Speaking during debate on Zuma’s state-of-the-nation address, the Inkatha Freedom Party stalwart said Zuma and his administration had reversed the gains made by former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela.
“Considering this last quarter of our democratic era, one blatant truth demands to be spoken: Mr President, under your watch, this government has failed South Africa,” Buthelezi said.
“Twenty years ago, words like ‘rainbow nation’, ‘miracle transition’, ‘freedom’, and ‘reconciliation’ filled the public discourse. Under your leadership, Mr President, those words have become ‘Marikana’, ‘scandal’, ‘protest’, and ‘corruption’.”
Some MPs in ANC benches heckled Buthelezi, while Zuma and some of his Cabinet ministers sat chuckling in their seats.
Buthelezi quoted both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on their warnings that people should criticise the “oppressed” if they became the “oppressors”.
“It is painful, but I cannot stand in this House in good conscience and say that today’s ANC is the ANC in which I cut my political teeth. It is not the same creature. It is hideously transformed,” Buthelezi said.
Buthelezi said empty promises were fuelling the frustrations of many South Africans who were taking to the streets and engaging in violence to air their grievances.
Zuma’s promise of six million jobs was strongly criticised.
“Strong nations are not built on promises. They are built on truth and honest leadership. Can we not hear the cry of our people as they burn tyres, throw bricks, and lose their lives to protest against government?” Buthelezi asked.
The veteran politician singled out the National Development Plan as having the potential to be the greatest legacy of Zuma’s presidency, but questioned whether it would be implemented given Cosatu’s opposition.
“From experience we know that when one of the tripartite allies sneezes, the ruling party catches a cold.”
Buthelezi compared himself to revered liberation struggle heroes including Mandela, Steve Biko and Oliver Tambo, earning him some disapproving noises from ruling party benches.
Election day, he said, would be an acid test for the country.
“On the 7th of May, South Africa will visit the trauma unit. Whether we emerge healed, or dying, is up to the electorate.”