The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, on Monday tabled a motion of no confidence in the cabinet during a joint sitting in parliament to debate President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2022 State of the Nation Address last Thursday.
Responding to Ramaphosa’s speech, DA leader John Steenhuisen questioned the president’s promise to reform the economy by working closely with the private sector, saying he was appointing outsiders to effectively do the work of government ministers who should be fired.
“Today I table a motion of no confidence — not in the president — but in the whole cabinet in terms of section 102(1) of the Constitution,” said Steenhuisen, whose party, however, does not have sufficient votes in parliament to have the motion passed.
To much applause from other DA legislators, he told Ramaphosa: “If it is not possible for you to do right by the people of South Africa, then we will take the burden off your hands and let this house fire them for you.”
Steenhuisen said after the motion of no confidence, his party aimed to bring back bills such as the Ease of Doing Business Bill, Redtape Impact Assessment Bill, Public Investment Corporation Amendment Bill, and End Cadre Deployment Bill.
In his address last week, Ramaphosa said the state needed to “create an environment in which the private sector can invest and unleash the dynamism of our economy”.
He said policymakers were reviewing the Business Act and other legislation to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses. Ramaphosa has appointed a team, led by former Exxaro chief executive Sipho Nkosi, to look into cutting restrictive red tape across the economy.
“We have found that there are too many regulations in our economy in our country that are unduly complicated, costly and difficult to comply with … Now we are, therefore, working to improve the business environment for companies of all sizes through a dedicated capacity in the presidency to reduce red tape,” he said.
In his weekly newsletter on Monday, Ramaphosa wrote how both the private sector and government had roles to fulfil in the economy.
“Some people have suggested that we must make a choice between, on the one hand, a developmental state that plays a vital role in economic and social transformation, and, on the other, a vibrant, expanding private sector that drives growth and employment.
“The reality is that we need both. We need a capable developmental state and a dynamic and agile private sector. We need them to work together and complement each other,” he said.
In response to last week’s address, Steenhuisen said large parts of the president’s speech “are straight from the DA’s playbook”, quipping that the ruling party was “finally getting it”.
“The president did not sound like a man leading the ANC — a party obsessed with centralised control of the economy, and reliant on a massively bloated public sector,” Steenhuisen said.
He said it was “difficult” to determine which views expressed by the president in his Sona represented the “real ANC”, arguing that the ruling party — which has governed since the advent of democracy in 1994 — “for three decades did all it possibly could to discourage job creation in the private sector, through terrible, draconian regulations and labour laws”.
To make sure that the economy did not remain “trapped in quicksand”, Steenhuisen said the government must start doing, not just talking.
“You talk about building a capable, professional state, but you still insist on deploying unsuitable party loyalists to every single corner of the state,” he said, adding that Ramaphosa could only talk about accountability “because actually doing something would mean firing some of your cabinet, and upsetting your comrades”.
The ANC’s chief whip, Pemmy Majodina, said Ramaphosa’s speech last Thursday was an honest account of the progress the country had made and the challenges it still faced.
She praised the government’s response to the looting and vandalism that rocked KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last July, in the wake of former president Jacob Zuma’s incarceration for contempt of court.
“Despite the destruction in KZN and Gauteng, our government, working with the people of these communities, restored all social services timeously,” Majodina said.
She dismissed as “overreach” the DA’s suggestion that Ramaphosa’s address had been plagiarised from the opposition’s manifesto: “Our economic perspective is fundamentally different, we believe in a government enabling an environment for business to flourish, not some hostile takeover.”