President Zuma has reassured the nation that he is not a racist and has also commended his biggest critic, Julius Malema while admonishing opposition parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane in parliament on Thursday in his response to the debate on his State of the Nation Address.
Jacob Zuma was responding to the debate that has surrounded his dramatic SONA presented last Thursday in the National Assembly where the members of the opposition, the Economic Freedom Fighters were thrown out of the Chamber for insisting on disrupting the President’s speech by asking when and how he intended to pay the more than a quarter of a billion rand that was spent on the renovation of his Nkandla home in KwaZulu-Natal. Speaker of parliament, Baleka Mbete, sitting with the Chairperson of the Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise called in the security of parliament to remove the EFF members physically, leading to a number of aches and bruises. When quizzed a few minutes later about the identity of the personnel who had come into parliament to remove the EFF members, Modise confirmed that some of them had been members of the security forces. The opposition Democratic Alliance then walked out in protest of the entry of members of the security forces being brought into parliament.
In the aftermath of the President’s speech, many issues have emerged in the debate about the speech including claims that he made at an ANC rally that the problem of the country started with the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck, who is regarded as the father of the Afrikaans people in South Africa. This comment raised the ire of this minority group and was also raised in the debate following the state of the nation address. In response to these comments, Zuma argued that he was not a racist and that the Afrikaans people are welcome to live in South Africa. Moving away from his traditional prepared speech, Zuma said, addressing those that were in the gallery more than his fellow MPs, “We are a rainbow nation. Nobody will chase you away. There should be no fear.” This appears to have been a good move as it won him applause from his audience.
Turning to the troubling jamming of the cellphone signal prior to the presentation of his SONA, Zuma said that it was an unfortunate incident that should not be allowed to happen again. Many media houses had taken the matter up with the court, seeking clarification and assurance that it would not happen again.
Zuma extended an olive branch to, arguably, his biggest critic, Julius Malema when he commended the junior politician for raising concern about temporary workers. Part of his response read, “I must also commend Honourable Malema for really dealing with the State of the Nation Address. Because he did just what is wanted, our debate, our views in this democracy to be expressed here properly and with respect.” He went on to castigate the leader of the other significant opposition, Mmusi Maimane, who had called Zuma a broken man who presided over a broken country. Zuma accused Maimane of “playing the man and not the ball.”