News / South Africa

African News Agency
3 minute read
10 Feb 2017
8:08 am

EFF beats Zuma at the populist game

African News Agency

His speech was criticised by academic and analyst Richard Calland as a stab at populism that lacked concrete measures to achieve what he promised.

Populism was at the core of President Jacob Zuma’s tenth state of the nation address on Thursday night but the Economic Freedom Fighters proved better at it with a protest that commanded the stage and left it broken by violence as security forces stepped in.

EFF leader Julius Malema and the rest of his party were wrestled to the ground and bashed into benches after they prevented Zuma from speaking for more than an hour, leaving the Democratic Alliance to walk out in protest and announce that they would go to court on Friday over the deployment to military and riot police at Parliament.

As EFF MP Fana Mokoena wiped blood from his face outside the Marx Building and DA chief whip John Steenhuisen – who was sworn at inside the chamber by Free State Premier Ace Magashule – said South Africa had become a police state, Zuma spoke at last and promised “radical economic transformation” as an answer to inequality and poverty.

“We mean fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female, as defined by the governing party which makes policy for the democratic government,” Zuma said.

“Twenty-two years into our freedom and democracy, the majority of black people are still economically disempowered… The skewed nature of ownership and leadership patterns needs to be corrected. There can be no sustainability in any economy if the majority is excluded in this manner.”

READ MORE: WATCH: The moment Malema and EFF members were thrown out of parly

He said the business community had accepted that transformation was imperative and the government would therefore start a new chapter to implement it with practical programmes, using legislation, budget and licencing decisions and additional BBBE charters. The state would also push ahead with establishing its own mining company.

“The state will play a role in the economy to drive that transformation… Government will utilise to the maximum, the strategic levers that are available to the state.”

Zuma said the state would take aim at the problem of economic concentration, where a small grouping controls most of a market.

The president also vowed to step up reform, saying without it there would be no social harmony, and implored beneficiaries not to accept financial pay-outs but to return to the land.

To spur job-creating growth, he said, the government would focus in particular on four aspects of the Nine Point plan he announced last year.

“The focus areas include industrialisation, mining and beneficiation, Agriculture and agro Processing, energy, SMMEs, managing work place conflict, attracting investments, growing the oceans economy and tourism.”

His speech was criticised by academic and analyst Richard Calland as a stab at populism that lacked concrete measures to achieve what he promised. It was, he suggested, indicative of the lack of political clarity in ruling party beset by infighting.

Zuma went from Parliament to the Grand Parade to greet where, in an unusual step, the party had gathered thousands of supporters, and invoked the legacy of late former ANC president Oliver Tambo, as he had done earlier in the National Assembly.

He heaped scorn on the EFF, who had heckled him relentlessly for an hour.

“Mr Zuma has collapsed his own right to address us here,” Malema sneared.

Addressing the president directly, he said: “Your problem is not outside. Your problem is in here.”

At this he was ordered out of the House by Speaker Baleka Mbete, only for EFF MP Mbuyseni Ndlozi to demand Zuma be made to leave for being “a constitutional delinquent”. About two minutes later Ndlozi was brought down by four men in white shirts.

Dozens of riot police surrounded Malema as he spoke to the media outside Parliament after the fracas, and at a distance DA MP Gavin Davis said he was sickened by the sight of security men kicking female MPs.

“This is a political battle. We will fight it on the ground. No, we will not be going to court,” Malema said.

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