Photo by: Duane Daws
President Jacob Zuma mocked books which had been written about him as well as MPs' reading habits when he addressed the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Thursday afternoon.
Last week, Zuma told the National Assembly that he didn't "think it is [his] job to answer books".
However, he changed his tune on Thursday afternoon when he replied to the debate about his annual address to the NCOP.
"People know they can’t discuss anything. They try not to sleep, reading the books, uh-huh, all the lies and speculation and imagination of people."
Suppressing a chuckle and swinging his notebook around behind the podium, Zuma continued: "That's become the politics, the politics to use here: 'That is the book, you know! This is the book. Can you say no to this book…' Jirrrrr. Novels! It is people who sit down and just think and composition of people. (sic)"
Proceedings started with Zuma delivering his annual address to the NCOP.
Through most of this speech, Democratic Alliance (DA) MP from the Free State George Michalakis had his nose in Jacques Pauw's The President's Keepers.
Michalakis held the book up fairly high and Zuma would have seen it had he looked up from his large-print speaking notes.
With the debate under way, DA MP from the Eastern Cape Leon Magwebu took his stand behind the podium with Redi Thlabi's recent book Khwezi, a biography of Fezekile Kuzwayo, who accused Zuma of rape.
Zuma was acquitted of this charge in 2006. The topic of the debate was "Deepening Unity in Action for Inclusive Growth and Africa’s Renewal – Reclaiming the Legacy of OR Tambo". Magwebu said Tambo's legacy was unquestionable, but added: "Mr Zuma, your legacy is the opposite of Mr Tambo."
Referring to the book and an allegation that two MK soldiers were tortured and killed under his command, Magwebu said: "We know the truth that you have always been a villain."
Displaying the book in the Zuma's direction, Magwebu added: "Here is the book. Buy the book!"
He said Zuma still hasn't appointed a commission of inquiry into state capture because he knows he "has his hands in the cookie jar".
DA MP from Gauteng Jacques Julius had Pauw's book under his arm when he stepped up to make his speech.
"There can be no doubt anymore that Jacob Zuma is now the rampokker [Afrikaans for mobster] boss, the groot kokkedoor [big Kahuna]," said Julius, eliciting reactions from the ANC that he was impugning Zuma's character.
"How can we trust a man with our tax money if he has not filed tax returns himself? The sheepish ANC MPs here pay tax. The man is not paying tax."
One of the allegations in The President's Keepers is that, for four months after being sworn in as president in 2009, Zuma received a salary of R1 million a month from Durban businessman and well-known ANC supporter Roy Moodley that he didn't pay tax on.
Zuma denies the allegation. But Zuma had some support from ANC MPs.
ANC MP from the Northern Cape Dikgang Stock said the DA was relying on books and that, like Zuma said last week, he shouldn't answer books. "All over where the president is going, you will see people carrying books," he said.
Julius responded: "Books are great sources for acquiring knowledge. It is not your enemy. You seem to be allergic to books. You'll never learn anything. I wonder how you got here."
ANC MP from Mpumalanga Simphiwe Mthimunye said the DA was "prophets of doom" and complained of people who write "fake books".
"I should not read books that are authored by agents of the oppressors," he said.
Zuma swivelled his chair slightly while Magwebu and Julius spoke, and he grinned in their direction when they walked back to their seats after their speeches.
For most of the debate, he sat still, his chin resting on his chest, with only for his head jerking suddenly when there was a smidgen of applause.