President Cyril Ramaphosa took a subtle dig at the previous administration, criticising frequent Cabinet reshuffles, “bling and blue lights” and an “endless focus on petty squabbles”.
With most political junkies’ focus on Johannesburg, where former president Jacob Zuma refused to be cross-examined at the Zondo commission into state capture, Ramaphosa addressed the National Assembly in Cape Town during the debate on the budget of the Presidency.
He said the Presidency should develop and implement a “national policy in a coherent and cohesive manner to remove policy uncertainty”.
“In the past, this envisioned co-ordination has weakened,” he added.
“Frequent reshuffles of ministers and a high turnover of senior managers at both national and provincial governments have led to instability, misalignment and confusion.”
He said the government should be “machinery that learns from its mistakes and take decisive steps to correct the situation”.
“We are here to work for our people. The endless focus on petty squabbles, on intra-party politics and on political brinkmanship does not serve our people well.
“In the spirit of Madiba, I call upon each member of this House to commit themselves to collaboration across the political divide.”
He said this administration’s task was to restore hope to the people, and regain their trust.
“We want, indeed we need, a joined-up government, one that works for the people.”
“The executive of the sixth administration will speak with one voice. It will not pursue pet projects that are disjointed and misaligned with national priorities.
“It will epitomise a caring state that is prudent with public finances and that derives its respect from masses through hard work and not outward shows of excess like bling and blue lights,” Ramaphosa said.
“This administration will be accountable to the people of South Africa. Ministers will have to answer questions in Parliament, and participate in portfolio committees.”
He said his would be a presidency that acted.
However, opposition leaders warned him to not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane reminded him that he had sat in the House as Jacob Zuma’s Number Two.
“And you were silent then. Will you continue to be silent now, as your party is flayed and its entrails laid out at the commission?”
He challenged Ramaphosa to go to the Zondo commission and “set the record straight”.
“We need a president who acts, not one who sits idly by.
“In the words of former president [Nelson] Mandela, ‘We can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities. And we dare not linger for our long walk is not ended’,” Maimane said to groans from the ANC benches.
“You dare not linger, Mr President.
“You need to choose your country over your party. You need to change what isn’t working, because simply doing more of the same will get us nowhere,” Maimane said.
“If you choose the path of reform, you will have an ally in the DA. Together, we can rebuild the consensus we lost as a nation – a new 2019 consensus that will see us through the next 10 years.”
EFF leader Julius Malema warned Ramaphosa not to “outsource” his presidency to a “cabal”.
He continued the party’s attack on State Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, or “honourable Jamnandas” as he consistently referred to him.
Gordhan did not show much emotion during Malema’s tirade, except toward the end when he said something to Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe with an annoyed expression.
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu came to Gordhan’s defence.
“Why do the EFF pursue Gordhan so much? Why this anarchic pursuit of the stalwart of the revolution?”
Mthembu provided three reasons, the first being its “hatred of Indians”.
“You’re racist,” he said.
Mthembu added in the process of cleaning up corruption at state-owned enterprises, Gordhan “stepped on some corrupt EFF cronies”.
“They’re trying very hard to try and deviate from their friends dealing in illicit cigarettes,” Mthembu said.
“And now Pravin becomes a scapegoat.
“Honourable president, don’t be deterred by these howlers,” Mthembu said, turning to Ramaphosa.
While he spoke, EFF MPs grumbled about “Jackson Gordhan”.
Deputy President David Mabuza pledged his support to Ramaphosa.
Toward the end of his 30-minute speech, he said to Ramaphosa: “We commit to travel with you in good times and bad times.”