DA leader John Steenhuisen says President Cyril Ramaphosa has been nothing but a spectator in the country’s fight against Covid-19.
In a speech on Wednesday, Steenhuisen said the country has not seen real leadership from Ramaphosa since he announced the lockdown, more than 100 days ago.
“We are yet to see leadership from the one man who matters. Throughout all of this – as the rogue ministers of the national command council compounded our problems with petty regulations, as our hospitals filled up and our economy imploded – President Ramaphosa has been little more than a spectator.
“We needed someone to step up and take charge – but what we got was a president obsessed with dialogues, reaching out and building consensus,” said Steenhuisen.
Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa’s inaction had been the story of his presidency.
The DA leader said because of Ramaphosa’s approach to the Covid-19 crisis, the country was now facing a political crisis.
“Because while our president has been watching it all unfold from the sidelines, others have been very busy. Most notably, Cogta [Co-operative governance & traditional affairs] minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
“Since the declaration of the state of disaster, the unchecked power handed to the Cogta minister has made her our de facto president. And she has wasted no time digging herself in,” said Steenhuisen.
He said Dlamini-Zuma had undone multiple commitments made by Ramaphosa live on TV.
“Her stubborn refusal to reverse the cigarette ban is her way of letting the president know exactly who is in charge. And consider that she has the power to extend this state of disaster indefinitely.
“But even that is not enough. This week a top-secret document was leaked to the DA in which the Cogta department put forward several extremely concerning ideas on how they think our country should function.
“At the heart of this document is a proposal to extend government’s centralised command council system well beyond the Covid-19 crisis, and to include provincial command councils,” said Steenhuisen.
He said the move was a bold play to centralise provincial and local government power in the hands of a few and it was tantamount to a coup.
“This is the RET [radical economic transformation] faction of the ANC showing its hand against the Ramaphosa faction. And they feel comfortable doing so because they recognise weak leadership.
“They are using the Covid crisis as cover to pull the rug of government from under the president’s feet, and he seems incapable of stopping it.
“And all the while our country’s economy and health care are imploding as we head towards the really big Covid numbers,” said Steenhuisen.
He also raised alarm on the rising infections in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, saying the national government was silent while both provinces were collapsing.