Greetings: President Jacob Zuma greets MP's and ministers before the debate on his state of the nation address. Picture:  ESA ALEXANDER/THE TIMES
Greetings: President Jacob Zuma greets MP's and ministers before the debate on his state of the nation address. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/THE TIMES

President Jacob Zuma hit out at opposition MPs for “traumatising” the nation and treating Parliament like a beer hall during their disruption of his state of the nation address last week.

Responding to the debate on the state of the nation address on Thursday, Zuma referred to last week’s pandemonium in Parliament and appealed to MPs to use “democratic mechanisms” instead of “using chaos”.

Last Thursday, he was subjected to a barrage of insults and attacks by opposition parties, particularly the EFF, which delayed his speech for more than an hour, labelling him illegitimate and a thief who had broken his oath of office.

“Some MPs have decided to treat this house like something worse than a beer hall. The conduct we saw here traumatised millions ... including a 12-year-old imbongi [praise singer],” said Zuma, amid heckling by some in the opposition. DA MPs were heard shouting “like you treat the Constitution” after Zuma said some members treated Parliament like a beer hall.

In his response to the state of the nation debate, Zuma spoke at great length about “radical economic transformation”, including the land reform issue.

Tackling land reform did not mean the government was racist, he said, but was indicative of its desire to work for a “peaceful future”. He warned that the issue could explode if the government did not attend to it urgently.

“We will do all we can … we will not act like other parts of the world … it will be done within the parameters of the law,” the president said.

The government has been hard-pressed to complete the land reform programme amid concerns by some farmer organisations and opposition parties that it could resort to “Zimbabwe-style land grabs”.

In 2016, Parliament passed the Expropriation Bill, paving the way for the government to pay for land at a value determined by the valuer-general. The bill also allows for expropriation of land for the “public interest”, ending the willing-buyer, willing-seller approach to land reform.

Zuma said: “I do not think it helps to jump into phrases that if somebody talks about land, then it’s hating the whites.

“We are not even talking about the history. Many of the people did not buy the land and we do not talk about that.....

“If we were driven by hatred, we would be saying this is what happened. There is no hatred.

“Some of us come from organisations where we have been taught not to be racist … but we all need space to live together … to be able to feel that we are all citizens.”

Earlier this week, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said in Parliament that a single law should be developed to deal with land restitution without compensation. The government needed to undertake a precolonial audit of land ownership, use and occupation.

“The necessary constitutional amendments should be undertaken to effect this process.”

Zuma said one of the reasons the land-reform project had been tardy was that the government had chosen to use the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle, which in many cases resulted in having to pay large sums of money for land.

On the financial services sector Zuma said the government was looking forward to working towards diversification and transformation of the sector so that new players could enter the market as part of radical transformation.

 

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