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Fri Jul 29 06:08:43 CAT 2016

Dark clouds over JZ

Bianca Capazorio and Babalo Ndenze | 19 February, 2016 01:03
GRIM: President Jacob Zuma in the National Assembly after he responded to opposition parties following the State of the Nation address in Cape Town
Image by: ESA ALEXANDER

President Jacob Zuma has called for calm, and a united and constructive approach, but dark clouds loom over his leadership.

A motion of no confidence in Zuma will be debated in parliament next month. Also, there is a threat to call for his impeachment after his turnabout regarding the public protector's report about taxpayers' money spent on the upgrading of his private home in Nkandla.

Two weeks ago, Zuma finally agreed with the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to pay back some of the money.

The DA and Economic Freedom Fighters have also threatened to call for his impeachment.

Yesterday, a subdued Zuma appealed to all parties to work for the good of South Africa and handle their differences with respect.

His call came after two days of heckling during which MPs traded insults.

But yesterday the president sounded a conciliatory note aimed at calming the economic waters and urging MPs to just get along.

Unlike last year's State of the Nation debate, during which Zuma came out swinging in a fiery reply, this year the president went back to basics, focusing heavily on the economy and on education.

Outside parliament, however, eyebrows were raised when hundreds of metres of barbed wire were rolled out early yesterday, apparently in anticipation of the speech and potential marchers.

Police at the various entrances said the ring of barbed wire was a precautionary measure and that there were marches in the city.

The DA reacted by saying Zuma was turning parliament into "Pollsmoor prison" and that he had been in the House without incident for two previous days of debate.

Inside the National Assembly the speech, which lasted about an hour and 15 minutes, went off without any mudslinging, name calling and interruptions that have characterised the State of the Nation speech and subsequent debates.

EFF members were not in the House. Leader Julius Malema said in his speech on Tuesday they would not participate further in the debates. Zuma said that though the country faced tough hurdles in the global economic downturn, low commodity prices and the drought - which could cause major economic problems and job losses - South Africa had a lot to remain positive about.

South Africa faces a ratings downgrade to junk status, and the rand has yet to recover to levels seen before the firing of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.

"South Africa's positive attributes far outweigh the challenges and these challenges are being addressed through programmes and plans". Among the plans were the rollout of broadband, a focus on new industries such as the ocean economy and the black industrialists programme.

Zuma said education remained an "apex priority" as the only way to "ensure a bright future".

He also announced plans for specialised drug and illegal weapons units to fall under the Hawks, as well as plans to scrap all advertising of government tenders in newspapers, saying they would be advertised in a central hub.

And while Zuma completely ignored the leader of the opposition Mmusi Maimane in his speech last year, he applauded him for his attempts to restore calm during last week's State of the National address and pleaded with all parties to debate with dignity.

Zuma said he had agreed with Maimane, who had stood up twice while EFF members were disrupting proceedings to say that South Africans were being robbed of the chance to hear the speech, "because he made a good point".

He said South Africans looked to those in parliament to solve their problems but said there was something wrong if "it is us that make it impossible for them to listen".

He called on all members to "disagree with respect".

After Zuma's speech, the UDM's Nqabayomzi Kwankwa rose to say the youth watching the debates "remember the insults and not the substance of the speeches" and called on all MPs to debate with respect.

The DA announced it would go with a motion of no confidence debate in the president on March 1.

It requested the debate last year after the firing of Nene.

Maimane said Zuma continued to make promises without any delivery to the electorate.

"The [Zuma] speech contained many lofty commitments to do things differently. The 8.3 million jobless South Africans have heard such commitments many times before. Each time their hopes are disappointed by the ANC and the president's failure to match words with action."

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