President Jacob Zuma admonished opposition MPs and the manner in which they played their role as opposition to the ANC in Parliament.
He said they needed to be constructive, because their role would not be taken seriously if they were not.
“If you are not serious, we are not going to take you serious and we are not going to even listen to what you say,” he advised the booing MPs.
He said the opposition parties suffered from “poverty of politics” because they seemed obsessed with discussing a house of one man instead of discussing issues of national importance.
This was in reference to the continuous criticism by opposition of his role in the expenditure of almost a quarter of a billion rand on upgrading his private homestead in Nkandla.
“You can’t sit here and discuss the house of one man. Just a house,” said Zuma to loud applause from the ANC benches.
Zuma spent about five minutes mocking opposition MPs, who frequently raised questions about his Nkandla home.
“You know some people who could not pronounce Nkandla have now learnt: Nkandla, Nkandla, Nkandla,” he said mimicking a fake English accent.
“Even if you tell them that the Nkandla report is being processed, it is going to come … I mean three investigations have been made, [but they still say] Nkandla.”
“Even if you are discussing very serious matters, they stand up, point of order – Nkandla!”
Zuma said this was part of the problem and it emphasised the poverty of politics in the opposition parties.
He said this was also part of the reason he could not respond to their contributions in the debate, saying he only dealt with “very meaningful contributions”.
Zuma said he would be failing in his duty if he did not comment on how the democratic Parliament was conducting its business during this term.
He said MPs should appreciate their responsibility, as elected leaders, to build the country.
“Let me reiterate that Parliament is an important pillar of our democracy. Members of Parliament must demonstrate that they take Parliament seriously, so that our people can continue to look up to this institution.”
Zuma said MPs sometimes behaved in a manner that undermined the intelligence of the voters leaving them asking as to why they elected those people to represent them.
“I wish that one day I could be given, just one day be made a presiding officer. But of course, it can’t happen,” he added.
Zuma also sought to explain the delay in releasing the Marikana report. He said the opposition MPs who called on him to release the report during the Presidency debate on Tuesday proved once again that they had no substantial political issues to raise in Parliament.
“That’s the problem, anything that comes, they jump on to it, and it becomes a slogan.”
The EFF held a silent protest during yesterday’s debate, with its MPs holding up placards with the words: “Release Marikana report.”
Zuma said, like all other reports, he had to look at the Marikana report and apply his mind, and look at the advice of those who were professionals and understood the law especially in relation to the recommendations.
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane criticised Zuma’s speech saying it showed a poor grasp of the seriousness of the crises and issues that face South Africa and its people.
“From the energy crisis that promises three more years of load-shedding and job-shedding; to the economy, which has shed 2 million jobs and raised unemployment to 36,1% since President Zuma was elected to office.”
Maimane said while Zuma continued to joke, more South Africans were falling into the clutches of poverty and society was becoming more unequal.
“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,” he added.