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Editorial: We have questions, Mr President

Leadership by statement or a televised address with no time for any questions from the floor. That’s what we’ve sadly become accustomed to over the past three years of the presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa. 

Like his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, he largely governs through poorly crafted statements and speeches from the communications teams, leaving little space for scrutiny by the media. 

Maybe it’s the unintended consequence of leading a divided ANC, where everything said that is not in line with the views of the “collective” is immediately picked upon to cause further division in the ranks. 

But whatever the reason, the public is getting the short end of the stick.

This was never more clearly illustrated than in this past week’s “family meeting” by Ramaphosa, when he moved the country quite rightfully to a higher level of lockdown. It was done in our best interests and we should accept that the people at the wheel of this war against Covid-19 are doing their best job possible. 

But we know that there were calls much earlier for a change to the restriction levels, a change that may have saved lives. Why weren’t those voices heard and their advice dismissed? The only man who could have told us that was the president, who rambled on for close to an hour in his speech this past Sunday. 

There have been delays in the vaccination roll-out, some unavoidable and some by our own doing. With a target of vaccinating 42-million people, just when does he now see his government deliver on this promise? Being that the mike is his, it was, of course, a topic that he wouldn’t address. In the gallery at the Union Buildings there was only a motley crew of “yes” men and women, who probably congratulated their leader on a well-delivered speech to the nation. 

Without subjecting himself to the media, what a distorted view he must have of his running of the nation during this most grave of crises. 

This is not how you run a democratic country. The lack of transparency has become the norm for public representatives who refuse to face up to any scrutiny. As president, premier or any other public representative, they have to be held to a greater accountability. 

The “communications industrial complex” that shields public servants at our expense doesn’t serve our democracy and the need for transparency. Ramaphosa needs to be held accountable and we would suggest at the very least a monthly press conference instead of the “family meeting”, where we are treated like children unable to question our dearest father. 

Failure to do so undermines our democracy, and leads us in conspiracy-fuelled fear regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and other developments such as the arrest of his predecessor.

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