DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko. File photo by Courtney Africa.

Parliament, Cape Town - Former president Nelson Mandela's term of office showed that “a leader's words and actions matter”, DA leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said on Wednesday.

Participating in the presidency budget vote debate, Mazibuko re-iterated sentiments from her colleagues across the political divide, and said the Democratic Alliance's thoughts and prayers were with the ailing statesman.

“He defined the truths of his time in simple terms. In his first state-of-the-nation address on 24 May 1994, he plainly said that the 'acid test of the legitimacy' of his administration would be the progress made in delivering measurable freedoms,” she said.

Madiba had defined freedom with “unmistakable precision”.

This included the freedom from want, hunger, deprivation and ignorance.

“On this occasion of the 2013 Presidency Budget Vote, we must all take note of these wise words.... We must uphold these high standards, for this is the South Africa we all set out to build in 1994,” said Mazibuko.

However, the past year could be seen as a step in the wrong direction with the government having been riddled by crises.

These included Zuma's comments on strikes in the mining sector. The president had described these as normal in a democratic society, and had said people should not be concerned about industrial action.

“Within hours, the value of the rand had plummeted by three percent, and breached the 10 to one US dollar mark,” said Mazibuko.

This was proof that the markets did not trust Zuma.

The events at Marikana in August were also a cause for concern.

“The president did not foresee the Marikana crisis because he and his government only cared about the concerns of the mineworkers who belonged to the ANC-affiliated union, the National Union of Mineworkers.

“How could he play the role of honest broker in the dispute when members of his own party’s executive are major shareholders and board members of the very same mining houses in which (Congress of SA Trade Union (Cosatu)) unions are the dominant force?” she asked.

Other reasons for Zuma's failure were the veil of secrecy surrounding the killing of 13 soldiers in the Central African Republic, the failure to declassify the R206 million expenditure on upgrading his home in Nkandla, and the landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base of a jet chartered by the Gupta family Ä Zuma backers.

“In every crisis, he misses the opportunity to take the nation into his confidence,” said Mazibuko.

Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota joined the DA in rejecting Zuma's budget vote, but not before paying tribute to Madiba.

Lekota said he was praying that Mandela made a speedy recovery.

“In his suffering today, we suffer with him,” Lekota said.

Mandela had played a major role in uniting a divided country following his release from prison.

“In a world where political expediency rules, he held a divided nation together through integrity, clarity of vision, and adherence to the rule of law.”

Lekota said Zuma had remained silent on a variety of issues, including the secrecy bill, Nkandla and the demise of the Scorpions crime-fighting unit.

“Countrywide, the situation is shambolic and shocking,” he said.

Lekota said Zuma's actions, including his support of secrecy, were in contrast to those of Mandela, who had made “truth visible”.

“Nelson Mandela set a gold and platinum standard for governance. He wanted to be beyond reproach; not beyond criticism,” the Cope leader said.

While Mandela was prepared to die in defence of his principles, other leaders in South Africa were not doing the same.

“True followers of Mandela are those willing to be bound by the moral rectitude and intellectual rigour he demonstrated.

“All others are name-droppers who pretend to be the carriers of his legacy.”

Lekota said instead of working for the people, Zuma's government was “worshipping itself”.

“In the absence of decisive leadership, the economy is crumbling, the NDP is being torn asunder by the ruling party’s alliance partners, and job losses go on increasing,” he said. - Sapa