Democratic Alliance (DA) interim leader John Steenhuisen has criticised President Cyril Ramaphosa for showing “weak” leadership during the COVID-19 crisis.
In a virtual “address to the nation” on Wednesday, Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa’s declaration of the National State of Disaster in March handed Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma “immense powers.”
He accused Ramaphosa of being a spectator while “rogue Ministers of the National Command Council compounded our problems with petty regulations.”
Steenhuisen said, “While our president has been watching it all unfold from the sidelines, others have been very busy. Most notably, COGTA 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.
“We’ve already seen multiple commitments made by the president on live TV undone a couple of days later by Dlamini-Zuma. Her stubborn refusal to reverse the cigarette ban is her way of letting the President know exactly who is in charge.”
Dlamini-Zuma was reported to have pushed for an extension of the cigarette sales ban after Ramaphosa announced in April that it would be lifted. The government subsequently announced that it would remain in place.
Steenhuisen also criticised a document, which the DA claims is from COGTA but the department denies, that proposes extending the “command council” system beyond the COVID-19 pandemic to oversee provincial and local governments.
He said this would be unconstitutional because “it attempts to put unelected national politicians in charge of provincial and local government functions.”
“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,” Steenhuisen said.
The RET faction is widely associated with former President Jacob Zuma and ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule. Dlamini-Zuma ran for ANC President in 2017 under the banner of RET, but lost to Ramaphosa.
Steenhuisen expressed concern at the rising COVID-19 infection rates in the country and the resultant strain on the healthcare system. He urged the government to replicate Western Cape’s strategy of dealing with the pandemic.
“President Ramaphosa, if you’re in charge, and not Minister Dlamini-Zuma, then you need to stop being a spectator to all of this and step up to the plate. Your country needs you to do better,” he said.