It was to a standing ovation – yes, even the EFF joined in – when President Cyril Ramaphosa took the podium ahead of his response to the debate of the State of the Nation Address (Sona) in parliament yesterday.
Ramaphosa personified the much-loved but stern grandfather who everyone loves but is a little afraid of when he celebrated some of Monday’s speakers, chided others, and outright put others back in their lane.
Noting it was not the people who walked the red carpet in parliament, he made it clear at the beginning of his speech it was the people who slept outside its gates, “whose shacks are flooded with every rainfall and whose taps run dry whether there is rainfall or not” who would be enjoying priority.
Ramaphosa also shut down the past clamour from members in the opposition benches who have been wailing there was no plan of action for the newly installed president’s Sona promises.
“We have a plan. I have a plan. It’s the National Development Plan, that is our plan,” Ramaphosa said.
This was met with muted applause and chirps from the opposition benches, soon silenced by him.
The president attacked the argument young whites were being disadvantaged by BEE policies which discriminated against them.
“The statement that young white South Africans are unfairly disadvantaged by our affirmative action policies is not borne out by reality,” said Ramaphosa.
He then went on to quote Stats SA which found unemployment among Africans stood at 30% and just under 7% for whites.
With regards to the “land issue” Ramaphosa said there would be no “smash and grab interventions”, food security would not be affected and assured Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Inkatha Freedom Party that traditional lands were not being taken away.
“We must see this process of accelerated land redistribution as an opportunity and not a threat,” he said.
Ramaphosa managed to stun the National Assembly – and possibly the country – when he brought up the Marikana massacre.
“Notwithstanding the findings of the Farlam Commission on my responsibility for the events that unfolded, I am determined to play whatever role I can in the process of healing and atonement,” said Ramaphosa.
He indicated he would be guided by the families of the deceased in this.
But it was enough for the Economic Freedom Fighters to join in yet another standing ovation for Ramaphosa at the conclusion of his speech.