Cape Town - The country is not facing instability as a result of violent wildcat strikes over the past few months, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
Opposition MPs took aim at Zuma as he responded to questions on the country's economic future in the National Assembly.
Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko went as far as accusing the president of not being capable of running the country adequately.
“Will he explain to the house, this house that elected him... that in the face of increasing economic instability under his leadership, why he deserves to continue his term of office as president of the Republic of South Africa?” she asked.
Zuma brushed aside her criticism, repeating the words “the country is stable” four times in his response.
“You go to old democracies in the world, there are strikes continuously... they (strikes) are a feature of democracy, they are not instability,” said Zuma.
Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini wanted Zuma to explain why the ANC wanted to put the brakes on the tabling of a vote of no confidence in the president in the National Assembly.
“How can you authorise your party, your caucus, to prevent this side of the house to hold a vote of no confidence, which will have an enormous impact on the credit grading of the country,” said Oriani-Ambrosini.
The IFP MP charged that is was the same as not holding an election, which was vital to democracy.
Zuma denied being behind a move to block the vote, and said he was not an MP and did not participate in parliamentary processes.
“I do not want to enter into the details of the matter, which I'm not involved in,” he said.
The president also defended his Agriculture Minister Tina
Joemat-Pettersson, who was accused of making “destructive utterances” during her visit to the De Doorns area, one of several affected by violent strike action by farmworkers in the Western Cape.
Independent Democrats MP Lance Greyling accused Joemat-Pettersson of assuring protesting farmworkers she would speak to the National Prosecuting Authority to ensure all cases of public violence and intimidation were withdrawn.
“This is arguing directly against the rule of law in South African, and surely it cannot be the policy of this government, and if it isn't, will you then be taking harsh action against this, minister?” he asked.
Zuma said reports submitted to him indicated that the minister had intervened merely to mediate and try to calm tensions in the area.
“Perhaps I must have missed the news... I didn't hear the minister saying anything that you are quoting,” Zuma said.
He was also asked how the contest for leadership positions in the ANC ahead of the Mangaung elective conference, coupled with Marikana strike and the farmworkers' protest actions, was affecting South Africa's image globally.
The president said none of these matters could be equated with political or economic instability.
“It's not a political issue caused by a political condition, it's caused by the conditions of farmworkers,” he said as he responded to a grilling on the impact of the Western Cape farmworkers' strike.
Zuma said the contesting within the ruling party's ranks was a result of democracy and should be seen as a “plus” and not “minus” for the country.
“You cannot count that as a factor that influences the grading or degrading in this country,” said Zuma. - Sapa