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Ramaphosa presses home his 'new dawn'

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Ramaphosa presses home his 'new dawn'

President tells Times Select cabinet announcement is coming 'soon'

Associate editor: analysis

It is difficult to believe that, only a week ago, the ANC was still publicly doing an egg dance around Jacob Zuma, with secretary-general Ace Magashule telling a media briefing last Tuesday that the then president had done “nothing wrong”.
Zuma stubbornly hung on to power while the clock ticked down on his presidency.
This week, South Africa is basking in the “new dawn” of Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency, with Zuma relegated as yesterday’s man.
On Tuesday was Ramaphosa’s second bite in tackling the country’s major issues when he responded in parliament to Monday’s full-day debate on the state of the nation address.
The tone of the debate was significantly different to previous years. With Zuma no longer there to behave like the parliamentary jester, the focus was on South Africa’s rebuilding and recovery mission. 
Ramaphosa said he appreciated the “meaningful debate”, as well as the “decorum and respect” in the House. He said he was humbled by the response across the nation to his “Send Me” rallying call and the “sense of patriotism that elevates the interests of the country above narrow, selfish interests”.Ramaphosa’s most significant announcement was that there would finally be lifestyle audits of “all people who occupy positions of responsibility, starting with members of the executive”.
Although he said “character assassination and insults” against members of cabinet were not justified, his subjecting of the ministers and deputy ministers to scrutiny will draw a positive response from South Africans who are fed up with their high-flying lifestyles.
The president said the review of the configuration, number and size of national government departments would “not be made in haste”. This drew howls from the opposition benches as numerous speakers had called for action to trim the size of cabinet.
Ramaphosa said the review, which would take several months, would involve broad consultation “so that South Africans understand the rationale for the decisions that will ultimately be made”.
He would make the much-anticipated announcement of the new cabinet “at the appropriate time”. However, when asked by Times Select outside parliament when exactly this would be, the president responded “soon”.
Ramaphosa also confronted the contentious land issue, which has caused jitters ever since the ANC adopted a resolution at its December national conference to amend the constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation.
There was some robust opposition to this during the debate, including from the DA’s Mmusi Maimane and COPE’s Mosiuoa Lekota.  
Ramaphosa said the dispossession of land from black South Africans was the “original sin” that contributed to the impoverishment and disempowerment of the majority of people.
“In dealing with this complex matter, we will not make the mistakes that others have made,” Ramaphosa said. “We will not allow smash-and-grab interventions.”
“No one is saying that land must be taken away from our people. Rather it is how we can make sure that our people have equitable access to land and security of tenure,” Ramaphosa said.
Another issue of concern during the debate was the financial, operational and governance problems at state-owned enterprises. Ramaphosa said in addition to the steps he had announced in the Sona, an overarching SOE strategy to support a developmental growth trajectory was being developed.
He said as part of the effort to ensure strategic alignment and more effective oversight at SOEs, there was a proposal for the establishment of a state-owned company co-ordinating council, which he would chair, that would be responsible for high-level strategic direction.
The president stunned the House when he raised the Marikana issue in his reply. The 2012 massacre has haunted him because of his role in summoning police action to intervene in the protracted strike by rock drill operators at the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg.
“The Marikana tragedy stands out as the darkest moment in the life of our young democracy,” Ramaphosa said. “I would like to use this opportunity to address the role that I played in my capacity as a Lonmin director in the events of that tragic week.
“Notwithstanding the findings of the Farlam Commission on my responsibility for the events that unfolded, I am determined to play whatever role I can play in the process of healing and atonement.”Ramaphosa said he would be “guided by the needs and wishes of the families of the 44 workers who lost their lives”.
He said the recommendations of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry for compensation and prosecution “must be concluded in the coming months”.
Ramaphosa said the Life Esidimeni tragedy also stood out as an instance of “the most appalling dereliction by the state of its duty to the people” and should never happen again.
It seems the new president can do no wrong, pressing all the right buttons to inspire confidence and charm the nation since his election.
His early morning walkabouts and interactions with ordinary South Africans animated the commentary in his address.
Government and society must focus on those in society who have the least, Ramaphosa said.
“The most important people in this country are not those who walk the red carpet in parliament, but those who spend their nights on the benches outside its gates,” he said.
Ramaphosa’s “Thuma Mina” movement marches on and South Africans seem to be loving it.

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