Ramaphosa calls for unity during dry Zuma budget debate

2017-05-31 19:43
Cyril Ramaphosa utilising his iPad as a teleprompter. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Cyril Ramaphosa utilising his iPad as a teleprompter. (Jan Gerber, News24)

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2017-05-31 13:31

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Cape Town - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa struck a reconciliatory tone when he called for a united Parliament during a mostly dry debate on President Jacob Zuma's budget.

Ramaphosa's name was greeted with eager applause from only portions of the ANC caucus and the gallery as he stepped up to the podium.

"You must listen, the president is speaking," IFP MP Liesl van der Merwe chirped as Ramaphosa began reading from his iPad.

Zuma, who had delivered his speech earlier in the House, did not react.

"It should not be out of place to suggest that Members of Parliament are here to respond to a historic call to plan the future of our country," he told the House on Wednesday.

"We have the capacity for bold, determined and united action. It can be done, but only if we work together," he pleaded.

Ramaphosa tried a different approach in his speech to that of both Zuma and opposition leader Mmusi Maimane.

Zuma was continuously heckled by Democratic Alliance MPs as he spoke about the economic downgrade, the nuclear deal and the social grants crisis.

Maimane was interrupted on many occasions by ANC points of order for using the term "President Gupta", which he was eventually forced to withdraw.

'Land, transformation'

He said there were still children who go hungry in South Africa 23 years into democracy, and people who have been looking for work their entire lives.

"The legacy of land dispossession and bantu education continue to define the life prospects of millions of our people.

"It is only working together through collaboration and partnership that we can put to death 300 years of hunger and poverty."

Ramaphosa said leaders and policy makers who ignored unification did so at the peril of preventing societies from moving to higher levels.

"It can be done, but only by uniting all South Africans in a common struggle that transforms our economy and society."

Zuma worked on his own while Ramaphosa spoke.


President Jacob Zuma during Cyril Ramaphosa's speech. (Jan Gerber, News24)

DA promises 'empty'

He was also critical of the DA at times, labelling their opposition promises "empty".

"The initiatives we are continuously implementing is based on a clear vision. Our vision is a vision that has legs.

"It is not based on empty promises, such as others saying, if they come into power they will double social grants. That is an empty promise," he said to groans from the DA benches.

"Our initiative is based on sound policies that are not based on soundbites."

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He also tried to praise his own work in negotiating a new minimum wage, which was not met with much fervour from either bench.

He admitted that the R20 per hour wage negotiated could have been higher, but claimed six million South Africans would benefit having laboured under "wage poverty".

The Economic Freedom Fighters, who have been critical of the minimum wage agreement, were not present in the House to liven up the debate, continuing the tradition of boycotting Zuma's budget speeches.

'Our country needs solutions'

Ramaphosa also asked four young women whose lives had been affected by government programmes to rise in the gallery toward the end of his speech.

He told their stories at various points, including that of the youngest graduating neurosurgeon in the country's history, and commended them for being role models to their peers.

Zuma had dosed off during this part of Ramaphosa's speech, but woke up after the applause as they rose.

"Right now our country needs solutions to help us heal and grow. But these solutions will only be found if we listen to the cries of our people.

"We must dream. We must hope, and we must build again."

It was in South Africa's DNA to be able to find ways of working together to confront common problems.

"It is through this we will be able to move South Africa ahead in the next 23 years. I thank you."

The ANC caucus rose to congratulate him, including Zuma, as he stepped off the podium.


A standing ovation for Cyril Ramaphosa. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  jacob zuma  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  parliament

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