‘Opposition members are doing SA a disservice by misbehaving’

The president called for a change in behaviour, saying MPs need to be united.

A screen grab of President Jacob Zuma addressing parliament on 18 February 2016 during his reply to the State of the Nation debate. Picture: YouTube.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has hit back at opposition parties, saying they are doing South Africans a disservice by not conducting themselves in an appropriate way.

Zuma earlier addressed the National Assembly following the debate on his State of the Nation Address (Sona).

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which disrupted the address last week, was absent from the house this afternoon.

The president called for a change in behaviour in the National Assembly saying Members of Parliament (MPs) need to be united on this.

"If you do so it is an indirect undermining of honourable members. When you exercise your right, don't undermine the right of the next person."

Zuma says the country is watching.

"I think we are not doing good for our voters as people who took the decision to send us here."

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Apart from this, the economy, crime, education, wasteful expenditure and land are some of the issues that formed the centre of President Zuma's response to the debate on his Sona.

Zuma also referred to racism being the enemy of the nation.

"Nation building is as important to our country as economic renewal. We must heal the scars of apartheid."

He says the country needs to be united in stopping racism.

"Racism is an enemy of humanity if there is anything that this country must agree on, it is the fight against racism."

He says new units are being created to deal with crime and there will be an emphasis on certain areas.

"The two units are the South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau and the National Bureau for Illegal Firearms Control and Priority Violent Crime."

He says drugs need to be dealt with.

"As part of the back-to-basics strategy, the ministry of police will establish special units to deal with drugs and related transgression."

Referring to the foreign ownership of agricultural land, Zuma said foreigners could only lease land.

"They can only lease the land. The Bill will be presented to Cabinet this year."

President Zuma also responded to the UDM's call for an 'economic CODESA' by saying he is not sure what it would achieve as political parties have different economic policies.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa has called for an indaba to review the state of the economy, similar to the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa.

Zuma shared his views on whether South Africa would benefit from the economic indaba.

"I can tell you we will argue from the time we start to the end without an agreement. Because each party will put its policy [forward] and if you said we'll not solve that problem with consensus and [if] you say we'll have to see what the majority says there, now all ANC policies will be passed."

Zuma told a joint sitting of Parliament that avoiding another sovereign downgrade is high on government's agenda.

He says he met with CEO's of companies to discuss their concerns and plans to meet them again to take stock.

The president also mentioned that meeting with labour was also on the agenda.


Zuma also called on MPs from all parties to respect the speaker and bring order to the National Assembly.

He said the disorder of the past few months needed to come to an end.

"It's a matter I believe we need to be united on, then we'll have time to disagree and agree, but with respect."

Zuma even said he supported DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who had called for order.

"I'm talking to all members of Parliament. On this side, I merely zoomed in to an important point made by the honourable leader of the opposition that I supported."

The president spent the afternoon highlighting a number of points in his address including government's response to the global economic crisis.

He says special attention is being given to state-owned enterprises

"Improving the management and governance of the state-owned enterprises that are facing difficulties in appointing right people with the appropriate skills."

Zuma said South Africans must capitalise on positives in the economy.

"While the situation remains difficult, there are many positives in the economy for us to build on."