WATCH | Cyril Ramaphosa responds to MPs who criticised Sona

President took part in the debate on his state of the nation address in parliament on Thursday

President Cyril Ramaphosa defended his first term in office and told opposition MPs that they had failed to come up with practical suggestions in response to Sona last week.

“Rather than acknowledge the grave damage caused to our country by what has ensued in the past, such as state capture, the effects of a devastating global pandemic and by the worst public violence in the history of our democracy, some honourable members have failed to come up with practical suggestions that can resolve the many problems our country faces today,” he said.

Ramaphosa acknowledged the positive, robust democracy evident in parliament. 

“The debate on the state of the nation address over the past two days has done much to emphasise our differences and to reveal the extent of political contestation in our society in a way that is to be expected — and even welcomed — in a vibrant and robust democracy like ours. We must expect such contestation. The debate has raised important issues and some constructive suggestions have also been put forward,” Ramaphosa said.

He took a swipe at some members for unruliness and dishonesty during Sona on Thursday last week.

“But there are those in this house who, instead of being what I would call merchants of hope, have become merchants of despair. They have determined that their political fortunes are best served by depicting our country as being in chaos.

“Instead of being parties that acknowledge the challenges and are determined to work together to find solutions, rather than present a balanced assessment of the state of the nation, they have instead resorted to dishonest and self-serving rhetoric.”

On his achievements in office

“We inherited this state, hollowed out by corruption and malfeasance and an economy in steep decline. Since then, we have rebuilt the capability and restored the independence of institutions that are essential in our democracy. Institutions that had been weakened. We have reinvigorated entities like the revenue service, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Special Investigating Unit, to fulfil their mandates effectively without fear or favour.

“The tireless work of the state capture commission and the Investigating Directorate is now bearing fruit in the prosecution of those alleged to have been involved in and responsible for state capture.

“We face steep challenges. South Africans are worn down by power outages, water supply interruptions, rising crime and instability in local government — that we admit. Several speakers in the debate raised the need for effective and urgent implementation of the tasks outlined in the state of the nation [address].”

Explaining the role of the electricity minister

"[The]new minister will assume responsibility for overseeing the various aspects of the electricity crisis response. The minister will be responsible for driving the various actions being co-ordinated by the national energy crisis committee to end load-shedding as a matter of urgency. The reality is that the resolution of the energy crisis requires effective co-ordination across several departments and public entities.”

He said the job required the undivided attention of a political principal who would not have to spend time or energy on side issues and other responsibilities.

“This appointment will ensure there is a minister who is ultimately responsible for resolving load-shedding and who is able to work with all fellow cabinet ministers, departments and entities. Several speakers in this debate have argued that the national state of disaster is unnecessary or that it will allow for abuse of the system.”

Explaining the state of disaster

“The state of disaster will be used to mitigate the social and economic effects of load-shedding and accelerate the measures that are necessary to close the shortfall in electricity, and nothing else. As I said in Sona, we will ensure that environmental protections and technical standards are maintained and that procurement is undertaken.”

Building public institutions

“With transparency and oversight, we are taking important steps to professionalise the public service to ensure that the right people are appointed and are in the right positions, that they are held accountable and are empowered to provide the best possible service to the people of our country.”


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