The much-awaited SONA debate finally came and like expected President Zuma was slammed front and back, left and right. The Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane really poured verbal acid on Zuma. He blamed him for exonerating himself from the plight of South Africans – which ranges from poverty to unemployment and so forth.
He also accused President Zuma of being “tucked safely away, somewhere on “Planet Zuma” last week while stun grenades were being used to chase away protesters at SONA.
Maimane, who took time to fully address challenges faced in the country, did not spare Zuma. He judiciously took time and whipped Zuma’s past actions. He said,
“Planet Zuma is somewhere in a parallel universe – faraway from reality.”
“It’s a place where swimming pool can be called a fire pool.”
“It’s a place where all the continents of the world can fit into Africa.”
“It’s a place where the finance minister flies economy class but the president buys himself a private jet.”
“Planet Zuma is a place where a President can replace an excellent Finance Minister with a backbencher that nobody has ever heard of.”
“It is a place where an international fugitive wanted for genocide is welcomed and given refuge‚” he added.
“Planet Zuma” was a place where young people who stood up for their right to learn were dismissed as part of a “third force” and charged with treason.”
“It is a place where mine workers can be massacred by the police‚ without apology and without compensation for their families.
“Planet Zuma is where our President lives‚ in a galaxy far‚ far away from the lives of ordinary South Africans‚” Maimane reiterated.
Maimane punched harder as he reminded the audience why salient issues were not addressed by President Zuma when he delivered his speech at SONA. He said the reason was because President Zuma lives in “planet Zuma” where there are no job crisis.
He stormed further: “This is why‚ in the President’s speech‚ we didn’t hear anything about the 8.3 million South Africans who are jobless.
“On Planet Zuma‚ all children have access to a quality education. This must be why the President didn’t mention basic education once.”
“On Planet Zuma‚ our state owned enterprises are‚ in the words of the President‚ ‘performing well’”.
“And‚ on Planet Zuma‚ every problem can be solved by setting up a Committee‚ a Task Team or a Commission of Inquiry‚” Maimane stated.
“Let me be clear: we came to listen to the President out of respect for the Constitution and the office he holds. But we did not come out of respect for Jacob Zuma.”
“We cannot respect a man who puts himself and his rich friends first while the people of this country suffer.”
“We cannot respect the man personally responsible for the building of Nkandla and the firing of Nhlanhla.
“Madam Speaker‚ Jacob Zuma is not an honourable man. Because‚ if he was an honourable man‚ he would do the honourable thing and resign.”
“Madam Speaker, the president lived up to our expectations on Thursday. We expected to hear the empty words of a man out of touch with the people. And that is exactly what we got.”
Maimane further argued that whatever amount Zuma would pay can never measure up to the suffering of the people. “Now that you’ve been exposed by the highest court, whatever the amount you will pay for the upgrades will be nothing compared to what the people of this country have paid for your presidency,” said Maimane.
Touching Nkandla’s case, Maimane taunted President Zuma and said, “After all those years of stalling, lying, ducking and diving, it took the Court just hours to unravel your web of defiance and deceit.”
Countering Maimane’s views, ANC Deputy Chief Whip Doris Dlakude objected that Maimane shouldn’t be allowed to import court matters into the debate. The speaker, Mbete also told him to refrain from mentioning a case that has not been adjudicated.
Maimane was interrupted by Speaker Mbete, who urged him to mind his words. He [Maimane] replied that it would not be easy to do so. Instead, he unleashed verbal mayhem on the ruling party. He said:
“Planet Zuma’s gravitational pull is so strong that the entire ANC has been sucked into its orbit.”
“The party that was once the defender of freedom, has now become the defender of just one man.”
“Every member on this side knows the damage that this man is doing to this country and their party. But not one of you, not one of you, has the guts to speak up about what has happened.
“You should be ashamed,” he said.
However, Maimane boasted after outlining DA’s plans: “When we deliver our inaugural State of the Nation Address, it will sound very different to yours. We will announce a number of measures to escape our people out of poverty.”
He concluded his lengthy speech, with a clapping and standing ovation from the mammoth crowd. “We need a President who puts the people first, and himself last. You [Zuma], sir, are not that President,” Maimane thundered.