Zuma acknowledges Malema

FILE PICTURE: President Jacob Zuma. (Photo: DoC)

President Jacob Zuma on Thursday urged the parliamentary opposition to remain “cool”, but extended an olive branch to the EFF in the form of a rare compliment to its leader Julius Malema.

“What(ever) our views are about one another or political parties that we represent, we need to preserve the dignity of Parliament,” he said in his response to the debate on his state-of-the-nation address.

“Among ourselves, even if we differ, I see no reason why we should get angry. What for? This is not war.

“Once you are angry the capacity to think gets affected. I always believe you must always remain cool and calm.”

When he responded to points raised by MPs during the debate, Zuma said Malema had done well by raising his concerns about temporary workers.

“I must also commend Honourable Malema for really dealing with the state-of-the-nation address. Because he did just what is wanted, our debate, our views in this democracy, to be expressed here properly and with respect.”

In contrast, Zuma appeared to be admonishing Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane when he urged the opposition to “play the ball and not the man”.

Maimane had in his speech told Zuma he was “not an honourable man” and had “broken” the country by allowing riot police to be sent into the National Assembly to forcibly remove the EFF. This was after Malema repeatedly said the president had a duty to say when he would repay money misspent on his Nkandla home.

Malema on Tuesday said he would again press the issue on March 11, when Zuma is due to answer questions in the National Assembly.

Zuma stressed the ANC was not easily slighted and did not bother to respond to insults if they were devoid of truth.

“The insults that were thrown at us today were thrown all the time. And I will deal with the matter when I answer questions next week.”

Last Thursday, Zuma resumed his speech with a chuckle after the EFF were dragged out and made no mention of the violence that had played out in the House. He was widely criticised for this.

A week later, he did not comment on the public debate on whether police should be allowed to enter the Chamber unless lives were at risk.

However he did mention the blocking of cellphone reception in and around the National Assembly before his address, which has sparked a legal challenge from media houses, who want assurances it will not happen again.

“We also have a responsibility to promote the Constitution which is the blood and soul of our democracy,” he said.

“I therefore would like to reaffirm government’s commitment to Clause 16 of the Constitution which includes freedoms of association, expression and the media.

“The security cluster has addressed and clarified matters relating to the signal distribution interference in the House last Thursday. It is an unfortunate incident and it should never happen again.”

State Security Minister David Mahlobo on Wednesday said the signal jamming had been unintended and was due to “human error”.

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