THE unity displayed by opposition parties during the recent National Day of Action against President Jacob Zuma seems to be faltering as they have now engaged in a war of words at a provincial level.
The absence of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Congress of the People (COPE) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) supporters at a Democratic Alliance (DA)-organised march in Polokwane, Limpopo, on Tuesday bear testimony.
The march was overshadowed by exchanges among the parties over poor prior consultation and its preparation, and whether the marches still remain the only way to resolve the crisis in the country.
EFF and COPE slammed earlier reports by DA that they would be part of its march in Polokwane to hand over a memorandum at the provincial Treasury against state capture.
However, DA leader Mmusi Maimane led the march and the party provincial leader, Jaques Smalle, handed a memorandum to Treasury MEC Rob Tooley.
Maimane told a crowd gathered outside the Treasury office that South Africa “is not a junk country, it just has a junk president and he must be removed.”
“Zuma has sabotaged the country’s economy – now reduced to “junk status” – all for his riches and his own agenda. He thinks he is going to retire in Nkandla. I am saying to him you are going to retire in ‘Sun City Prison’, tsotsi must go to jail,” he said.
He continued: “Sometimes I think to myself the good ANC is only in heaven, but maybe there are people who still believe in the values of Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada.”
Maimane also accused other political leaders in the ANC of violating the constitution.
“The bad people in South Africa have violated the Constitution. It is not Jacob Zuma alone, it is also Baleka Mbete. Jacob Zuma has already said he is above the Constitution.”
This came amidst notable absence of other opposition parties which indicated that they were not part of the preparatory meetings.
COPE’s Patrick Sikhutshi said the party was not aware of the contents of a memorandum of demands.
“When we go to Treasury, a memorandum will be presented, but we do not have any information of what is contained in the memorandum. So, we don’t really want to be involved in something that will embarrass us at a later stage.”
EFF’s Jossey Buthane also indicated there were issues around logistics which led the party to withhold its participation in the march.
However, he pointed out that its non-participation should not be translated as support for Zuma.
But DA’s Solly Malatsi insisted that other opposition parties were properly consulted and they participated in the planning. Their reason for non-participation was logistical challenges on their part.
“All of them confirmed their participation ahead of today (Tuesday). We have also engaged broadly with civil society organisations and religious leaders in the province to bring them on board for today’s demonstrations,” Malatsi said.
On Tuesday, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa in a statement placed under the spotlight the relevance of the marches against Zuma without discussions on probable solutions to challenges facing the country such as the land question, economy, good governance, health and education.
“When South Africans marched under the leadership of the opposition parties at the National Day of Action (12 April 2017), I advised that we cannot march forever, but that we must find a way to converge under one roof to discuss South Africa’s future,” Holomisa said.
“The United Democratic Movement (UDM) is of the view that we must find a vehicle that will provide a safe space for all stakeholders, irrespective of political affiliation, to assemble and hammer out a common future vision for South Africa that is binding to all.”
He suggested that leaders of political parties and civil society first meet to set an agenda to be tabled at a future national summit which will culminate in a national convention where all interested South Africans including government should be present.