imply that if you are not inside the ANC or with the party, then you do not deserve a social grant.”
National Freedom Party spokesman Nhlanhla Khubisa said: “I was not there and I do not know what he said. But if it is true, then it is upsetting.
“It has nothing to do with the ANC. People are meant to get social grants regardless of their political affiliation.”
IFP spokesman Joshua Mazibuko said the ANC was “blackmailing” voters.
Radebe and Zuma were guests at a sod-turning to prepare for the construction of Mavundla Square, whose main owner is former Mvoti Municipality mayor and business tycoon Philani Mavundla.
Later, Zuma delivered a lecture at the University of Zululand, where government ministers continued to sing his praises.
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande called Zuma a “disciplined and dedicated servant of the people” whose legacy was that of commitment to the education of children and youths.
That commitment had seen 12 million children access classrooms, nine million receive a meal a day through the National School Nutrition Programme, and the budget of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme triple from R3.1 billion in 2009 to R9.6bn.
Nzimande said detractors praised former leaders of the ANC to “destroy” the present leaders.
When Nelson Mandela sought to restore peace in KZN during the period of political violence, it was Zuma he sent to lead those peace efforts, he said.
Switching from English to Zulu, Nzimande took a swipe at the press, saying white-owned newspapers peddled lies about Zuma and the administration.
Correctional Services Minister S’bu Ndebele spoke of Zuma as an efficient and effective leader who had demonstrated an “unflinching” commitment to the education of impoverished children.
The focus of Zuma’s lecture was the gains made in education over the past 20 years.
Proof of how serious the government was about education was that it received the biggest slice of the national budget, Zuma said.
He received a rousing welcome from Unizulu students, who chanted his name and surged towards the stage where he was seated to snap photographs of him with their cellphones.
A small group in the crowd, who were not wearing ANC T-shirts, jeered at Zuma, but later quietened down, overwhelmed by his fans.