Madiba tributes dominate SONA debate

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cape Town - Parliamentarians have used their time during the debate on the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday to pay tribute to former President Nelson Mandela whose 20th anniversary of his release from prison was commemorated last week.

President Jacob Zuma, who delivered the annual SONA on Thursday, also dedicated the event to Madiba and the liberation movements that were unbanned by the apartheid government in 1990.

ANC parliamentary Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga on Monday urged members to respect Mandela's legacy by standing up for non-sexist, non-racial and selfless leadership - qualities that represent the 91-year-old statesman.

Motshekga said the ANC had been encouraged by Zuma's message of unity and "a year of action" saying it signaled a "caring government Madiba would have been proud of".

DA leader Athol Trollip committed his party, the official opposition, to the principles of unity, tolerance and non-racism - ideals he said symbolised Mandela.

"I am very honoured to be part of this debate which is part of paying tribute to utata uMadiba," said Trollip.

Trollip, called for performance targets to be set by government especially in education which he said was in shambles. "Political will and exemplary leadership in this regard would be definitive," he said.

The DA welcomed the announcement by Zuma that ministers will have to enter into a performance agreement with the President to ensure measurable outcomes for their portfolios.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Sports, Butana Komphela, said the "year of action", as referred to by Zuma, should start with South African rallying behind the FIFA World Cup kicking off in June.

Komphela said 2010 was a make-or-break year for South Africa as the world will be watching with keen interest as to what the country can produce.

A transparent and corruption-free public service is what the Congress of the People (Cope) would like to see Zuma focus his energy on.

Cope's parliamentary leader Reverend Mvume Dandala said in a year the country is celebrating Madiba's legacy, South Africans were calling for a "selfless, disciplined leadership because that's what Madiba stood for; he was an icon of world peace".

Earlier, IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi caused an uproar when he asked male members of parliament to rise as a "tribute to Dalibhunga (Mandela's clan name)". The tribute "aah Dalibhunga" is usually reserved for traditional leaders. Even Zuma and his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe had to stand up and shout "aah Dalibhunga".

Buthelezi said it was part of African culture that only men are allowed to give a traditional salute to a man like Mandela. Mandela is from a royal family.

However, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said excluding female MPs violated the promotion of gender equality which is enshrined in the Constitution.

"With all due respect to culture and tradition, I think it's very wrong for the honorable member in this House to ask only men to stand up," Pandor said.

Meanwhile, the time allocated to opposition parties for this year's SONA debate seemed to have been increased following a request by Zuma.

Motshekga, as Chief Whip, proposed last week that the opposition's speaking time be increased - a matter said to have been raised by Zuma in one of the ANC caucus meetings and had urged caucus to consider it seriously.