'Freedom in poverty means nothing' - Mabuza tells National Assembly

Perhaps the government has not done enough to follow through on former president Nelson Mandela's project to heal South Africa, Deputy President David Mabuza has said.

The first question posed to Mabuza during a question session in the National Assembly dealt with social cohesion.

He said: "In many respects, the soul of our nation seems to be broken along to parallels: The rich and the poor."

READ: Mabuza commends agriculture presidents' commitment on land reform plan

Mabuza said that addressing the matter of land ownership was intended to bridge this gap and added that it would be done lawfully.

"Our ability as a nation to come together through dialogue in the face of difficult issues remains a defining characteristic of South Africa," he said.

"I'm sure all of us seated here as leaders understand the past we're coming from. We're coming from a past where we were divided. We were fighting."

'Madiba's project of healing'

In reference to the birth of South Africa's democracy, Mabuza said the "1994 breakthrough" presented South Africa with an opportunity to come together.

"This wasn't an event, it is a process."

He added that perhaps "Madiba's project of healing" wasn't properly followed through because there was still anger "due to wounds inflicted on both sides". The only option for SA was to build a united country.

NFP MP Munzoor Shaik Imam said politicians were creating racial divides. He said the current land debate was a good example because it seemed that the debate wasn't about land anymore, but rather about taking from white people and giving to black people.

"Not every white South African was racist," he added.

Mabuza said: "Those who happened to be oppressors should realise and accept that they have to change. There is a temptation for those in power to try and protect their comfort zone.

"That does not go well with those who are oppressed."

He also said there was a need to find a "middle route".

"Let's share our country's wealth. Let's make sure those languishing in poverty [are] taken out of poverty.

"Freedom in poverty means nothing. The anger will continue.

"I'm getting the sense there is resistance. There is not an appreciation of the fact that there are millions languishing in poverty," Mabuza said.

But some DA MPS grumbled: "Stop stealing!"

Steely glare

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said one of Madiba's abiding legacies was that education could lift people out of poverty. He said Mpumalanga, where Mabuza used to be premier, had the highest number of adults who did not have schooling.

"How, as leader of government business, do you see yourself as the custodian of Madiba's legacy if your own legacy is so bad?"

Mabuza, after a steely glare in Steenhuisen's direction, said: "I'm not sure if you're well informed about Mpumalanga."

"He always is!" a DA MP interjected.

Mabuza, in an apparent reference to a recent piece about him in the New York Times, said he couldn't be informed by "people in New York" about where he lived.

"Treasury!" DA MPs said, while Steenhuisen held up a report from Treasury.

"I've closed 500 farm schools and I've built state-of-the-art boarding schools," he said amid jeers from the DA benches.

He named five schools that were built during his tenure as premier.

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