President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday heavily criticised opposition MPs, accusing them of being unpatriotic and of being in a state of denial over the amount of damage apartheid had done to South Africa.
Replying to the debate on his budget vote on Wednesday, Mr Zuma retreated into blaming apartheid for the crises in education and at Eskom, and chastised MPs for talking down the country at a time when it was “doing well”.
He said many opposition MPs had finally learnt how to pronounce Nkandla and now could talk about little else.
During the debate, opposition MPs took issue with Mr Zuma’s contention that the country was on an upward path.
“Some of the honourable members on the opposition benches need to accept the fact that reversing the legacy of apartheid will take decades. The damage was extensive. The structure of the apartheid economy will also take longer to transform. We will continue to work steadily towards this goal, so that we build an inclusive economy that will create jobs and help us build a better life for our people.”
Mr Zuma also criticised Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane, albeit without naming him, saying that he had nothing to offer but the refrain — uttered earlier this year — that he was a broken president presiding over a broken country. He also turned to the matter of the recent behaviour of MPs which has seen presidential question time disrupted, MPs being dragged from the house for poor decorum, and filibustering.
“I will be failing in my duty if I do not comment on how our democratic Parliament is conducting its business during this term. As elected leaders of our people in Parliament, we have a joint responsibility to build our country. The conduct of some (members) raises doubt about their commitment to the work of Parliament.” He had hoped matters of decorum would be taken seriously so South Africans were not disappointed.
Zuma took issue with DA MP Michael Cardo, who accused him of conducting an imperial presidency and of shoring up his position with dubious appointments to high office.
“Honourable Cardo, I would caution against problematising all professionals who are appointed to senior positions. Your stereotyping of all appointees as being cronies and pliable is unfortunate and uncalled for.”
Most of the senior appointments in state and public institutions, he said, were doing a hard and thankless task in which they were attacked every day for doing their jobs. “We should be cautious about stereotyping and stigmatisation of black professionals, as it works against the nonracial society we are working so hard to build.”