Zuma brings Parliament's temperature down

President Jacob Zuma turned up the charm, extending an olive branch to some of his harshest detractors.

FILE: A screen grab of President Jacob Zuma laughs in Parliament as leader of DA Parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane, addresses the house during the State of the Nation Address debate in Cape Town on 17 February 2015. Picture: YouTube.

CAPE TOWN - President Jacob Zuma has called for cool heads in Parliament and says despite the challenges, South Africa's getting many things right.

Replying to the vicious debate on his State of the Nation Address (Sona), Zuma turned up the charm, extending an olive branch to some of his harshest detractors.

During his Sona speech, Economic Freedom Fighters were forcibly removed from the National Assembly while the Democratic Alliance (DA), United Democratic Movement and the Congress of the People staged a walk out.

Zuma acknowledged the country's many challenges and stressed the need to work together to address them.

He even offered an olive branch to the EFF.

"I commend honourable Malema for really dealing with Sona as he did."

A video posted by Eyewitness News (@ewnupdates) on

Video: Zuma asks for Parly respect.

The president took the high road, his speech geared to bring the temperature down at Parliament and ease misgivings about the path the country's on.

"We're not fighting, democracy says be free to express your views and allow others to express their views as well."

He also said it was everyone's responsibility to make Parliament work.

"I see no reason for us to get angry. What for? This is not war."

Zuma acknowledged the energy crisis as more than a mere inconvenience but insisted the government was on track to deal with it and other blocks to economic growth.

"Let's work together to build our country and leave finger pointing aside."

He pointedly ignored the DA's Mmusi Maimane, who'd labelled him a 'broken man' bent on breaking the democratic order, but reached out to other opposition leaders, including Julius Malema.

Meanwhile, Zuma also reassured South Africans that the country was in good hands.

He acknowledged the current challenges but said its democracy and its institutions were strong and that South Africa was getting many things right.

"Improvements must be made in various areas within the public service."

The president also condemned attacks on foreigners and reiterated that Jan van Riebeeck would always be a historical fact, but insisted South Africa was a rainbow nation for all.

Video: Zuma on van Riebeeck.

ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION

Zuma says the economy remains untransformed and this is why the country is still grappling with poverty, inequality and unemployment.

He told MPs that the government's plans for change include industrialising the economy, boosting agriculture and manufacturing and adding value to the country's mineral wealth.

Zuma says this will open up the economy to more people and create jobs.

The president focused on the need to move faster to towards meaningful economic emancipation for the majority of South Africans.

Changes to broad based black economic empowerment legislation became law last year.

"Regulations to the act are being finalised."

Zuma says work on dismantling cartels and monopolies continue.

"Economic transformation to unlock growth also means improving the support to small enterprises especially township and rural enterprises which will promote economic opportunities at the local level."

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene will deliver his budget on Wednesday.