You let us down Mr President, says Steenhuisen during SONA debate
PARLIAMENT - President Cyril Ramaphosa had dashed the hope South Africans placed on his shoulders two years ago when he succeeded Jacob Zuma, interim DA leader John Steenhuisen said on Tuesday in a withering reply to the state of the nation address.
"Do you remember the mood of the nation two years ago?" Steenhuisen asked.
"It’s hard to imagine now, but we had hope. We had just closed the book on a terrible chapter in our history, and we stood at the start of what we thought was a brand new journey."
Steenhuisen said at that point, Ramaphosa held more support and trust than any South African leader since Nelson Mandela.
"Your position within your own party was as strong as it could ever be. They needed you to prevent a disaster in the 2019 elections. You were untouchable. You held all the cards, Honourable President. And then you went and blew it. You let us down.
He said Ramaphosa failed to implement structural reforms to free up the economy, to win back investors to South Africa and to create jobs to roll back unemployment of 29.1%.
"And so, instead of turning the corner and getting better, things have got worse."
He added that in the past two years, with Ramaphosa at the helm, investment and economic growth had decreased, while crime and unemployment had increased.
Almost 10.4 million South Africans of working age are unemployed, a million more than when Ramaphosa delivered his first state of the nation address in 2018.
"I am not going to stand here and say that this happened on your watch, Mr President. That would be far too kind," Steenhuisen said.
"It didn’t just happen on your watch, it happened by your own hand. You, sir, put us in this situation. You had your chance to fix it, and you blew it.
"You are not the reformer South Africa thought you were."
Steenhuisen, who is the frontrunner in the DA's leadership race, said Ramaphosa's biggest liabilities were the crisis at Eskom, the decision to push ahead with a constitutional amendment on land expropriation without compensation, and the planned introduction of National Health Insurance.
"You don’t have the guts to make the tough choices our country needs. You are not brave enough to take on the unions that hold this country to ransom.
"And you don’t have the courage to deal decisively with the corrupt people in your own party."
Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa may well have strengthened his own position within a divided African National Congress, and strengthened the tripartite alliance, but his real duty had been to millions of poor South Africans hoping for a better life.
"It was a simple choice - country or party. And, unfortunately for the people of South Africa, you chose your party.
"You chose to maintain the status quo because you don’t want to be the man on whose watch the ANC split down the middle."
African News Agency