But their exclusion didn’t save Zuma from harsh criticism, with opposition MPs who were there labelling him an “enemy of the people” and accusing him of selling the country to foreign agents.
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe opened the debate, declaring that last week’s “mayhem” in the National Assembly ahead of the State of the Nation speech was “highly regrettable”.
Turning to the contents of the president’s address, Radebe said the country’s economy was underpinned by the National Development Plan “as a bedrock for building a better and more prosperous South Africa by 2030”.
“It was in view of the slow pace of transformation and the lack of inclusivity in the economy that the president introduced radical socioeconomic transformation,” he said.
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Radebe was followed by DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who wasted no time accusing Zuma of building “his house as a monument of corruption” on the backs of the poor.
“The president is selling our country to foreign agents. We will never forget how he laughed at the violence visited upon members of this house. It was the laugh of an enemy of the people.
“When the president stood on this podium to talk of radical socio-economic transformation he wasn’t talking about saving this lost generation. Don’t be fooled by the language in President Zuma’s speech.
“His project, and that of the ANC, is the accumulation of personal wealth,” said Maimane.
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He said the government had turned against the people of South Africa.
“The ANC has stopped caring about ordinary South Africans. The ANC has turned from liberator of the people to the enemy of the people,” said Maimane.
On Zuma’s national address, Maimane said that when the president spoke about accelerating land reform, “what he really means is more dodgy deals for ANC cronies”.
IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi also had a go at the ruling party and its recent focus on “white monopoly capital”.
“White monopoly capital is now the only scapegoat for failed leadership on economic policy,” said Buthelezi.