Loadshedding, corruption and Louis Vuitton handbags: MPs debate the SONA

2019-02-12 20:42
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the State of the Nation Address.(GCIS)

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the State of the Nation Address.(GCIS)

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It was clear during Tuesday's debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address (SONA) that opposition MPs wrote their speeches while the country was experiencing rolling blackouts.

Ramaphosa was slammed in the National Assembly on Tuesday following Eskom's announcement that there would be more load shedding this week.

"This morning's headlines say that you were 'shocked' by Stage 4 load shedding. How can you be shocked, Mr President? You were there all along,"  DA leader Mmusi Maimane said, referring to Ramaphosa's term as deputy president under former president Jacob Zuma.

READ: Ramaphosa 'shocked, angry' over 'broken' Eskom

EFF leader Julius Malema opposed Ramaphosa's plan to unbundle Eskom into three entities, which was announced during the SONA. He said Ramaphosa would do that to benefit his friends and family, and the approach would destroy the institution. 

"We will not allow it," Malema said.

He said Ramaphosa "abandoned politics and put profits before everything" and was "still a business person who put in leave to come and irritate us here".

Ramaphosa smiled at Malema.

It wasn't only the opposition who remarked on Eskom.

"The crisis at our power utility Eskom is a cause for concern as it negatively affects our economic ambitions," said ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu, who opened the debate.

"We are nonetheless hopeful that our government will act swiftly to arrest this situation, especially the current episodes of load shedding."

READ: Everything you need to know about load shedding as SA enters 'uncharted territory'

Later in the debate, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said the newly built coal power plants, Medupi and Kusile, were "badly designed and constructed and are not performing at optimum levels".

'Watch this space? That's all you've been doing'

Another common theme, as it has been in debates throughout the fifth Parliament, was corruption, and MPs calling for the heads of ministers implicated in the recent revelations at the state capture commission of inquiry.

Mthembu said all those implicated in wrongdoing before various commissions – including those in the ANC's ranks – should give their own "credible versions" to the commissions. 

"We fully agree with the president that alleged criminality must swiftly be followed by investigations by our law enforcement agencies," he said.

He also said the ANC was fully behind newly appointed National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi to prosecute without fear or favour, unlike some "unscrupulous opposition parties". His comment was met with disapproving growls from the EFF.

Opposition leaders like Mmusi Maimane (DA), Bantu Holomisa (UDM) and Mangosuthu Buthelezi (IFP) called on Ramaphosa to start doing, instead of talking.

Maimane said South Africans wanted action, not talk shops and summits. 

"But instead, Honourable President, you asked them on Thursday to wait some more. 'Watch this space'. That's what you told us several times during your SONA address," said Maimane.

"But that's all you've been doing for the past decade and it's all you've been doing for your entire first year in office. Watching and waiting."

Braai pack, beers and a Louis Vuitton handbag

He said Ramaphosa had been watching as unemployment grew and Eskom fell apart.

"You have been watching this space as the Gupta Leaks and the Zondo commission showed how our country was sold out for a braai pack, some beers and a Louis Vuitton handbag."

"Yet you were content to just watch and wait as your party robbed us blind."

Malema said they welcomed Ramaphosa's expressed commitment to root out corruption.

"But I will never believe you until you fire [Minister of Environmental Affairs] Nomvula Mokonyane," Malema said.

He hinted that perhaps Mokonyane, who wasn't present during the debate, was still a minister because she had something on Ramaphosa.

"What exactly does it take to get arrested for corruption in South Africa?" DA MP Natasha Mazzone wondered.

The debate continued on Tuesday.

Read more on:    anc  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  corruption  |  sona 2019
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