Parliament sat for a joint sitting to debate Ramaphosa’s first State of the Nation Address, delivered on Friday evening.
Maimane and Malema, the first two opposition parties to address the House following ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu, made no bones about what Ramaphosa’s most immediate task is.
“At 35 ministries, each with a deputy minister, ours is one of the most bloated governments in the world,” Maimane said in his speech in the National Assembly.
“We have already done the homework on this. It is entirely possible to cut our Executive down to 15 ministries, with spending priorities that promote economic growth and job creation.”
That would save the country around R4.7bn each year, he claimed.
“Now I know this is difficult because there is patronage to dish out. But let me make this easier for you, Mr President. Why don’t you start with all the Ministers who have proven themselves to be compromised?
“Show South Africa you are really serious about fighting corruption in your party and fire Bathabile Dlamini, Faith Muthambi, Mosebenzi Zwane, Malusi Gigaba, Des van Rooyen, David Mahlobo, Lynne Brown and ‘Mr R7000-a-night’ Bongani Bongo.”
DA MPs applauded as he said this, while Bongo smiled and waved at opposition MPs as they taunted him.
Malema also didn’t hold back, fingering current public service and administration minister Faith Muthambi for particular criticism.
“I don’t understand, why would you have Faith Muthambi as a minister, but not have [House chairperson] Thoko Didiza as a minister?” Malema continued the fight.
“What justification is there? Any normal person makes Faith Muthambi a minister and leave out a person like Thoko Didiza.
“You removed people at Eskom following allegations. You didn’t waste time. You waste time to remove your own colleagues here.”
Muthambi laughed to herself as Malema spoke. She had been communications minister during the SABC inquiry.
Malema continued, saying Ramaphosa spoke decisively about corruption on Friday evening in order to “save face” for his compromised colleagues.
That’s why the EFF chanted ‘Aaaaaace’ when he was speaking, referring to Free State premier Ace Magashule, who was present in the House, and is implicated in the Vrede Dairy Farm scandal.
“You wanted to save Ace’s face by jumping that line. Why? You want to continue to protect your own. Don’t protect those who continue to be implicated in corruption.
“All those who are going to be frequenting the state capture inquiry, they must be dismissed so they can have time to prepare for the inquiry,” he finished.
A ‘new dawn’
Mthembu opened the debate for the ANC, saying Friday’s address felt like a new dawn for the country.
As is the theme for the ANC this year, he invoked the spirit of former president Nelson Mandela in what would be his centenary year.
“As we sat in this house on Friday evening, we could feel the spirit of Nelson Mandela among us,” Mthembu said.
“A SONA delivered which laid out his vision for the Republic of South Africa, a vision wherein South African is a place for all who live in it.”
Mthembu only briefly welcomed Ramaphosa’s intention to review the size of Cabinet, without elaborating.
He however says there was a need for principled leadership.
“The leadership we are calling for must be one of a principled nature across political parties, where ethics and integrity are the dominant factor, and not narrow party politics.”
“As parliament, we must not, and cannot, ever be found on the side of having done or allowed wrong doing under our watch. We as public representatives, we carry the hopes and aspirations of the people who elected us into office. We dare not fail them.”
Parliament to battle fruitless expenditure
He welcomed Ramaphosa’s intervention in the Mining Charter impasse, as well as his intention to root out corruption.
“We shall renew our focus on comrade Mandela’s vision of a non-racial society in which the social and economic barriers that have separated black from white are broken down,” Mthembu said.
“We shall redouble our efforts to build a society in which black poverty and white privilege are consigned to the past, replaced by respect, solidarity and non-racial equality.”
The ANC in Parliament would thus commit to bringing an end to fruitless, wasteful and non-expenditure by government, amounting to almost R1trn over the last four financial years, he said.
Parliament will also finalise key legislation that stalled under President Jacob Zuma.
They also welcomed the promised interventions at the South African Revenue Service, state-owned enterprises and government departments.
The debate continued on Monday. The House is scheduled to sit until 20:00. DM
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