South Africa: Steenhuisen Calls On Ramaphosa for 'Concomitant Action' Against Corruption

13 February 2019

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen invoked President Cyril Ramaphosa's controversial email about the Marikana mining strike to call for "concomitant action" against crime.

Sweeping the debate on Thursday's State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Tuesday on behalf of the opposition, Steenhuisen picked up on a common theme for opposition speakers - that Ramaphosa must act against the ministers and ANC MPs tied to corruption.

"You cannot really expect anybody to take what you said about combating corruption seriously, while the most corrupt still sit in your party benches and around your Cabinet table. They will get you in the end - watch this space, and watch your back," a fired-up Steenhuisen said.

Steenhuisen said he noticed who was clapping on Thursday evening when Ramaphosa announced that a directorate would be established in the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) to deal with corruption.

"How ironic that some of the most enthusiastic were the very undertakers of the Scorpions, people like the honourable [ANC MP Yunus] Carrim. And clapping like seals besides him were the very people on those benches who should be the first in [NDDP Shamila Batohi's] cross hairs," Steenhuisen said.

'Watch your back'

He said the test for the directorate would not be which officials or underlings they arrest, but "whether they start putting cuffs on the honourable members seated in this House".

"And your test will come when your party tries to stop that. Watch that space and watch your back."

"Because you see Mr President, when a minister accepts a monthly retainer, braai packs, whisky and a car for their daughter, if I may quote a recent email of yours: 'It is plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such, there needs to be concomitant action,'" Steenhuisen said.

"When a senior parliamentarian is kept sweet through cash payments, security upgrades and university fees for his daughter in order to prevent Parliament from doing its job, 'It is plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such, there needs to be concomitant action.'

"When a senior party official and government minister accepts security upgrades at his properties in exchange for peddling influence and tenders, 'It is plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such, there needs to be concomitant action.'

"When ANC premiers, mayors, MECs and councillors loot at every opportunity they get, 'It is plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such, there needs to be concomitant action.'"

Steenhuisen was quoting from the email Ramaphosa sent in August 2012, about 24 hours before police shot down striking mineworkers at Lonmin's mine at Marikana.

Ramaphosa wasn't in government at the time, but a Lonmin shareholder and ANC national executive committee member. He has since apologised and the commission of inquiry that investigated the shooting didn't make an adverse finding against him.

Ramaphosa remained stony-faced while Steenhuisen quoted the letters.

"Mr President, know this, your critics may sit on these opposition benches, but your enemies sit on your government benches. So, while you tell us to 'watch this space', our message to you is 'watch your back'," he said, picking up on a theme his party leader Mmusi Maimane explored earlier in the debate - that Ramaphosa is hamstrung by members of his own party.

'Great future behind her'

"Because the allies of growth and progress sit on these opposition benches, but your biggest obstacles sit on your own. There are people on that side of the House, who are willing you to fail."

"The ANC is corrupt to the core and too many people in your party have got used to the Louis Vuitton handbags, the kickbacks and the chickens," Steenhuisen said.

While Steenhuisen toned down his usual style of roasting the governing party during the debate on last year's SONA, he didn't hold back on Tuesday evening.

Amongst Steenhuisen's other barbs was that Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has "a great future behind her" and that the saying "talk is cheap, money buys the whiskey" is wrong for the ANC. It should be "talk is cheap, Gavin Watson buys the whiskey".

Steenhuisen was followed by Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor. Before getting into her speech, she responded to Maimane about his claim that Ramaphosa isn't in control of the ANC.

"We don't know whether he [Maimane] is in charge of his party," she said.

Then, glaring at Maimane from the podium with a raised eyebrow, she said that they, in fact, know that according to recent reports he is not.

While she can also be a formidable sweeper, Pandor stuck mostly to her prepared speech, which started with her expressing condolences to Mlungisi Madonsela, the DUT student who was shot and killed on campus last week.

As most ANC speakers, Pandor paid much deference to Ramaphosa. She said there is no one in Parliament who could give him lessons.

This apparently angered EFF leader Julius Malema. "This one! This one said the same thing to Zuma!" Malema erupted, without being recognised by the presiding officer.

"What type of a leader can't listen to anyone?" he said.

Pandor, without batting an eyelid, said: "At least I can hold my head up high. I didn't say I'd die for anyone."

She said Maimane reminded her of an escape artist, who tied himself in chains. She argued that he never spoke about inequality in case it scared his base.

Earlier DA MP Phumzile van Damme delivered her speech - also beseeching Ramaphosa to act against the corrupt in his party - despite being barely able to speak because of the flu and after spending some time in Parliament's on-site clinic earlier the afternoon.

"Now, Mr President, I noted that in your speech you said, and I quote '... We have no choice but to step up the fight against corruption,'" Van Damme croaked.

"No choice...

"I find it odd that you conveyed the need to fight corruption as a difficult choice you had to make as if your hands were tied behind your back before."

After Van Damme's speech, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said the ANC was a caring organisation. They have doctors who can help her.

Steenhuisen responded, to much laughter all round: "We also have some police officers to assist the ANC."


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