Nobody harasses the media here - Jacob Zuma

President says ANC taught him non-racialism, he will never be racist

Zuma: Nobody harasses the media here

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma has defied his critics on media freedom in the National Assembly, saying his government still believes in a free press.

A more relaxed Zuma had free reign in the House on Thursday after the Democratic Alliance decided to join the Economic Freedom Fighters in skipping Zuma's budget debate reply.

Zuma claimed they pride themselves that "media freedom is enshrined in the Constitution", and that is why Durban will host the 69th World News Media Congress this month.

"Media is free here. Nobody harasses it. They can say everything. It's real freedom here. That's why they choose to come here."

His comments come on the back of explosive leaks to the media allegedly linking the Gupta family to government officials, from a repository collated by investigative teams amaBhungane and Scorpio, known as the #GuptaLeaks.

The DA cited the leaks as the reason for their boycott, and were not there to rebut.

"If South Africa was a country described by the DA, I don't know why such important people would come here and hold a conference and learn a lot about South Africa," he told a predominantly ANC Assembly.

The UDM and Cope also boycotted the debate.

'I do not hate whites'

Zuma also used his reply to respond to Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald, who asked Zuma on Wednesday why it seemed he "hates whites".

"This is a subject that touches serious issues in this country," Zuma said.

"I'm a child of the ANC. Despite my history, the ANC taught me non-racialism. That I must not be racist, and I will never be racist."

However, he said that this did not mean he can't correct the wrongs of the past.

"Let us deal with things to help unite the people of this country: reconcile, forget about the past, that's what I believe in.

"But there is a reality in South Africa that between us there are those who robbed others of their own possessions, and left others to be poor."

He claimed he only wanted that to be corrected, not through fighting, but by talking, within the confines of the law.

"If there is anyone who says 'let's kill the whites', I'll be among those who will defend and protect them. I had comrades who were white. They commanded me [in uMkhonto we Sizwe]."

In a rare moment, Groenewald got up, and said he would accept Zuma's proposal to talk about the land redistribution issue.

Zuma happily agreed, and the House clapped.

Zuma, Cabinet ditch violence against women debate

He finished his speech by slamming Parliament's behavior over the last few years, which he also did during a question session last year.

Parliament's behaviour had been "taken to the extreme, and must help itself."

He also praised his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa's speech to the House on Wednesday, showing no public signs of any rifts in the leadup to the party's elective conference in December.

Zuma got a standing ovation from most in the ANC caucus after his speech. SACP MPs though, notably Jeremy Cronin and Derek Hanekom, remained seated, and did not clap.

Afterwards, the House moved on to an urgent debate on violence against women, scheduled after a request from the DA.

Zuma, most of his Cabinet, and roughly half of the ANC caucus, left.