Responding to debate on his state of the nation address and criticism by opposition parties, President Cyril Ramaphosa has thrown his full weight behind his Cabinet and the law enforcement agencies.
He argued that he could not be expected, as president, to use his powers to prosecute his political opponents.
He said the National Prosecuting Authority was prosecuting people who were implicated in the state capture report.
On Thursday, the DA criticised Ramaphosa and his Cabinet for making promises with no delivery. DA leader John Steenhuisen also criticised the president for dragging his feet in prosecuting people who had been implicated in the state capture report.
But Ramaphosa said they had supported the state capture commission to complete its work and enabled it to share the vast amounts of information with investigators and prosecutors.
He said he was motivated to reflect on the constructive criticisms and sincere suggestions that had been put forward with a view to improving the state of the nation, but would not respond to EFF leader Julius Malema’s insults, which had nothing to do with the debate.
“I refer here, for example, to the contribution on behalf of the honourable Mangosuthu Buthelezi on the characterisation of and appropriate response to state capture. I refer to the suggestions by the honourable Andrew Whitfield on moving the South African police service into the 21st century by introducing more than cutting edge training for police officers and a more effective use of technology.
I refer to the call by honourable Julius Malema on the industrialisation of cannabis in a manner that benefits local farmers in places such as the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal. I refer here also to the comments of Premier Sisi Ntombela on rural infrastructure development.”
On the question of economic recovery, Ramaphosa said fixing the economy was their most pressing challenge.
“Our focus on the economy does not, however, diminish the importance of many other areas of government’s work. It does not diminish the many other aspects of our people’s lives. Many of these issues have been raised in the debate and will be dealt with in greater detail in upcoming budget votes and public engagement by ministers as we reflect on the state of the nation.”
He said the economic recovery, expanding employment and increasing investment that had followed the advent of “our democracy” had been disrupted by the 2008 global financial crisis and also by falling commodity prices, severe energy constraints and inefficient network industries.
“As public spending rapidly increased, the benefits of increased spending declined to a point where the cost of servicing our debt has been crowding out our social spending. This was the situation when this administration was elected in 2019. To correct, we took several decisive measures to turn the economy and the country around,” Ramaphosa said.
Responding to criticism by Malema of his comment that government couldn’t provide enough jobs, but the private sector did, Ramaphosa said the private sector was contributing a two-thirds majority in job creation.
He said the presidential stimulus and other structural reform initiatives had provided work and livelihood opportunities for over 850 000 people in the 16 months since their establishment.