Cape Town - On Thursday, it is President Jacob Zuma’s turn to respond to two days of opposition attacks on his administration’s track record, coming in after four ministers’ spirited telling of the government’s “good story”.
The second day of the parliamentary debate on last week’s State of the Nation address started on Wednesday with an attack on the DA by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
“Yes, they start with (liberal stalwart) Helen Suzman and end with (DA leader) Helen Zille, who actually doubts herself and had to go out to hire a president,” Motsoaledi said, referring to the brief alliance with AgangSA leader Mamphela Ramphele.
With elections due in early May, ANC ministers listed delivery achievements from the expansion of access to anti-retroviral treatment to internationally recognised governance best practice and improved education, versus the opposition parties’ account of a story of greed, frustration and anger.
However, even the DA acknowledged South Africa today was a better place than 20 years ago.
Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu underlined this, saying that after “the hype about the opposition bringing out the big guns, I did not even see a water pistol”.
Sisulu reminded the House that during Nelson Mandela’s presidency, the opposition attacked government’s delivery record.
“It is for this reason that President Mandela then called you a Mickey Mouse party. In fact, he was being very kind. I think Mickey Mouse is a very popular, likeable character… ”
Earlier, DA MP and finance spokesman Tim Harris argued South Africa “can do better than benchmarking ourselves against a racist, illegitimate regime”.
Harris cited statistics: unemployment had increased to 34 percent; the number of discouraged job seekers was at 2.2 million; there were five times more service delivery protests each week; while economic growth had dropped to under 2 percent from the 4.2 percent achieved during Thabo Mbeki’s presidency.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder, who is deputy agriculture minister, highlighted the desperation for jobs among ordinary South Africans. He said the re-opening of the land restitution claims window would negatively affect food production because farmers would be too insecure over potential claims to run their farms.
The DA’s last speaker was DA MP and federal chairman Wilmot James, who described Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande as a “walking contradiction” and said he did not understand why Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti talked about housing delivery.