Insults, audits, Marikana and the poor: Ramaphosa’s top 10 quotes from #SonaReply

Cyril Ramaphosa listens to the debate in Parliament in Cape Town. Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
Cyril Ramaphosa listens to the debate in Parliament in Cape Town. Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

President Cyril Ramaphosa certainly has a way with words – his first state of the nation address and his reply to the debate on his address had the opposition and the country eating out of his hand. These are the top 10 quotes from his reply to the debate on Tuesday. Ramaphosa addressed various topics affecting society – from the poor, to working together, to acknowledging the divisiveness of the past, to tragedies, and that much-anticipated Cabinet reshuffle. He even made a comment about all the insults that were traded on the floor of the House.

The real VIPs

“The most important people in this country are not those who walk the red carpet in Parliament, but those who spend their nights on the benches outside its gates ... The most important people in this country are those whose shacks are flooded with every rainfall and whose taps run dry whether there is a drought or not ... It is those who have been looking for work their entire adult lives, who have had to drop out of school, who are suffering from preventable diseases, who have been orphaned or abandoned, who rely on an old age pension to feed their families, who do not have the seed or the implements to work their small piece of land.”


“Collaboration, partnership and consensus building are essential features of our rich African past and will be central in determining our future. Throughout our history, we have used collaboration and partnership to overcome the greatest of difficulties and resolve the most intractable of problems ... We want to invite all South Africans to participate, to lend a hand.”


“Yesterday, there was a concern raised about black economic empowerment and affirmative action.

There was a suggestion that young white people are excluded from jobs, bursaries and opportunities based on the colour of their skin. We must not ignore such concerns, nor must we dismiss them. Rather we must engage with them, for the statement that young white South Africans are unfairly disadvantaged by our affirmative action policies is not borne out by reality.”


“We should emphasise that the task of building a united nation that belongs to all South Africans, black and white, does not suggest that we ignore the legacy of our apartheid and colonial past ... On the contrary, the creation of a non-racial society requires the liberation of Africans in particular and black people in general from political and economic bondage.”


“The return of the land to the people from whom it was taken speaks to precisely how we can heal the divisions of the past ... For it to serve this purpose, we will need to locate this measure within a broad and comprehensive land redistribution and agricultural development programme ... This is a profound responsibility that has been given to our generation.

We owe it to our ancestors and to our children to ensure that we fulfil it. In dealing with this complex matter, we will not make the mistakes that others have made. We will not allow smash and grab interventions. We will handle this matter in the same way we have handled all difficult issues our country has had to handle. We will always seek to do what is in the interests of our people.”


“The Marikana tragedy stands out as the darkest moment in the life of our young democracy ... Notwithstanding the findings of the Farlam Commission on my responsibility for the events that unfolded, I am determined to play whatever role I can play in the process of healing and atonement. In this, I am guided by the needs and wishes of the families of the 44 workers who lost their lives.”


“Alongside Marikana, the Life Esidimeni tragedy stands out as an instance of the most appalling dereliction by the state of its duty to the people. We welcome the arbitration process led by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke and are determined that we should never allow anything like this to happen again in our country.”

Cabinet reshuffle

“I have noted during the course of the debate several comments about members of the executive. Whatever views one might hold about members of Cabinet, this does not justify in any way the kind of character assassination and insults we have heard. On the matter of the composition of Cabinet, an announcement will be made by the president at the appropriate time.”

Lifestyle audits

“It is time that we implement our resolutions on the conduct of lifestyle audits of all people who occupy positions of responsibility, starting with members of the executive.”

The People’s Parliament

“We should always remain mindful that this is the People’s Parliament. It was built by our people, for our people, and it belongs to our people.”

The full speech can be read below:

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has praised outgoing Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng for his outstanding leadership and service. Do you agree?
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He served well.
63% - 173 votes
He was too controversial
37% - 103 votes