The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as the new President of the Republic of South Africa (RSA) in Parliament raised the expectations of many South Africans – and what is there for him to deal with is a monumental task that no incoming President would wish to inherit.

It is these high hopes pinned on his presidential mast that warrant decisiveness and insightful judgement on his part. That he got reminded of by the members of his political party and of the opposition alike.

In his incisive and unequivocal acceptance speech, which enunciated the trademarks of his statesmanship, he promised that he will shoulder them to the best of his ability. And he will, in his tenure, be nothing less than a servant of the people.    

His ascendancy to the highest office in the land was initiated by Maesela’s nomination, a process which was presided by the Chief Justice of South Africa, Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

In his short nomination speech, Dr Patrick Maesela lavished him with praise for having been a tried and tested revolutionary. And he proclaimed the hopes that hinged on his presidency. “You proved throughout the years to be a disciplined revolutionary. We are now pinning the hopes of this country’s future on your leadership.”

Seconding the nomination, Ms Joanmariae Fubbs attested that his revolutionary credentials in his student days and his activism as a unionist put him in good stead to bring about economic transformation and inclusive growth in this country. “We know that you will bring about prosperous economic transformation that will benefit all South Africans.”  

She said they were proud of the fact his leadership would ingrain principles of selflessness and disciplined leadership. The only objection to his election came from the leader of the Congress of the People, Mr Mosiuoa Lekota, who said he objected to his election as a President of the country by virtue of being part of the Presidency whose head at the time, President Jacob Zuma, was found to have violated his oath of office.

The Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Ms Baleka Mbete, said the country has emerged from a historical era. Quoting the late President, Mr Nelson Mandela, she said: “As a nation we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.”

Referring to the impasse that preceded the election of the new President, she stated: “Our challenges are not insurmountable. I truly believe our democracy has matured and remains resilient.”

She also commended the contribution of the former president in the past nine years. And wished him well. “We wish the former President the best in his future endeavours.”

She then wished the new President strength and fortitude in what she referred to as a challenging role. And thanked South Africans for having been patient throughout this transition period.

As a tradition after the election of the President of the Republic of South Africa in the National Assembly, leaders of political parties are given an opportunity to congratulate and wish the President-elect a successful presidency. That opportunity was given after the election of President Ramaphosa.

Mr Mmusi Maimane proclaimed that they would support the new President if he acted in the best interest of the country. But he said they expected the African National Congress (ANC) to tell the country what has been the challenge facing South Africa during the former President’s nine-year tenure. “We did our best to expose his corrupt deeds. But you could not tell him as a party what he has done wrong. That means we don’t have a Zuma problem, we have an ANC problem. We will see you at the ballots in 2019,” said Mr Maimane.

The Chief Whip of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Mr Narend Singh, said: “We know that you don’t have a magic wand, but we’re expecting you to remove those implicated in state capture. And we expect you to turn the state-owned enterprises into organs of development.”

Mr Singh said Members of the NA expect Mr Ramaphosa to deal with the land impasse. “But remember, we are not giving you a carte blanche support, we will keep you in your toes to ensure that this government delivers.”

Prof Nhlanhlakayise Khubisa, who is the Chief Whip of the National Freedom Party, said Mr Ramaphosa’s election came at a time when South Africa’s economy experienced severed challenges. “As such we need to inculcate the new spirit of patriotism to ensure that we rebuilt our country’s economy,” he added. “Let’s deal with corruption for the sake of nation-building and let’s forge ahead and take our country’s economy forward,” emphasised Prof Khubisa.           

General Bantu Holomisa of the United Democratic Movement insisted that the recent events that led to the deposing of former president Jacob Zuma have shown that there was no party that was bigger than the people of South Africa. In the same breath, he reiterated the need for the inception of the National Convention to deal with an array of South Africa’s ills. “We need a convention that will deal with corruption, that will come with a solution to the land issue, that will devise ways of stimulating economic growth and the promotion of the rule of law,” he said.

Rev Kenneth Meshoe said Mr Ramaphosa must have a courage to do good, and the fear of God must guide him. “People are hopeful of you, they are not to be disappointed. Fear God because fearing God is the beginning of wisdom. Do good and don’t buy face. Do what is right for your party, and this country,” stressed Rev Meshoe.

Mr Luthando Mbinda of the Pan Africanist Congress reminded Mr Ramaphosa that it is not yet uhuru. “People are still living in bondage; they look up to us former liberation struggle movements. Change the section of the Constitution on land in favour of the disenfranchised – not those who stole the land,” he said.

Also enjoying the opportunity presented by the NA for congratulatory remarks and words of wisdom, the Chief Whip of the majority party, the ANC, Mr Jackson Mthembu, said: “In you, President, we have a president who will at all times be of service to our people. That is a characteristic that is inherent in your DNA. And you have a good track record of service to the people. That is why we elected you as the President of the ANC in December.”

Furthermore, Mr Mthembu said: “We know you from your student days, when you were instrumental in establishing the National Union of Mineworkers, when you were involved in the United Democratic Front and in the Mass Democratic Movement and during the banning of the ANC you were there and during its unbanning you were there too.”

Mr Mthembu told Members of the NA that Mr Ramaphosa has been in the struggle in its changing forms and is now ascending to the highest office in the land. He said they know he will assist in ensuring a better life for all South Africans.

Accepting his nomination, Mr Ramaphosa expressed his gratitude to those who pinned so much hope on him. “I am truly humbled to be given this great privilege to serve our people,” said Mr Ramaphosa.

He promised parliamentarians that he will frequent Parliament to account on a regular basis. He assured members of the NA that he will create time to meet with the leaders of the opposition parties and expressed his commitment to working with the opposition parties. “I will execute my work with humility, faithfulness and dignity,” said Mr Ramaphosa.

“Listening to all parties, it was like observing my ‘rite of passage’,” he said. He said that moment in the NA resembled that of a young man who is given instructions by the elders on how to become a man. “You gave advice, most of you spoke about unity, patriotism and that we must work together to bring about economic growth. All this resonates with what I believe in – and what I intend to do,” he said.       

By Abel Mputing
16 February 2018