FIRST TAKE: Ramaphosa charms and challenges foes to rally behind him

2019-05-22 19:55
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering his State of the Nation Address. (Photo: GCIS)

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering his State of the Nation Address. (Photo: GCIS)

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In his acceptance speech after being elected as the fifth president of a democratic South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa charmed and challenged his political opponents to work with him in improving the lives of all South Africans.

"I will be a president for all South Africans and not only be the president of the ANC," said Ramaphosa to applause from the 400 newly sworn-in members of Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

Ramaphosa was elected unopposed and made a clarion call for unity to MPs. "We will disagree and differ, but I would like to see us treat each other with honour, dignity and respect."

There was no heckling, shouting or swearing that characterised the Zuma era when Ramaphosa was elected and opposition party leaders all wished him well and offered their support to turn around the country's many ills.

READ: 'I will be president for all South Africans' - Ramaphosa after election in National Assembly

Ramaphosa accepted the offer and told DA leader Mmusi Maimane "my second name is collaboration". It was unclear how far Ramaphosa's hand of goodwill would extend and whether he would include any opposition MPs in his cabinet that is expected to be announced over the weekend.

Party leaders from Azapo, the FF+ and the NFP served in the executive under Zuma.

EFF leader Julius Malema, showing off with his increased contingent of 44 MPs, warned Ramaphosa not to be beholden to "Stellenbosch or the Oppenheimers… we know your proximity to Stellenbosch". Ramaphosa told him that "like you, I must speak to all South Africans", but that he would not be serving any special interest groups.

Channeling the spirit of former president Nelson Mandela, Ramaphosa said Madiba was able to walk with "kings and queens and captains of industry" without forgetting the masses of people who live in poverty.

He reminded Malema that during his time as a union leader, he negotiated with mining bosses whilst having the best interest of mineworkers at heart.

Similarly, Ramaphosa told FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald, who returned to Parliament with 10 MPs, that he is willing to work with the party to build South Africa. Groenewald called on Ramaphosa to lead all South Africans. Possibly referring to land expropriation without compensation, Ramaphosa told Groenewald it was impossible to live in the future "if we don't address the past".

Ramaphosa highlighted poverty, inequality and unemployment as the country's biggest challenges, and said all South Africans should feel secure and equal in their land of birth.

EXPLAINED: Mabuza will not be sworn in as MP... what you need to know

The president has charmed and challenged his political opponents and for now, they have extended his honeymoon. But this may come to an end when the ANC fundamentally differs from parties like the EFF and FF+ on matters such as land and language.

First, Ramaphosa has to finalise his Cabinet, among discord in his own party about who should be his deputy. David Mabuza's decision not to be sworn-in as an MP has opened a can of worms about ascension in the ANC.

No wonder Ramaphosa told GOOD leader Patricia de Lille "I am so much in need of love" when she offered the president her party's love and support.

Read more on:    ramaphosa  |  cyril  |  parliament

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