Zuma anything but ‘broken man’ in Sona reply

2015-02-19 16:47

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President Jacob Zuma was on a charm offensive in Parliament this afternoon while responding to a two-day debate on his state of the nation address.

Zuma was anything but a “broken man” as he was labelled by DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane in a fiery speech on Tuesday.

He went as far as complimenting his nemesis Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema for his input in the debate on Tuesday.

“I must also commend Honourable Malema for really dealing with the state of the nation address, because he did, that’s what is wanted, our debate, our views in this democracy to be expressed here properly and with respect.”

Zuma also sought to address the jamming of the signal in Parliament last week, reaffirmed the government’s commitment to Clause 16 of the Constitution which includes freedoms of association, expression and the media.

He said leaders had a responsibility to promote the Constitution which is “the blood and soul of our democracy”.

“It was an unfortunate incident and should never happen again,” he said to loud applause in the house.

Zuma said it was unfortunate that MPs resorted to anger when debating and differing on viewpoints instead of raising issues in a sober manner.

“Once you are angry, the capacity to think is affected.”

In an indirect rebuttal of Mmusi Maimane, who called him a broken man, Zuma – without mentioning the DA parliamentary leader by name – said he was not fazed by being called names.

“We don’t worry when you call us names. We know what we are doing.”

He said it was ironic that he was being accused of trampling on the memory of late former President Nelson Mandela by those whose parties had within them some of those who imprisoned Mandela in the first place.

“We always keep quiet when those who imprisoned him (Mandela) praise him today. Not only that, but claim him as their own,” he said.

Zuma said he also didn’t understand why MPs resorted to personal insults when dealing with him instead of tackling the issues head on.

“Soccer players say ‘play the ball not the man’.”

Zuma went off speech to deal with Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder who had criticised him for remarks he had made about how the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck to South African shores marked the beginning of problems for black people.

He gave Mulder a 12-minute lecture on how the arrival of the first white settlers affected black people, leading to their displacement from land they occupied and dispossession of their property.

“When I said when Jan van Riebeeck landed in the Cape our problems began, it’s a historical fact.”

He rebutted Mulder’s claims that his remarks would chase away Afrikaners. He said unlike other organisations which at some point called for whites to go back where they came from, the ANC was a non-racial movement which believed that South Africa belonged to all who live in it.

“No one will chase you away. You belong here,” he said

Zuma also addressed the chaos in Parliament last Thursday which saw EFF MPs being manhandled by undercover police while they were being ejected from the House.

“We all have a responsibility to make Parliament work. Parliament is a very important institution of democracy where the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all our people must find expression.

“Whatever our views are about one another or political parties that we represent, we need to preserve the dignity of Parliament,” he said.

“We must ensure that our people do not lose confidence in Parliament’s ability to discharge its important constitutional responsibility to produce legislation aimed at improving the quality of their lives,” said Zuma.

He directly responded to some of Malema’s comments especially around the treatment of temporary workers.

“Honourable Malema raised concerns about workers who are employed as temporary workers for more than 10 or 20 years, and being supplied by labour brokers.

“I had mentioned in the Sona that some of the new labour laws or amendments were coming into effect this year,” he added.

He said in terms of the amended Labour Relations Act, Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Employment Equity Acts, the issues raised by the honourable member have been resolved.

He said in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Labour Relations Acts as amended, all workers will be employed permanently. “Temporary work contracts will not exceed three months…”

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