President Jacob Zuma on Thursday called on political parties to conduct themselves with more respect in Parliament and to stop insulting each other and the presiding officers.
Responding to the two-day debate on his State of the Nation Address – both marred by name-calling and walk-outs – he said this was giving South Africans and the rest of the continent a bad impression.
“I think we are not doing good for voters, the people who took the decision to send us here. What it is that they learn from us,” he said.
He said when MPs rose and spoke without being recognised, they were continuously insulting presiding officers and implored them to respect the rights of other members of the legislature while exercising their own.
“Then we will have time to agree and disagree. If this Parliament could be united on that one, I would be very happy. Let us disagree with respect. It is a plea I am making,” he added.
Zuma said he approved when, during the state of the nation address, opposition leader Mmusi Maimane distanced himself from the disruptive conduct of the Economic Freedom Fighters. The EFF had interrupted proceedings with cries of “Zupta Must Fall” and were ordered out of the chamber.
“I supported you, Sir, because I thought you were making a good point,” Zuma said, but went on to add that he was disappointed that shortly afterwards members of Maimane’s Democratic Alliance had behaved in a manner that seemed to approach that of the EFF.
“When the EFF had left and your part was also doing the same I got worried,” he said with a smile.
“I believe when we say ‘honourable members’, we mean it and people must understand the word to be really serious, we cannot call ourselves honourable and behave in a dishonourable manner. It is not helping the image of the country.”
Zuma stressed that he was not singling out the opposition.
“I am talking to all members of parliament, referring to everyone. It is a serious point.”
As Speaker Baleka Mbete moved to close the sitting after Zuma concluded his speech, the United Democratic Movement’s Nqabayomzi Kwanka said the comments from young people on social media on the state of the nation address suggested that they had remembered the insults and not the substance of what the president said.
He said there was a risk therefore that MPs were, by bad example, creating a culture of intolerance that would lead to instability.
“My concern and our concern as a party is that we are inculcating a culture of intolerance which at some point is going to lead to political instability,” Kwankwa said .
“We have to exercise better leadership. We have to try and change our ways of behaving in the House because we’ve clearly taken a wrong turn. My words…are not in judgment of your actions. They serve just as a mere caution. We have to change course before it’s too late because we all have a responsibility to build a South Africa in which all of us look forward to a sunrise of our tomorrow.”
Mbete thanked him for his remarks.
“In particular, I appreciate the fact that you yourself are a young person, but a young person that has taken responsibility and is prepared to stick his neck out for South Africa.”[Source: iol]