POLITICS
24/05/2018 16:25 SAST | Updated 24/05/2018 16:25 SAST

Ramaphosa Moves To Isolate White Conservative Creep After Budget Debate

The president took aim at apartheid denialists, critics of his economic recovery plans, and those who want to hijack the land-reform process.

Sumaya Hisham / Reuters
President Cyril Ramaphosa.

ANALYSIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa sought to isolate white conservative creep in the body politic in his response to the debate on the presidency's budget vote on Thursday, when he said singing apartheid national anthem "Die Stem" and waving the old national flag are not symbols of Afrikaner identity but of discrimination, oppression and misery.

It follows recent statements by Kallie Kriel, chief executive of Afrikaner rights group AfriForum, that apartheid was not a crime against humanity. Kriel, who recently led a tour to the U.S., where the organisation sought to whip up support for its positions on land reform and rural crime, has since tried to explain that while apartheid was wrong, its crimes cannot be compared to other crimes such as the Holocaust. He has been widely lambasted for his position.

Ramaphosa said present-day realities are a function of barriers and divisions of the past. He prefaced his response by saying that he agrees with Pieter Groenewald, leader of the Freedom Front Plus, that unity and reconciliation is every South African's duty. "Not only in name, but in real effect. That requires that we recognise the injustices and also how the legacy of those injustices endures in social and economic terms."

The president used the continued existence of barriers in society as the main theme of his response, and said barriers must be broken down if true reconciliation is to be achieved.

"Some of those barriers exist in people's minds. They exist in the people who think it is still acceptable to sing 'Die Stem' and display the old South African flag. These are not symbols of Afrikaner identity, but symbols of discrimination, oppression, misery and of wanting to go back to the past.

"They exist in the minds of those who would deny that apartheid was a crime against humanity.

"They exist in the minds of those who measure worth by race, gender, language, ethnic group, class or income. Also in the landscape of those who live in the rural areas and urban areas, those who live in the former homelands, and those in cities and towns. It exists in those people who live on the periphery and those who live in the centre," Ramaphosa said.

The president reiterated his government's commitment to attracting investment in the country, and responded directly to his critics by saying his approaches to the private sector do not mean it is a continuation of the "1996 class project" or that it is an "elite project". He told MPs it is a revolutionary effort to kick-start the economy and an effort to create meaningful jobs.

He castigated both the DA and the EFF for their positions on land reform, and reiterated that government's land-reform programme will be "meaningful, radical and sustainable".

Ramaphosa emphasised that ownership must be "broadened" and made no mention of any efforts to either water down or scrap private ownership of property, as some fearmongers on the right have contended — and some populists on the left have demanded.

He repeated his position that expropriation without compensation is but one of the mechanisms the state will use to redistribute land.