President Jacob Zuma conveying a message during the 20th Celebration of Freedom Day held at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. South Africa. 27/04/2014. Siyabulela Duda

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has urged South Africans to “defend and celebrate” the country’s constitution, saying it is one of the best instruments of government in the world.

Zuma said South Africans needed to change their negativity and adopt a more positive and optimistic attitude towards the country as it remained the envy of the world.

“We have a very good constitutional democracy. It was done by sober people and dealt with how this country should remain intact for a very long time to come. This is what we need to celebrate,” Zuma said on Sunday, addressing South Africa’s ambassadors and high commissioners in Pretoria.

Zuma, who was making his public appearance a day after returning from his week-long state visit to Russia, exuded his usual charm and charisma on Sunday, seemingly unfazed by the growing speculation around his fitness to hold public office.

The enduring pressure over the R246 million Nkandla scandal and last Thursday’s ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal instructing the National Prosecuting Authority to comply with a previous order and release the spy tapes have sparked fresh speculation that Zuma could be forced out of office.

The tapes are the telephone recordings that led to the corruption charges against Zuma being dropped in 2009.

He did not specifically talk about the coup d’état in Lesotho, only appealing for peace throughout the continent and the Middle East.

The president devoted his speech to reminiscing about the ANC’s trials and tribulations in exile and the events leading up to the drafting and adoption of the constitution as well as the ANC’s achievements.

“(We were) a country that people were (feeling) sorry (for) in the past. Today, people embrace us. They envy us… We are unique. We may also need to change our actions and adopt a more positive and optimistic attitude because nothing is impossible, if we put our efforts together.”

Opposition parties have often accused Zuma of undermining the constitution himself because of the many scandals associated with him.

The DA has gone as far as saying the president is a danger to the constitution because of the alleged interference with independent institutions including the NPA.

“When I talk about opposition parties in Parliament, I talk about things we must fight about and things we don’t have to fight about, which is national democracy and unity,” the president said.

Zuma said South Africa remained, under the ANC government, on course to achieve its economic growth and service delivery targets.

According to Sapa, Zuma also spoke off-speech for over an hour, with topics including that he is a Christian.

He said: "I know they say Jesus will return to fetch us. But I don't know how many will stay behind. Maybe the majority," he said to laughter.

He said bishops and pastors were in a position to ask God to send his son again.

"But this time not to fetch us, but just to come and cleanse us of our sins, because we have caused more damage than before.

"He must just come for a few years to help us so that we are ready for when he finally comes."

The Star and Sapa