Do not fail those lending a hand, sir

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa came to Jacob Zuma’s rescue by rebuking a crowd that booed his predecessor.
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa came to Jacob Zuma’s rescue by rebuking a crowd that booed his predecessor.

President Cyril Ramaphosa won over many hearts with his maiden State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Friday night.

It was an inspiring speech, one that gave hope to a nation still recovering from nine years of Jacob Zuma's ruinous rule. If the troubles of the past few years had made us start doubting the sustainability of the South African project, Ramaphosa's words gave us all the assurance that we remain one nation - united in our diversity.

But it was not just a feelgood speech. It also managed to draw the country's attention to serious problems that are confronting our society - from the scourge of cancer and HIV to race-based inequality, rising unemployment and poverty levels.

As expected, Ramaphosa did not mince his words when talking about corruption and state capture - both in the public sector as well as in the private sector .

His words gave hope that we now have an executive that does not only have the appetite to deal with corruption. It will also give the police and other law enforcement agencies all the necessary material support they need tocarry out this task.

For those of us who feared that Ramaphosa's Nelson Mandela-like approach to leadership would cause him to avoid the thorny issue of land redistribution, those fears were allayed on Friday.

However, the challenge facing Ramaphosa now is to translate his words into action.

And the first decisive step he can take, especially in the fight against corruption, is to clean out his cabinet of those ministers associated with the Guptas and any other forms of corruption.

In the next few days, Ramaphosa is expected to announce changes to the executive. Failure to root out the rotten apples and remove the dead wood that was protected under Zuma would serve only to undermine all that Ramaphosa says he stands for.

The president's central message on Friday was that he wanted to partner with various sectors of our society in a bid to find solutions to youth unemployment, economic development and other areas in which South Africa is underperforming.

Given the public's generally positive response to his maiden Sona, there is an army of citizens ready to lend a hand. Dare not fail them, Mr President.