Sona: DA expects Ramaphosa to stick to his script

Democratic Alliance (DA) interim leader John Steenhuisen is not holding his breath for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday.

Instead, the leader of the official opposition expects more of the same, as with Ramaphosa’s last three Sona speeches. 

Steenhuisen was delivering his party’s alternative Sona in Cape Town on Wednesday. 

“If you’ve never witnessed one of his Sona speeches, you may be forgiven for going into this one with naive expectations. But I sat there and listened to him in 2018, I sat there and listened to him last year, and I know exactly what is coming,” Steenhuisen said.

“It will be an hour of downplaying the bad and inventing the good. Of cherry-picking stats to show we’ve somehow turned a corner, and of whimsical dreams of a South Africa he knows in his heart he has no hope of achieving.”

For the past two weeks Steenhuisen has been crisscrossing the country to gauge the attitude of people in towns and municipalities. 

The DA leader said he will use the testimonies of ordinary South Africans in his rebuttal to the president during the State of the Nation debate next week. “It is where the collapse of government and state touches the lives of individual South Africans that you see the sheer scale of our crisis.” 

He added: “Over the past two weeks, I have heard first-hand accounts of how the failure of the local and national government has caused untold suffering for people from all walks of life. These people will not get a mention in the president’s Sona speech.”

Ramaphosa must be careful not to allow the debt he owes Pravin Gordhan … make him fail to put the people of South Africa and the economy first. If he continues to do so and assumes a posture of lawlessness and criminality, we will be left with no choice

Vuyani Pambo

EFF threatens disruption

Meanwhile, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has reiterated its position that it will not allow Sona to go ahead as long as Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan remains in Ramaphosa’s Cabinet.

Threats to disrupt the joint sitting of the house have become a common refrain from South Africa’s third-largest political party. 

“When Cyril Ramaphosa speaks, we will also speak,” the EFF’s Vuyani Pambo said in a statement.

“Ramaphosa must be careful not to allow the debt he owes Pravin Gordhan … make him fail to put the people of South Africa and the economy first. If he continues to do so and assumes a posture of lawlessness and criminality, we will be left with no choice but to deal with him in the same way we have dealt with the constitutionally delinquent and corrupt Jacob Zuma,” the statement read. 

The EFF has also claimed that it had information that police will be used to remove its MPs from the chamber if they disrupt proceedings. 

Under parliamentary rules, only the sergeant-at-arms and parliamentary protection services are allowed on the floor of the National Assembly. 

Meanwhile, Parliament’s presiding officers have warned against any disruptions in the National Assembly chamber during Ramaphosa’s speech.

In a joint statement, National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Amos Masondo said: “Open threats to disrupt the work of Parliament, including the propagation of conspiracy theories, are not in the interests of the public. They serve only as attempts to distract Parliament from its work.”

They also denied there is any plan to use police inside the assembly chamber. Instead, their statement advised “parties or members of Parliament with evidence of any alleged plot to unlawfully use police in the chamber during Sona … to submit it to the presiding officer”.

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