MPs inspired, bored by SONA

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IOL pic jun18 sona helen zille arrives Associated Press DA leader Helen Zille (right) arrives at Parliament in Cape Town for President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation speech on June 17, 2014. Picture: Schalk van Zuydam

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma seemed weary and a bit thinner around the face, but laughed a few times as he delivered his State of the Nation address in Parliament on Tuesday night.

He walked slowly into the National Assembly, accompanied by his wife Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma.

Many commented on how his shoulders seemed slightly shrunken in his dark suit, in his first appearance after taking a week's rest from an exhausting election programme.

He was welcomed by bare-chested praise singer Eric Sifiso Lubisi, who held a wooden stick high in the air and wore a traditional skirt and pelt.

As he began, Zuma's voice was slightly crackly and weak, but seemed to strengthen as he progressed through the 19-page speech.

His African National Congress MPs applauded and whistled at most accomplishments.

IOL pic jun18 sona jacob zuma smile President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Sumaya Hisham Reuters

One of the most popular moments in his speech was when he resolved to fix the billing crisis in the city of Johannesburg. Zuma chuckled as people cheered.

Zuma became especially animated when he announced that the theme for International Mandela Day next month was to clean South Africa.

“Clean, clean everything. Clean, clean everything,” Zuma said, demonstrating his domestic skills with sweeping movements of his hands. The House burst into laughter.

“Let us begin planning for a major clean-up of our cities, towns, townships, villages, schools, and beautify every part of our country.”

The Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters seemed less impressed and did not rise or applaud with the other MPs.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema chewed on gum and sat back with his arms folded.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, who last year released a report on Zuma's controversial Nkandla homestead, observed proceedings with a wry smile on her face. She seemed to pay close attention to what was being said, but did not applaud much.

Some diplomatic officials and MPs took notes. Others seemed less moved by the speech and dipped their heads for a quick nap.

One of these was singer and actress Thulisile Madihlaba, popularly known as Chomee, who rested her dyed blonde locks on the seat in the public gallery and closed her eyes. - Sapa

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