THE BLOG
23/02/2018 06:24 SAST | Updated 23/02/2018 06:24 SAST

All Hands On Deck As Our President Navigates Us Through Stormy Waters

In his measured and upbeat yet firm manner, Cyril Ramaphosa has brought dignity back to Parliament.

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Cyril Ramaphosa, newly sworn-in South African president, addresses Parliament on February 20, 2018.

President Ramaphosa's state of the nation address, his response to the debate and the fiery, at times caustic, speech at the end of the debate session by minister Naledi Pandor have shown that the adults are back in charge at the ANC.

In his measured and upbeat, yet firm manner, South Africa's newly elected president has brought dignity back to Parliament, while lifting the spirit of the nation and the level of parliamentary interaction.

If it is true that an economy, a society and therefore a country is not like a speedboat, but rather like a large tanker – in that it is difficult to turn around, and that this process involves a lot of time – then South Africa has now started charting a new course under the guidance of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It is clear that President Ramaphosa is determined to get up every morning and do everything in his power to realise a better future and a better tomorrow for the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society...

The South African president has been Obamaesque during his appearances in Parliament – serious and determined, yet personable and warm. He wove stories of ordinary South Africans through his speeches, and even summoned the resonant words of Bra Hugh Masekela, propelling South Africans to say, "send me" too.

Before the ANC's 54th national conference at Nasrec, I described Cyril Ramaphosa's candidacy as uninspiring. However, uninspiring was yesterday, for President Ramaphosa was certainly inspirational as he stood before South Africans - a man who is committed, humble and strong.

It is clear that President Ramaphosa is determined to get up every morning and do everything in his power to realise a better future and a better tomorrow for the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society.

After the lost decade that was the presidency of Jacob Zuma, which saw inequality between the haves and have-nots developing into an ever-widening chasm, President Ramaphosa has plotted a plan to bring millions of South Africans into secure and sustainable employment, so that they can live their lives in dignity and with pride.

MUJAHID SAFODIEN via Getty Images
(FromL) Deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, secretary-general Ace Magashle, national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, ANC and state president Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC deputy president David Mabuza and treasurer-general Paul Mashatile wave to the crowd of ANC supporters at the Absa Stadium in East London during the ANC's 106th-anniversary celebrations on January 13, 2018.

By using the National Development Plan as a roadmap, President Ramaphosa makes no apology for his intention to return to tried and tested methods of collaboration and partnership in order to create jobs and address the social ills besetting our country.

With outcomes clearly identified, President Ramaphosa has mapped out a future in which he intends all parliamentarians to advance the interests of South Africa. As he reminded them, they all have a responsibility to work together and to build consensus. In short, to let go of the party politics and one-upmanship that characterised the Zuma era.

The sincerity with which President Ramaphosa set out his intentions to work together made me imagine a Cabinet – something the president emphatically stated he will not be rushed or pressured into – in which Julius Malema, Pieter Groenewald, Mmusi Maimane or others from the opposition parties become part of the executive, thus harnessing the spirit of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln who – after the U.S. Civil War – surrounded himself with his opinionated rivals, appointing to his cabinet men who held different views.

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Cyril Ramaphosa (C), newly sworn-in South African president, addresses Parliament on February 20, 2018.

Indeed, it was our own late former president Nelson Mandela who also welcomed previous political foes into his Cabinet. For it is certain that once opposition parties are given the responsibility of finding solutions, they will better appreciate the multiple competing demands of governing a diverse, environmentally challenged and economically embattled country and be forced to come up with solutions.

The task of rebuilding our nation, in which President Ramaphosa has called all South Africans to lend a hand, must be embarked on with empathy and sense of purpose and persistence. Too many South Africans do not know the dignity of work and are still living in poverty.

Too many of our young people – who are without school or post-school qualifications, without work experience or direction in life – are being left behind while at the same time, rappers and reality stars decadently flaunt the latest "must haves" in real time on social media.

For those able to create jobs, tend to the vulnerable or our environment; let us all chip in to the tune of "thuma mina".

The potential of hope and dreams turning into frustration and disillusionment is real, and this endangers the realisation of South Africa as "a country where people's prospects are determined by their own initiative and hard work, and not by the colour of their skin, place of birth, gender, language or the income of their parents".

It is, therefore, a matter of urgency that we all do our bit to bring about the South Africa envisaged by our president. For those able to create jobs, tend to the vulnerable or our environment.

Let us all chip in to the tune of "thuma mina".