'You have a right to point fingers and criticise me,' Ramaphosa tells Mpumalanga residents
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday told Tekwane residents in Mpumalanga that while he and the political party he leads are not perfect, he would attempt to attend to their concerns.
“You have the right to point a finger at me as your president and criticise me. We accept that,” said Ramaphosa.
The ANC president was engaging residents on day two of voter registration weekend as the country gears up for the 2021 local government elections on November 1.
On Saturday, the ANC, led by Ramaphosa, launched its election campaign, visiting Soweto communities at the Nomzamo informal settlement, Chiawelo and Naledi where residents complained about the lack of electricity. Ramaphosa and his party received mixed reactions from the communities with some welcoming the promises while others showed the party the middle finger.
On Sunday, Ramaphosa and his delegation received a warm welcome at Tekwane.
After being shown a bridge which had collapsed and needed to be fixed, Ramaphosa went to listen to what some residents had to say. A traffic training student complained about a learnership programme being discontinued and asked Ramaphosa to intervene.
“What I can promise you is that with the two leaders here of the party and of the government, this matter is going to be addressed and if nothing else, I am going to supervise that it should be addressed properly because as a citizen and a young person, you have the right to want this matter to be addressed properly,” he told the woman.
Another resident who lives in Tekwane South told Ramaphosa that there was a deadly road that needed to be paved urgently.
She said: “People are always dying there. We need the road to be fixed and there is a lot of dust and people have sinus and we have chest infections, our children are sick. Please can the councillors pave this road and put in drains. We vote for you. You must promise us that you will do something about it.”
Ramaphosa responded by saying, “I agree with you, we need to pave the roads and that’s a project that I want implemented countrywide.
“Sometimes, yes, it takes time, and that is how governments work. They move very slowly, although we are trying to lessen the pain. But at the same time, this is a caring government - caring in the way it has been seeking to address the many problems.”
In many places, said Ramaphosa, people are arrested for criticising their leaders, but this was not the case in SA. “We allow you even to protest and criticise the president.”
He encouraged the community to register and vote in the upcoming elections. “I am impressed by the manner in which you have raised your concerns. You have not gone out there to break or damage anything. What you have done here is to exercise your other right, which is to complain, protest, and your posters are expressing your dissatisfaction and pain and I can see also on your face. So your complaint has been registered and it will be attended to.”
He said having the vote was a human right which they needed to exercise. “And of course you can vote for whoever you like, you can vote for any party. That is your basic human right also and your responsibility as a citizen of this country. Our government is always seeking and wants to correct and address the problems that we have in our country. This government is committed to doing so and it is a listening government.”
He promised the community that work to fix the collapsed bridge will commence next week. “Please do not lose hope because we are busy. I came here to see and hear your concerns. Please do not lose hope. Your job is you go and vote and we will do our part,” he said.
Another woman approached Ramaphosa crying after she was allegedly assaulted by ANC volunteers who were trying to control the crowd gathering around him. He told the provincial leaders to attend to the matter urgently.
He also lauded the community for wearing masks during the gathering. “I want you to be vaccinated. Every person must be vaccinated so that we defend ourselves against this virus that is spreading. I am vaccinated and so is the premier and the provincial chairperson. So I want every one of us to get vaccinated so that we protect one another.”