POLITICS
15/02/2018 16:16 SAST | Updated 15/02/2018 17:21 SAST

Oppositions' Stern, Congratulatory Words For Pres. Ramaphosa

“I truly feel humbled to have been given this great privilege of being able to serve our people."

President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa addresses MPs after being elected president in Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 15, 2018.
Mike Hutchings / Reuters
President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa addresses MPs after being elected president in Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 15, 2018.

Newly elected South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has taken to the parliamentary podium for the first time as head of state.

Ramaphosa, the ANC's leader and now former deputy president of South Africa, was elected uncontested in Parliament on Thursday after his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, resigned on Wednesday evening.

Ramaphosa used the brief opportunity to respond to opposition parties, each of which had two minutes to welcome him into office. They offered him advice on his Cabinet ministers and also warned that they would hold him to account.

"I truly feel humbled to have been given this great privilege of being able to serve our people. I also want to extend my gratitude to leaders of political parties who are here. This, for me, is a truly humbling occasion. I will miss being a member (of Parliament) ... I will be coming to this house on a regular basis to exercise accountability," he said.

"I will seek to work with all political parties, and we will start it off wanting to have a meeting with the leaders of all political parties, so we can find a way to start working together... I will do all this as a servant of our people. When one is elected in this type of a position, you basically become a servant of the people of South Africa."

Mike Hutchings / Reuters
President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa is hugged by Democratic Alliance Party leader Mmusi Maimane after Ramaphosa was elected president in parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

He proceeded to respond to each message from party leaders – except the EFF, which had walked out of Parliament before the election process had begun.

"I will try very hard not to disappoint the people of South Africa," he concluded. DA leader Mmusi Maimane walked across the floor to shake his hand when he left the podium after his speech.

The EFF abandoned the vote, claiming that Parliament was "an illegitimate structure" and therefore did not have the credibility to elect a new president. The party wanted Parliament dissolved and early elections held.

This is what each party said to Ramaphosa:

DA (Mmusi Maimane):

"If you act in the interests of South Africa, we will cooperate to assist you in that mission. It would be erroneous of me to say the problem of South Africa would be Jacob Zuma. You sitting on this side [the ANC] couldn't even tell him what he did wrong ... we don't have a Jacob Zuma problem, we have an ANC problem. I wish you strength, but know we will hold you accountable, and I will see you in 2019 at the ballot box."

Inkatha Freedom Party (Narend Singh):

"We wholeheartedly support the nomination. We realise you have no magic wand to cure the ills of the past. We trust you will get rid of the scourge of corruption ... you will remove all those from your cabinet involved in state capture ... you will provide certainty on free education ... and provide opportunities to all South Africans. This is not carte blanche support; we are giving you the benefit of the doubt."

POOL New / Reuters
Cyril Ramaphosa enjoys the moment of applause as he is elected President of South Africa at the parliament in Cape Town, South Africa February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Rodger Bosch/Pool

National Freedom Party (Moses Khubisa):

"You are taking office at a very crucial time in our country, when the economy of our country is ailing. There are various social ills. They are evident for everyone to see. We need a new spirit of patriotism. It is now time that we rally around one another and ensure that we build our country."

United Democratic Movement (Bantu Holomisa):

"Your abrupt rise to the highest office in the land is the collective effort from all walks of life against the tyranny of the then ANC-deployed corrupt leader. I wish to congratulate the decision by opposition parties, citizens of South Africa ... through our collective actions, you have brought the toxic leadership of Zuma to ground."

FF Plus (Pieter Groenewald):

"I hope that in this house the level of debates will rise to responsible debate, where the president will have respect for this house, because the previous president had no respect [for] this legislature. You have to promote unity to enhance South Africa; your predecessor was known for the fact that he blamed the white people for everything that went wrong in this country ... the white people will see whether you will promote unity, or whether you will also blame them for the inability of the ANC."

African Christian Democratic Party (Kenneth Meshoe):

"You are not only the president of the ANC, but you are also the president of the Republic of South Africa. All South Africans will be looking to you for leadership, for direction, for unity. For us to be able to achieve that ... you need to look at the team around you, because not one person can solve the problems of South Africa."

Mike Hutchings / Reuters
President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa hugs Parliament Speaker Baleka Mbete as he is applauded by MPs after being elected President in Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

African Independent Congress (Lulama Ntshayisa):

"We know that our country is faced with so many challenges ... we have got to come together to fight these challenges. We wish you well for all that you will do for the country."

Pan-African Congress (Narius Moloto):

"You need to think seriously about the issue of changing Section 25 of the constitution so it is in favour of the African people; not so that it is in favour of those who have stolen our land and wealth."

ANC (Jackson Mthembu):

"We are honoured as the ANC to have been supported by all parties in this house in electing [Ramaphosa] as president, and we would like to thank all the parties indeed for agreeing with the ANC that in [Ramaphosa] we have a leader who, in his DNA, will at all times be of service to our people. That is the leader that we have."