'I am not paralysed' - Ramaphosa defends his territory

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his inaugural State of the Nation Address. (Photo: Ruvan Boshoff, AFP)
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his inaugural State of the Nation Address. (Photo: Ruvan Boshoff, AFP)

It was a humorous moment in Parliament.

President Cyril Ramaphosa waves his arms around at the podium as proof of his fully functioning body.

A few DA MPs wave back, after their colleague, the "dancing" David Maynier, accuses the new president of being "paralysed" by his party.

Ramaphosa after all had "delivered a Cabinet with a number of useless individuals, land expropriation without compensation, and the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank," Maynier charges.

"So will he tell us, whether he is paralysed and unable to act decisively?" Maynier asks Ramaphosa during his maiden question session on Wednesday.

"Because although he is in office, the most dangerous man in politics, the honourable Deputy President David Mabuza, is actually in power," he says, pointing to the man known as 'the cat'.

Ramaphosa giggles as he starts to answer the question.

"Honourable Speaker, I just don't know what I need to show Honourable Maynier, that I am not paralysed. You want to see these arms?" he says gesturing and laughing.

Maynier laughs too.

"Quite frankly, that question does not even deserve an answer." The ANC benches applaud.

"The only answer I can give him, he having possibly wasted a great opportunity to ask a meaningful question, is, I am not paralysed. Thank you very much," he finishes with a smile.

President Ramaphosa survived his first quarterly question session in the National Assembly this week, having been confronted by a number of testing follow ups by the usually vocal opposition.

But unlike his predecessor, former president Jacob Zuma, Ramaphosa did his best to answer his political rivals where he was found wanting.

EFF leader Julius Malema was left unhappy after Ramaphosa answered only one half of a question posed to him on the cost of Zuma's legal fees while in office.

Ramaphosa told the House that Zuma had spent R15.3m since 2006 on various court challenges – based on an agreement with government at the time – but could not answer on what law or provision that was allowed.

"I will need to check that more closely," Ramaphosa admitted.

"No Honourable Speaker. My question is not answered," an irritated Malema hit back.

"I've written a question to him. Now he says to me, he must go and check which law. What is the purpose of even writing a question? Are we going back to a situation where..." Malema trailed off.

Mbete would not entertain Malema's second follow up.

"Madam Speaker," Ramaphosa interjected, indicating he would answer.

Malema sat back down.

"The question asked me on what basis the decision was made.

"We focussed on the agreement, and I'd like you to accept that it was on that basis. We did not go further to look at the legal provision or policy," Ramaphosa explained.

"Having found the agreement, we immediately thought we'd give you an answer that would be satisfactory in the circumstances.

"But we will look into the question, and I will give you an undertaking that we will come back to you.

"Clearly you are not satisfied with that answer, and we will come back to you."

"Date and time," yelled Malema's bench partner Floyd Shivambu.

"We can do so in a week," Ramaphosa replied.

And just like that, Malema's scowl turned into a smile.

"That is being presidential," Malema quipped as he took his seat.

Six months ago, we may have had a different outcome, involving fists and bottled water and "he he he".

Not all questions were satisfactorily answered. Ramaphosa utilised the tried and tested "sub judice" rule at points, especially on a question on the future of NDPP Shaun Abrahams.

He also endured heckles of "no plan!" as he repeated the ANC's thin mantra on land expropriation, still lacking the meat to go with the bones.

But it was a marked difference in Parliament following four years of fractious encounters in the House.

Perhaps Parliament is no longer paralysed too.

- Paul Herman is a journalist at News24. He covers Parliament and politics.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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