Zuma sails through SONA reply

2016-02-18 17:25
(Jenni Evans, News24)

(Jenni Evans, News24)

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Parliament - President Jacob Zuma's highly anticipated reply to the State of the Nation address (SONA) debate lasted just over an hour, with no sign of the disruptions and heckling which characterised proceedings earlier this week.

The EFF, who have become synonymous with disrupting the president when he addresses the National Assembly, were missing from proceedings.

EFF leader Julius Malema addressed the debate on Tuesday, saying his party would not participate in a debate on an "illegitimate" president's SONA.

Malema delivered a scathing speech in which he listed a number of so-called errors in judgement made by Zuma in his role as president, and in his personal life.

The entire EFF caucus left the House after Malema's speech and have not returned since.

In his reply on Thursday, Zuma took the opportunity to chastise MPs, focusing more on the opposition and their behaviour in the House, saying they were damaging the image of the country.

Zuma said it was important for MPs to remember they were in Parliament to serve those who had voted for them.

"I think we should change. We are not doing any good for our voters. We have to think about the people who sent us here. What do they learn from us?," he asked.

Zuma said that by disrespecting presiding officers, members were disrespecting other MPs as well.

"I believe when we say 'honourable members' we mean it. We can’t call ourselves honourable, but behave dishonourably. It is not helping image of country."

Most of the president's reply focused on the economy and plans that the government had in place.

He assured South Africans that, this time around, the National Development Plan (NDP) would be implemented – some four years after it was initially introduced.

'Now is the time for us to unite'

Zuma emphasised that the implementation of the NDP remained the "cornerstone" of the economy.

The president further acknowledged that a possible ratings downgrade was a very real threat and that government should leave no stone unturned to prevent this from happening.

Zuma also touched on issues around education, the upsurge of racism in the past two months, the ongoing drought and poverty.

He said that with about 2.7 million households affected, the drought was a problem that needed everyone to work together.

Zuma called on South Africans to stop emphasising colour and stand up against racism.

He ended his address by asking everyone to stand together to make sure the country succeeds.

"South Africa, like many emerging markets, faces challenges. But we have time and again succeeded where others thought we would fail.

"Now is the time for us to unite and harness this power and provide leadership and direction to our people during this difficult time."

The country had a good plan and everyone needed to work together to make a visible difference, Zuma said.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  cape town  |  politics  |  state of the nation 2016  |  parliament 2016

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