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Zuma: Stop obsessing over Nkandla

President Jacob Zuma responding to debate on the Presidency Budget vote. Parliament, Cape Town, 27/05/2015

President Jacob Zuma responding to debate on the Presidency Budget vote. Parliament, Cape Town, 27/05/2015

Published May 28, 2015

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Cape Town - A bullish President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday called for patriotism and reiterated South Africa was on track, and making progress, to redress the legacy of apartheid.

“To those who are patriotic, this is a period of unity in action and not point-scoring,” said Zuma in an appeal to stop criticising the country before he launched into an off-the-cuff lecture to opposition parties on their “poverty of politics”.

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In his response to the often bruising debate on his Presidency budget, Zuma said he was left at odds on how to reply as there was little quality.

“It emphasises the poverty of politics in our opposition parties. There’s a broken president in a broken country. Jirrrr! Now at the end of that contribution you try and find what can I respond to. You can’t. If the opposition must say what is the alternative to the current policy, no debate!”

His comments refer to DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s “broken man” speech delivered in the debate on February’s State of the Nation Address, when the Zuma administration was criticised by the opposition.

The president also picked up on the Nkandla taxpayer-funded R215 million security upgrades saga, which has hung over his administration for years, and Tuesday’s “Release Marikana Report” placards raised from the EFF benches in the House when he opened his budget vote debate.

“Some people, who could not pronounce Nkandla, they have learnt,” Zuma said before launching into a fake posh English accent: “Nkandla, Nkandla, Nkandla”, to laughter from the ANC benches. “Even if you are discussing serious matters. Point of order: Nkandla.”

On the Marikana report, Zuma reiterated he had to apply his mind.

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“The issue of ‘Give the report. Give the report’ as a slogan; it’s being done as if we don’t care about this matter. You get the report, you read it. There’s nothing you can do about it because the president must say what must be done about the recommendations. That’s a problem of the parties that suffer from poverty of politics, because they have no substantial issues to raise in Parliament,” Zuma said.

The elected leaders in Parliament could not treat the national legislature “as a kindergarten” but instead had a joint responsibility to build South Africa.

“As leaders of this House, we are South Africans and we have a duty to build our country together,” the president said. “What do you respond to? A broken man, a broken country? I’m pleading let us change, let us respect the presiding officers, let us respect one another. Let us raise our matters with dignity.”

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If opposition parties were not serious, they would not be taken seriously, Zuma said, adding: “The ANC is highly disciplined. That is why the people of this country will vote ANC all the time. There are parties that will never grow beyond (their current strength).”

However, Maimane disagreed with how Zuma tackled his budget vote reply.

“Every time the president steps up to the National Assembly podium, the country is left with even less hope and an image of a jester, rather than a leader who has solutions to solving the country’s problems. Our country is facing an economic crisis under the ANC. The time for jokes has long passed,” Maimane said.

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While most of Zuma’s 50-minute reply was off the cuff, his scripted speech indicated that no excuses would be made for the view that South Africa was on the right track.

“We stand by our statement that the country is making progress. Some of the honourable members on the opposition benches need to accept that reversing the legacy of apartheid will take decades. The damage was extensive,” the president said.

“The structure of the apartheid economy will also take longer to transform. We will continue to work towards this goal so that we build an inclusive economy that will create jobs and help us build a better life for our people.”

He said the economic growth target of 5 percent by 2019 was reaffirmed in full knowledge that it would not be easy to achieve it, and load shedding was being tackled even if the government’s medium-term electricity outlook indicated that demand will exceed supply for the next 24 to 36 months.

Political Bureau

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