Cyril Ramaphosa has conceded that the economic reconstruction and recovery plan he presented to parliament last week “may not sound new”, but “political grandstanding” on it was unwarranted.
In a spirited defence of his widely criticised plan, Ramaphosa said opposition party leaders and MPs needed to decide if they wanted to see the country remaining in a “state of paralysis” or to rally behind his efforts to pull the economy out of the ravages of Covid-19.
Ramaphosa was addressing a hybrid sitting of parliament on Wednesday as he closed a debate by MPs from the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces after his presentation of the economic recovery plan.
Opposition parties have overwhelmingly rejected Ramaphosa’s plan, which includes spending more than R100bn to create 800,000 public sector job opportunities in the next years, as nothing new and the recycling of old ideas.
Ramaphosa’s economic plan would also see municipalities and companies being allowed to generate their own electricity, relieving pressure on Eskom and helping businesses escape the burden of load-shedding.
Leading the charge was DA interim leader John Steenhuisen, who said that while the DA welcomed Ramaphosa’s decision to extend the R350 Covid-19 social grant by a further three months, there was very little exciting in Ramaphosa’s latest economic blueprint.
“It’s a wish list of worthy intentions. This is a letter to Santa,” said Steenhuisen. “There were some good points. The auctioning of spectrum to bring down data costs is one of them but this should have happened a long time ago, and this is not the first time it’s been promised. Make it happen.
“Similarly, reforms to Eskom and the opening of the energy market to more independent producers are long overdue. You’ve listed this in your plan; now make it happen.”
EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu said the party rejected Ramaphosa’s economic plan as it had failed to say anything new about land reform.
But Ramaphosa simply brushed aside the criticisms as nothing but grandstanding.
“This is not a moment to grandstand and to throw burps at each other,” said Ramaphosa, who also acknowledged that some of the criticism was helpful.
“In the end, we have to put a plan on the table. It may well sound like we’re repeating what we’ve said in the past, yes that may well be so. It may well sound like we’ve not come up with anything new, but I think if you read between those lines, those paragraphs, and if they all take time to look at this plan carefully, you will find that there’s a new resolve, there’s a new determination and this plan is underpinned by the participation of the social partners of our country,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the same spirit of consensus displayed recently by business, civil society, government and labour unions at Nedlac where the plan was discussed and adopted before he tabled it in parliament, was now required from political parties.
“The same spirit of collaboration and partnership must guide us in the difficult days ahead. As political parties, we can come together to see this plan to fruition or we can spend the next few months in a state of paralysis as we pick the plan apart and also tear each other apart.
“I believe that’s not what our people want to see us doing as the elected leaders of the nation. They want to see us working together, coming up with suggestions and proposals that will address the challenges that they face. That’s all that our people are interested in,” he said.
BY Thabo Mokone