Cape Town -
President Jacob Zuma on Thursday brandished a set of statistics, different to those cited by his critics, to underscore his administration’s “good story” track record.
He also delivered a history lesson to detractors emphasising how apartheid meant South Africa could not be compared to any other country.
The two-day debate has seen his administration whipped on jobs, lack of economic growth and corruption amid generally luke-warm leadership
During his reply, Zuma turned to the opposition’s parliamentary benches and went off-script, saying: “If you compare South Africa with a country that has never experienced racial oppression, you are missing the point…
“The critics, they almost talk as if democracy came to a country, which was like any other county. No, no, no. South Africa was totally abnormal.”
“(People) forget that South Africa was a very funny country, with the majority being deprived of their rights for centuries – and also with self-governments and independent governments within South Africa.”
Given this, Zuma argued, South Africa had actually “moved fast” – unlike any other country in the past 20 years – to deliver on jobs, governance and social support in the form of grants to the poor, although more needed to be done.
While the president was restrained in his response to the opposition’s sharp words, he did not let the parliamentary debate end without digs at the DA, which made much of its service delivery in Cape Town and the Western Cape.
“People still suffer today. If you want to see that, come to Cape Town. That’s two cities in one, in Cape Town.
“There is no improvement made to other people, those who were disadvantaged… In fact, they are called refugees in their own county,” Zuma said in reference to DA leader Helen Zille’s description of Eastern Cape pupils studying at Western Cape schools some years ago.
Come election day on May 7, the president said, people would know exactly who to vote for.
“I can tell you, people know who made the good story and on May 7, they will tell the good story… No doubt.”
In a reference to Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota’s comment that the president was a “false prophet” for saying the ANC would rule until Jesus Christ returned, Zuma said: “Those, who were the prophets that are taking people to some green pastures (outside the ANC) will realise their prophesy is not working. It can’t work.
”Those, who left the ANC know it’s cold out there… It’s warm and nice inside and people look nice and beautiful”.
After the elections, Zuma said, it would be time to kick off a “new radical phase” which would see the implementation of socio-economic programmes to meaningfully address poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Having delivered last Thursday’s State of the Nation address under the shadow of an unprecedented series of service delivery protests, the president appealed for patience.
“We are pleading with them: all those who are still waiting, they should persevere. We will reach them… Even if it takes us years and years we will eventually reach all those corners, because that is our vision.”
Citing recent Statistics SA figures that 653 000 new jobs were created last year, Zuma said this was evidence that despite the global recession, which cost jobs across the world, South Africa had weathered the troubles.