President Ramaphosa was addressing the nation through his weekly newsletter following an unprecedented two weeks in which a fire engulfed Parliament, the Constitutional Court building was damaged by a lone attacker, the first tranche of the State Capture Commission report was released and the nation buried struggle icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The President said the events had had a profound impact on South African society.
“Apart from the close proximity of St George’s Cathedral and Parliament, what connects these two events is that each reminds us of what brings us together as South Africans: our democracy.
“We mourn Desmond Tutu because he was the spiritual father of our democracy. We despair at the devastation of our Parliamentary buildings because they are the seat of our democracy,” the President said.
He said the fire at Parliament was an important reminder of the need to strengthen and defend democracy.
“We need to protect our Constitution, our democratic state and the electoral process from anyone who wants to weaken our democracy and deny the South African people of their hard-won freedom.
“While the Parliamentary buildings have been damaged beyond use, the institution of Parliament continues its work in the service of the people. This is an important reminder that our democratic institutions are not defined by the buildings that house them, but by the work they do and by the confidence that the people have in them,” he said.
President Ramaphosa assured South Africans that investigations into the fire are underway and Parliamentary work is continuing despite the destruction of some of Parliament’s buildings.
“We need to ensure that these investigations are thorough and concluded without delay. The country needs to know what happened.
“Arrangements are being made to ensure that the work of Parliament can continue even if the buildings cannot be used. It is vital that Parliament continues to consider and pass laws that will transform society and continues to provide oversight and ensure accountability as government works to implement the mandate it received from the people,” he said.
The President reflected that just as the last flames of the fire were being extinguished, a “deeply disturbing picture” of State Capture was laid bare when the Zondo Commission handed its report to him.
He said the report’s findings that key institutions were dismantled and compromised with criminal intent must spur the nation on to protect state institutions.
“The findings and recommendations of the Zondo Commission will help the country to rebuild these institutions and to hold those responsible to account. We must ensure that we use them to safeguard these institutions into the future so that they may never be captured again.
“We must safeguard against any and all efforts to diminish our hard-won democracy – whether these efforts take the form of corruption in state owned enterprises, the subversion of our law enforcement agencies, the sabotage of our economic infrastructure, or attacks on the independence and integrity of our judiciary,” he said.
President Ramaphosa acknowledged that although the country faces many challenges, citizens share a common goal to rebuild the nation.
“As we head into a new year, there are many challenges that we must confront as we work to rebuild and recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we do so, let us draw strength and encouragement from our deep dedication to our democracy and our common desire to build a nation that is united, free and equal,” President Ramaphosa said. –