Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: REUTERS
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: REUTERS

President Cyril Ramaphosa took to the podium for his second annual state of the nation address (Sona) on a charm offensive on Thursday, aimed at his key opponents in the opposition benches, EFF leader Julius Malema and DA leader Mmusi Maimane. 

Ahead of the gathering, Malema had threatened to disrupt Ramaphosa's address should he fail to take the nation into his confidence over the R500,000 donated to his campaign for the ANC presidency by Gavin Watson.

He is the CEO of corruption-accused facilities company Bosasa. The EFF gave Ramaphosa until the end of January to do so. 

Last week, Ramaphosa met public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane over the donation. The Sunday Times reported that he told her that he sought to “give back” the donation to Watson, but was unsuccessful.

However, Ramaphosa's address was allowed to go ahead without disruption on Thursday, despite jitters in the presidency and the ANC ahead of the gathering. 

The EFF and its caucus in parliament sat demurely in their benches on Thursday, as Ramaphosa told the house that he had a “disclaimer” to make. He said that in 2018, when he had made his clarion “Thuma Mina” call, inspired by the Hugh Masekela's song, Malema had whispered that he should “sing it”. 

‘If you become president, I’ll sing for you’: President Cyril Ramaphosa opens his state of the nation address 2019 by sharing a ‘disclaimer’ with EFF leader Julius Malema.

“I hesitated for a while but decided not to do so,” he said. 

Ramaphosa then told the house that he met Malema on Wednesday and agreed that he would sing the song, should the EFF win the upcoming election and if the former ANC Youth League leader became president of the country. 

He then said he would invite Maimane to become part of his band. 

Malema smiled as Ramaphosa proceeded with his speech, in the absence of any disruption. 

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The interaction on Thursday was an indication of a relationship of mutual respect between Ramaphosa and his opponents in the opposition benches, which marks a break from the hostility with which former president Jacob Zuma was received.

Zuma did not attend Thursday's address, while former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe were present. 

Also present on Thursday were former parliamentary speakers Max Sisulu and Frene Ginwala. 

marriann@businesslive.co.za