No 'carte blanche' for Ramaphosa

2018-02-18 06:01
EFF leader Julius Malema. (City Press)

EFF leader Julius Malema. (City Press)

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“Zuma is gone. I am coming for them now, they should know I will never retreat.”

These were the words of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema just two hours before the National Assembly elected Cyril Ramaphosa as the fifth head of government since 1994.

Malema addressed parliamentary journalists on Thursday, following Jacob Zuma’s resignation the previous night. He made it clear that while his one-time hero turned foe had departed, his battle against and acrimonious relationship with the ANC would continue.

Journalists had asked Malema whether the EFF would change tactics in Parliament, given that most of their campaigning had been on an anti-Zuma ticket.

One journalist dared ask him if he would return to the ANC, which expelled him.

A visibly angry Malema spoke about how ANC leaders, including Ramaphosa, kicked him out of the party in 2012.

“Why do you want to tell me I will go back to the ANC because Zuma is gone? They humiliated me and took my property hoping that I will go and sell loose cigarettes in Masakaneng. Little did they know they were planting a seed. I am sitting with them here in Parliament. Zuma is gone. I am coming for them now; they should know I will never retreat.”

When the National Assembly sat that afternoon to elect Ramaphosa, the EFF spent 13 minutes in the House calling for its dissolution and objecting to the election of a president. When they couldn’t get their way, Malema and his “fighters” stormed out of the venue. Whether the EFF will persist in its antagonistic approach to Parliament, and its relations with Ramaphosa will be as frosty as with Zuma, remains to be seen.

Keeping him on his toes

Other opposition parties appeared to be more amenable to Ramaphosa as the head of the state. He was elected unopposed with the exception of the Congress of the People’s objection, which Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng did not entertain.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who once described Zuma as “a broken man”, took a reconciliatory approach to Ramaphosa. He crossed the National Assembly floor at the end of the proceedings on Thursday and gave the newly sworn-in leader a congratulatory embrace.

In his speech, Maimane said they would cooperate with Ramaphosa, as long as he acted in the interests of the South African people.

“I do want to remind you that many people have asked the question: What has been the challenge of South Africa in the last nine years? It would be erroneous of me to say the problem has been Jacob Zuma. You, sitting on this side, couldn’t even tell him what he had done wrong. We don’t have a Jacob Zuma problem, we have an ANC problem.”

The battle would continue, despite the change of leadership at the top of the ANC, he said.

Inkatha Freedom Party chief whip Narend Singh made it clear his party was not giving Ramaphosa carte blanche. While they would give him the benefit of the doubt, they intended keeping him on his toes.

United Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa had a warm relationship with Zuma during the latter’s first term of office between 2009 and 2014. Holomisa is known to have a good relationship with Ramaphosa from their days in the ANC. The two joked about sitting together and having meat, a reference to the traditional celebrations where an animal is slaughtered and meat is shared.

In his speech, Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald challenged Ramaphosa to do more to promote unity among different races and not alienate whites. “Your predecessor was known for the fact that he blamed white people for everything that went wrong in this country,” he said.

Ramaphosa said his priorities as president would include meeting opposition party leaders to discuss improving relations, especially in Parliament.

Read more on:    parliament  |  da  |  anc  |  eff  |  ifp  |  julius malema  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  mmusi maimane  |  politics

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