He wished he were a dictator so that he could reverse his own government’s policy on the provision of some of the service delivery amenities, Zuma added.
This would end the tendency “to fantasise” about democracy, the wanton abuse of freedom and the propensity to make exaggerated demands from the state.
“People don’t want to work because they are free. Sometimes I wonder when people complain about things they can do themselves,” Zuma said on Tuesday, addressing the SA Local Government Association national assembly in Midrand.
Zuma’s statement is a surprise turnabout and a radical departure from the government’s current policy, and could cause awkwardness in the lead-up to elections.
The president has consistently held up low-cost houses and social grants as among the government’s achievements.
His administration has also often come in for a beating from opposition parties complaining of abuse of state resources for electioneering by dishing out food parcels.
Zuma was in a mean mood on Tuesday, warning that the government’s current approach to service delivery was counterproductive as it was eroding the culture of self-reliance.
The president likened those he was talking about to a man sitting under a mango tree, waiting for the fruit to drop, instead of climbing up to pluck it.
“People who can get the grass and the wood are actually waiting for the (state’s) money (to build their own houses). I thought that by this time we would have changed the manner we do things and begin to make ourselves participate in our own development,” Zuma said.
In October last year, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said anyone younger than 40 would not receive a free house because the government was “receiving a lot of flak” for not providing free houses.
“I don’t know of a country that gives free houses to young people. Free housing in a few years will be something of the past. You (the youth) have lost nothing (to apartheid),” Sisulu said at the time.
But Zuma suggested that he was constrained from doing away with giving away free RDP houses.
“If I was a dictator, I would change a few things, but this is democracy.
“In democracy, you can say whatever you want… You just think you can say anyway, anyhow, and, therefore, I am lazy to build a house (and can ask) where is my house? I have been waiting for 10 years, 20 years,” he said, to applause from delegates.
“Why am I not building a house (is) because I have been told that the government is going to give me (one). If I was a dictator, I could change the (way of providing) service delivery because it creates a problem, in my view. As a dictator, I would make everyone understand that rights go with responsibility.”
Zuma added: “Some of the problems we have are exaggerated… You know we complain about poverty and we walk on the land which is ready to produce food, and (yet) we complain that we are hungry. Don’t you see this as a problem?”