960 02.02.2014 ANC supporters chants as they wait for DA members to handover a memorandum opposing ANC'S Election Manuifesto outsideLuthuli House. Picture:Sharon Seretlo

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has warned the DA that its plans to march to the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters a day before his last State of the Nation address is “dangerous”.

Zuma, whose term draws to a close ahead of the May 7 general elections, says the opposition misunderstands democracy.

The DA plans to march against what it believes are ANC’s lies in its election manifesto about the party’s plans to create jobs.

The planned demonstration has already seen the ANC’s supporters assembling on the streets of Johannesburg this week.

In an interview with Independent Newspapers on Friday, Zuma said: “Parties march against governments, they don’t march on other parties. This is unheard of. It is also dangerous.”

Zuma slated the opposition, saying that instead of presenting its policy alternatives, the DA “waits for the ANC” and then responds.

He said there were several appropriate platforms that provided for policy debate and where the opposition could engage other political parties and the voters.

He cited Parliament and the media as platforms that provide opposition parties ample opportunity for engagement on different approaches to solving the challenges of jobs and other social issues facing South Africa.

“The opposition has no ideas. They instead wait on the ANC. They are not telling the people what their alternative is, what they offer. This is dangerous. Can you imagine the ANC marching on all parties it disagrees with? Where does that happen? Even in established democracies like the US the Republicans don’t march on the Democrats.”

However, Zuma defended the DA’s inherent right to march, saying South Africa was a democracy and allowed critics every opportunity to criticise him and his policies.

He stressed that there must be zero tolerance for “no go zones” for any political party, but he appealed to the DA to put “the people and South Africa first”.

“We might all have different ways of getting to our destinations; some fly, others walk, some take the train. But just because you walk, doesn’t mean you march against those who drive. It makes no sense.

“Yes, they can march, but it is wrong and dangerous. They must be constructive in their criticism.”

Other leading ANC figures, including former KwaZulu-Natal premier and current ANC treasurer general Dr Zweli Mkhize, have appealed to DA leader Helen Zille to call off the march. They warned her that it could escalate unnecessary tensions and add to an already loaded political climate before the general elections which will mark 20 years of democracy.

Zille also endured objections from her own ranks after the DA’s youth leader in KZN, Mbali Ntuli, openly clashed with her over the intended face-off in downtown Johannesburg.

The political violence and intra-party strife of the early 1990s remain fresh in the minds of many politicians across party political affiliation.

The last time IFP supporters marched on the then-ANC headquarters – Shell House – more than two decades ago the result was a bloody clash between ANC security and the marchers.

Jobs are a central election issue with South Africa’s unemployment levels peaking in double digits. The debate about how best to create jobs and whose role it is to do so has also seen ANC tripartite alliance leaders clash. Last week the Treasury, a leading proponent of the employment tax incentive for business as a means to ramp up youth participation in the economy, squared off with Nedlac over its plans.

Zuma also made a jibe at the private sector, saying the state, the largest employer in South Africa, had done better when it comes to creating employment.

Youth unemployment is double the rate of general employment. Young people who bear the brunt of unemployment are an important variable in this year’s May 7 general election.

Zuma looked back at the successes and failures of his government ahead of Thursday’s address.

The president defended his government’s track record on jobs, saying the New Growth Path, the National Development Plan and the infrastructure roll-out had generated thousands of job opportunities, even if sectors such as manufacturing did shed much-needed jobs.

On the short-lived liaison between the DA and AgangSA, Zuma said it was hard to make a “proper determination” of the quick divorce since the two parties had little in common and not much was known about their policy alignment and also because AgangSA was still trying to get out of the starting blocks.

Zuma warned that a grand coalition would see the swallowing up of smaller parties which formed the anchor of the proportional multi-party system. “The idea was to ensure that even the smallest party has a voice,” Zuma said.

Opposition parties have been battling to craft a platform which can act as a solid basis for opposition parties to take on the ANC behemoth when elections roll round in May.

Sunday Independent