/ 16 February 2018

From inspirational to ‘more of the same’- opposition poke holes in Ramaphosa’s SONA

(Reuters/Gianluigi Guercia)
(Reuters/Gianluigi Guercia)

After years of booing and grumbling, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s maiden speech was celebrated by many as the dawn of a new era in South Africa.

Most political parties were cautiously optimistic about Ramaphosa’s speech, saying his lofty promises, while inspiring, could also be faulted if the new president doesn’t deliver on them.

As leaders of political parties left the National Assembly, broadcasters spoke to them about their reactions to Ramaphosa’s speech.

Economic Freedom Fighters

EFF leader Julius Malema welcomed Ramaphosa’s announcement that government would implement land expropriation without compensation. Malema also noted that this was the first Sona in years that the EFF had not disrupted when Zuma stood at the podium.

“We want peace in this Parliament, we want a superior logic to prevail,” Malema told the SABC.

Malema said that his party is “happy that all criminals who are in [Ramaphosa’s] organisation are going to be prosecuted for crimes they have committed against the people of South Africa”.

But the EFF leader had criticisms, too.

“The president presented the state of the nation very well without plans. The president has no plans of how he is going to change the lives of our people,” he said.

He also spoke of how he had told Ramaphosa that the EFF was prepared to take him on.

“We said to him at the beginning when he was panicking. We said: ‘Relax brother, make your commitment to the people of South Africa so when we take you on, people know why we are taking you on.”

Democratic Alliance

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane appeared less than impressed with the address and said he didn’t believe Ramaphosa had outlined anything new in his speech. Maimane said he looked forward to Monday’s debate on the address, where he intended to challenge Ramaphosa on the failure to announce immediate interventions to the country’s challenges.“We welcome the address, but if you look at the speech it came across as a lot more of the same. It announced a number of more summits and commissions when what South Africans are desperate for is immediate action. We could have gotten more bolder action today and I heard a lot of the same stuff,” Maimane said.


ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte, known for being among those who staunchly supported Zuma in the party, smiled as she spoke of her new president’s speech, calling it a “step up for the country”.

“He raised many issues that many of us as the governing party are extremely happy with. The one million jobs for young people is very important. Secondly is the question of the economy. Removing all the red tape for small and medium enterprises,” Duarte said.

United Democratic Movement

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa challenged Ramaphosa to break the ANC’s history of not delivering on its promises.

“We welcome the statement of intent by president Cyril Ramaphosa. However, this long list that he has tabled today will depend on the attitude of his administration, meaning the DG’s and their departments, [and] including his cabinet that he will be working with. People are sick and tired of the ANC’s empty promises of the past and I hope we are not going back to the same thing,” Holomisa said.

African Christian Democratic Party

ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe, meanwhile, compared Ramaphosa to Madiba, saying he had spoken to the concerns many South Africans have.

“The way he spoke in the house reminded me of the time of ntate Nelson Mandela,” he said.

“He said what the people of SA wanted to hear, particularly when it comes to crime and corruption. He sounds like a person who’s going to be ruthless when it comes to corruption.”

South African Communist Party

Ramaphosa’s promise to deal with corruption and state capture also seemed to soothe tensions that had been building in the tripartite alliance, with SACP leader Solly Mapaila commending the way in which Ramaphosa dealt with state capture in his speech.

“There is great hope that has inspired us. The rest of South Africa should be inspired. He actually showed what a president is. He restored the nationhood of all South Africans. He touched on all the sectors. And his commitment to action and fight against corporate capture was inspiring,” Mapaila said.

National Freedom Party

The NFP’s Professor Nhlanhla Khubisa said Ramaphosa had raised all the major issues in the country in his speech that needed to be dealt with.

“The president touched on a plethora of issues that touches our country… dealing with our state owned enterprises, dealing with free higher education. These are the main issues,” said Khubisa.

“Now South Africans are waiting to see if these things are implemented. The president spoke like a person who’s been there and has seen it,” he said.

Inkatha Freedom Party

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthulezi said Ramaphosa’s speech and proposal that opposition parties work together was exciting.

“This is the era of renewal of change, renewal of hope… I admire the president for unpacking what he is going to do. He threw the ball at all of us to cooperate and work together. I’m very excited,” he said.