SONA: Opposition unimpressed

Opposition parties criticised the SONA, saying it relied on the success of previous presidents.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille arrives in Parliament for the State of the Nation Address on Thursday. Picture: Siyabonga Sesant/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Opposition parties have criticised the president's State of the Nation Address (SONA) for missing the real issues and relying too much on the successes of previous presidents.

African National Congress (ANC) Members of Parliament (MPs) rose to their feet in applause in Parliament on Thursday evening after President Jacob Zuma concluded his synopsis of how the country was faring, while opposition MPs sat on the benches in silence.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko says the president failed to address, what she calls, the country's real issues.

"Why is our education system in shambles?"

DA leader Helen Zille says Zuma shouldn't have focused on the past as much as he did.

"That is a good story that should be told by former President Mbeki, not President Zuma - it isn't his story to tell. South Africa has gone back under Zuma's leadership."

Congress of the People (Cope) Leader Mosiuoa Lekota was scathing in his criticism.

"He hasn't accounted for Nkandla. He didn't say anything to us about what he did with public money and Nkandla."

"This was not a time for the president to be making any promises. This was a time for the president to report on what we've done over the past five years."

He says after the elections, the president's second SONA will spell out the way forward.

"I wish my father had at least seen us gather for the first assembly in 1994 but he knew it was on its way."

Meanwhile, Planning Minister Trevor Manuel was asked if he was going to be back in Parliament and cabinet for the next SONA after the elections.

"I have done 23 years, that's almost as many years as Mandela did in prison - it's a long time. I would like the ANC to make an announcement about my future."

EDUCATION

Zuma praised the country's grade 12s and teachers for the increase in last year's matric pass rate.

He said teacher training colleges would be reopened to meet the demand for educators, and more schools were being built.

"We have delivered 370 new schools, replacing other unsuitable structures around the country."

He added there was a good story to tell in the country's higher education sector.

"Student enrollment at universities has increased by 12 percent, while further education and training college enrolments have increased by 90 percent."

VIOLENCE

Zuma came down hard on service delivery protesters who resorted to violence and destroyed government property.

He also warned police to act within the ambit of the law at all times.

Zuma said any loss of life was serious.

"Also worrying, is what appears to be premeditated violence, as is the case with the use of petrol bombs and other weapons during protests."

For the president's full speech, click here.