President Jacob Zuma has criticized the behaviour of the members in Parliament, following several days mudslinging between opposition parties in the house during a state of the nation debate.
Delivering his reply to the Sona debate, Zuma called for members to show better leadership to the country.
Zuma praised opposition leader Mmusi Maimane for his actions to call the house into order following disruptions by the Economic Freedom Fighters earlier in the week.
“I listened very carefully when the leader of the opposition, my honourable Maimane, when the EFF was disrupting. He stood twice to say that the millions in the country wanted to hear what is being said in this Parliament.
“All of us should always keep in mind that our being here is not to satisfy our own feelings, but it is to represent the people who elected us,” Zuma said.
“We are here on their behalf,” the president said.
He said the people listen to how members discussed their problems. He said that if MPs make it impossible for South Africans to listen in on Parliamentary debates, then it means that there is a problem with their understanding of democracy.
He said that people learned from the elected leaders about how they conduct themselves in dealing with such important business of the nation.
“Some of us feel very bad when we see the manner in which we portray ourselves…to the world,” Zuma said.
“I think we should change. I think we are not doing good for our voters, people who took the decision to send us here. What is it that they learn from us. I believe all of us sitting here, we know the rules, we know the laws.”
Zuma said that constant disruptions and disrespect in the house is an indirect undermining of honourable members. “Don’t undermine the right of the next person. It’s a matter I believe we need to be united on…Let us disagree with respect. It is a plea I am making,” the president said.
Having praised Maimane earlier, Zuma then raised the point that the DA had been close to expulsion from the house for behaving in a manner similar to the EFF – ‘not adhering to your good point’.
The president then joked that he was merely making that point so as to be discussed in the caucus, which attracted laughter from Maimane and other DA members.
“I believe when we say honourable members, we mean it,” the president said.
“We can’t call ourselves honourable, but behave dishonourably. It’s not helping the image of the country, it’s not teaching our people what democracy is all about. I am talking to all members of Parliament,” Zuma said.