Hostility in Parliament is bad for nation building and social cohesion, says Zuma
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Johannesburg - Former president Jacob Zuma has accused Parliament and represented political parties of undermining SA’s social cohesion objectives through frequently antagonising each other.
Zuma was speaking on Sunday as part of the ANC’s panel discussion on social cohesion and the national question, which is part of the dialogues the governing party is holding on its policy documents ahead of its national general council (NGC).
Zuma remarked that divisions along race, class, culture and age remained prominent features in the domain of SA’s electoral politics.
Key tasks of leadership was to unite SA’s different constituencies, he said, which he said required dialogue.
“Parliament is one of the most important forums for these dialogues. Unfortunately, the focus of the parliamentary debates is geared towards achieving short term electoral advantages in the main. The atmosphere in Parliament does not give an impression to the public that a united and cohesive society is possible,” he said.
Zuma, who had repeatedly been at the receiving end of heckling and lampooning by the EFF during the last years of his presidency, said many citizens did not understand the antagonistic style used by political parties which he said came across as “downright hostility among parties”.
He said the ANC had to ponder on how to ensure that political leaders “can disagree robustly without being disrespectful”.
He said Parliament did not inspire confidence among citizens in a way that encouraged social cohesion.
“Parliament, as a very open and public institution, is not helping in this debate that we are talking about of cohesion and nation building. At times it is very destructive because people there swear at each other and do every kind of thing. It is not in a sense contributing to nation building,” he said.
Academic and political analyst Professor Steven Friedman criticised the ANC’s national cohesion project, adding that it was a problematic and unrealistic objective which would achieve very little for the majority.
Friedman said the country needed to focus on tangible needs of the majority, including economic inclusion and tackling racism as opposed to appeals for unity and sameness.