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Pretoria - Opposition parties hammered President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday, casting him as the weakest link who had failed to provide leadership and who would one day be removed from office at the ballot box.
Responding to Zuma’s State of the Nation address, delivered last week, opposition parties seemed to sing from the same hymn book in their criticism of the speech and Zuma’s leadership, or lack thereof, saying he had missed an opportunity to address some of the country’s concerns, like the abuse of women and children and publicly-funded upgrades to his Nkandla residence.
Leader of the opposition in Parliament Lindiwe Mazibuko had the first go at Zuma, saying the South African people had lost confidence in him “and his State of the Nation address showed why”.
“With the pressure of re-election lifted, this was an opportunity for the president to show leadership after he received a new mandate from his party at Mangaung.
“But this address not only failed to inspire South Africa, it was devoid of new ideas and vision,” she said.
She said Zuma had promised 5 million new jobs by 2020, but unemployment had risen again during his third year in office.
Zuma had missed an opportunity to address the youth unemployment plaguing the country.
She said the worst betrayal of all was his abandonment of the youth wage subsidy.
“Most presidents’ characters are revealed over time.
“This president was compromised from the beginning, because there were simply too many unanswered questions about his actions before he assumed high office.
“Our message is clear: South Africa is a great country being let down by a weak president.
“He is the wrong man for these times,” said Mazibuko.
“There will be a day; a day when this president and government will be removed from office at the ballot box,” she said.
Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota said the R200 million that went to security upgrades at Nkandla could have been used to produce several thousand matriculants.
“Why was Madiba also not given R200m?” asked Lekota.
He said there was also a need to review the public service and identify positions that were redundant which could save the country billions.
“The president said nothing about that.”
Instead, Zuma had emphasised the need to review the tax system.
“Before asking citizens to fork out more money to the state, the state should thoroughly clean up its own act.
“It must stop corruption and put an end to futile and fruitless expenditure,” he said.
IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said Zuma had done nothing to inspire the country.
“I’d like to speak with a sense of utter distress.
“As hard as I try to hear something in our president’s State of the Nation address that will restore my confidence in the current leadership of our nation, I found nothing on which to pin my hopes.
He had heard only “aspirations and dreams”.
“What I did not hear are timeframes, strategies or anything for which we can hold our present administration accountable,” said Buthelezi.
He said nothing announced last week would come to fruition during Zuma’s time in office, and possibly his lifetime.
Resources had been frittered away at every level of government. In national government, provincial administrations, and municipalities, performance was so poor and delivery so slow that “I have lost hope of us ever coming close to addressing South Africa’s problems successfully”.
“Let us open now, with the rising voice of a nation at odds with its government, the better, second republic our people deserve.
“Let us set this country on the right course, by doing what is needed - by unseating a leadership not fit to rule,” Buthelezi said.
UDM president Bantu Holomisa said the unprecedented increase in service delivery protests and the use of violence were cause for concern.
“Not only are the poor unhappy with the levels of corruption, maladministration and poor service delivery at the various government levels, but they are so desperate for government’s attention that they resort to violent civil disobedience,” said Holomisa.
He called for a probe into the government’s reliance on consultants, reported by the auditor-general’s office to have cost a total of R102 billon in three years.
“This is a damning indictment of a modern public administration.
“It is also clear that there are serious structural and organisational deficiencies which cause departments to procure the services of consultants, to do that which the taxpayers pay them to do,” he said.
He said the goals of the National Development Plan would not be realised if the government continued to appoint incompetent people to senior public service positions.
ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga had earlier launched a pre-emptive strike when he took to the podium first.
He praised Zuma and his administration for introducing the National Development Plan, “a broad strategic framework which sets out a coherent and holistic approach to uniting South Africa around a common programme”.
He slammed the opposition’s “opportunistic” use of the courts to score political goals when they tried to force Parliament to have a debate on a motion of no confidence against Zuma in November.
He said this had “tarnished the image of this great institution”.
He said “what we will hear during this debate today and tomorrow will mostly be the views of the Democratic Alliance”.
“This is because, except for the few opposition political parties, who should be commended for staying, the rest have surrendered their independence to their new political master in the form of the Democratic Alliance,” said Motshekga, referring to a meeting last week at which opposition parties agreed to co-ordinate their responses to Zuma’s speech.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe also came to Zuma’ country had confidence in him.
“This is evident in the overwhelming majority that the ANC amassed at the 2009 general elections,” said Radebe.
The debate continues on Wednesday.