While President Jacob Zuma started to say the right things in his reply to the State of the Nation Address (Sona) debate yesterday, analysts agree that it was too little, too late to salvage his credibility.
According to political analyst Andre Duvenhage, Zuma’s apparent appeal for respect in parliament was a successful attempt to define a high moral ground.
Zuma came under severe criticism during this week’s Sona debate, particularly from the DA and EFF, who labeled him an “illegitimate president”.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Zuma had distanced himself from the country, and was residing in a place called “Planet Zuma”, while the EFF’s Julius Malema spoke of the president’s previous public controversies.
Asked if Zuma’s approach in responding to his critics would help his image, Duvenhage said: “This drop won’t fill the ocean, because too much damage has already been done to his image.”
According to Duvenhage, it appears the president no longer has executive powers, as his ruling party is now in full control, most likely from Luthuli House.
However, he believed Zuma should be supported in his plea to MPs to behave in parliament.
“Everyone needs to respect the rules of parliament,” he added.
Fellow analyst Elvis Masoga echoed Duvenhage’s sentiments, stressing that it is critically important for every leader of society, including MPs, to conduct themselves in a manner that upholds dignity and respect.
“Yes, we are aware that the president is failing the country in light of his leadership, but that should not become a licence to any MP to hurl personal insults at him, as he is still the president.
“While the country is trying to deal with the president’s leadership blunders, instead of holding him to account in a respectful manner, MPs are turning the nation into a disgrace,” said Masoga.
In his plea, Zuma said being in parliament was not a means to satisfy one’s own feelings, but to represent the electorate.
“Some of us feel really bad when we see the manner in which we portray ourselves. I think we should change, we are not doing good to the people who sent us here,” said Zuma.
“It’s a matter I believe we need to be united on, then we will have time to agree and to disagree on different issues.
“Let us disagree with respect… it is a plea I am making,” he said.
Zuma said when the EFF left, and his party’s MPs continued disruptions, he became worried.
“We can’t call ourselves honourable while behaving dishonourably… I’m talking to all members of parliament,” he said.