Parliament, Cape Town - Octogenarian IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi interrupted President Jacob Zuma in the National Assembly on Thursday to reveal that the president had advised him it was time he retired.
“Some of your ministers... referred to the fact that - repeating almost what (you) said to me - you think I should retire because there are people who are saying... some things about me,” he told Zuma.
His comment provoked shouts and laughter around the House.
Buthelezi, who turns 85 in August, rose to his feet after Zuma, who was delivering his response to debate on his state-of-the-nation address, referred to a letter sent him by the Inkatha Freedom Party leader.
Zuma said Buthelezi had “felt it necessary to raise the issue of the letter that you wrote to me after joining the opposition for a no-confidence debate”.
Zuma said he did not want to respond to the letter.
“Let us not score points in a wrong way,” he said.
This prompted Buthelezi to rise in his bench, and ask Speaker Max Sisulu if he could ask the president “two small questions”.
After Zuma said he would take the questions, Buthelezi then told MPs that Cabinet ministers on Wednesday - and the president himself, presumably at an earlier meeting - had suggested it was time he retired.
Earlier, Zuma had poked fun at the coalition of opposition parties formed to bring a motion of no-confidence against him.
“Certainly, I have no difficulty if the opposition join hands. It defines a particular political landscape in one sense, if you all understand what democracy is. People have a free choice to choose partners, to choose those you can work with.
“It does also define that some people, as parties, have difficulties to have a distinct view on issues; they must hang on others... and be very proud... ,” Zuma said, to shouts of delight, laughter and loud applause from government benches.
He described the coalition as “blurred, with no-one knowing which one is what”.
Responding to an interjection from the opposition benches - “What about the SACP (SA Communist Party)?” - he said the tripartite alliance, which includes the SACP, was an “alliance in a different way”, forged during the struggle, “so you can't compare it”.
Parties were elected by voters on the basis of their programmes.
“(But) they (opposition parties in the coalition) abandon that, they campaign for other positions, advanced by other parties,” Zuma said, to further loud applause. - Sapa