Zuma is president, learn to live with it – Jeff Radebe

2015-03-18 07:35

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The Democratic Alliance’s motion calling for the removal of President Jacob Zuma was defeated in the National Assembly yesterday following an almost three-hour debate where the majority of the speakers charged that the president was not fit to hold the highest office.

ANC MPs and Themba Godi of the African People’s Convention were the only speakers in the debate who sought to defend Zuma.

In the end, the ANC with its 63% muscle in the National Assembly outvoted the opposition, with 221 votes to 113 for the DA-led motion and eight abstentions.

Zuma was not present.

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane, who sponsored the debate, accused Zuma of diminishing the light of the dream brought about by President Nelson Mandela in 1994.

He said this dream has faded as the ANC had become a party that places the needs of one man above those who elected them to power.

Maimane said in the six years that Zuma had presided over the country, the integrity of the office of the president has been decimated.

“Madam Speaker, the vote before us today is not only one of no confidence, it is a vote of conscience,” he said.

“We cannot in good conscience allow the needs of millions of South Africans to be superseded by the agenda of one man, while we look on in silence.”

Maimane accused ANC members of turning a blind eye to the destruction of South Africa’s democracy that, he said, was perpetrated by the president “and his project of state capture on the grandest scale”.

He dared them to vote with their conscience.

“Because I know that many of you on this side of the house will vote against your conscience today. You will vote to keep a man in office who is doing everything possible to evade 783 counts of fraud, corruption, and racketeering.

“You will vote for a thief. A man who stole the people’s money to build his R 246-million home, while millions of South Africans go to bed hungry every night. And, yes, I can say that. Because the Constitutional Court says I can,” he added.

ANC MPs disagreed. They demanded Maimane withdraw the reference to Zuma as a thief.

This prompted a debate within a debate on whether it was parliamentary for Maimane to refer to the president as a thief. In the end, Maimane withdrew the word “thief”.

The ANC sent members of the executive to defend Zuma. Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and deputy ministers Sindi Chikunga of transport and justice and constitutional development’s John Jeffery were behind Zuma.

In his speech, Radebe dismissed the motion “as a desperate attempt by a party that has nothing to offer this country and the few areas it governs”.

He argued that it was not correct to attribute the economic challenges of the globe to Zuma while the facts were that the 2007-2008 economic crisis was one of the worst since the great depression of the late 1920s and South Africa did not escape its devastating impact.

“To claim some form of exceptionalism from the economic realities of the globe is wrong and short-sighted,” said Radebe.

He said that the charge by the official opposition that “unemployment has escalated to unprecedented levels” was equally flawed.

While jobs were lost during the crisis, in 2014 South Africa had actually managed to employ even more people than were employed in the years when jobs were lost, implying that there was recovery, he added.

Radebe said there was no denying the disappointing levels of employment growth throughout the country: “We have consistently identified unemployment to be one of the recurring triple challenges of our democratic state.

“The point we are making is that the official opposition is no shining example of growing the economy and reducing unemployment in the areas it leads. It is a common challenge that we should all work collaboratively to reverse,” he added.

Radebe warned the opposition, saying it could not keep on doing the same thing the same way, thinking it will have different results.

“At the end of this debate there will have been much noise generated, but when we wake up tomorrow, sure as the sun will rise in the east, President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma will still be president of South Africa. I just wish members of the opposition could learn to live with this fact.”

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