John Steenhuisen: Letter to President Ramaphosa

In a heartfelt open letter, John Steenhuisen, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Parliament of South Africa, calls upon President Ramaphosa to address the escalating threat of Julius Malema and the EFF’s radical vitriol. Highlighting the dangerous consequences of silence, Steenhuisen implores the President to uphold his oath of office, defend unity, and promote the rights of all South Africans. Urgency surrounds the need to confront hate and division, as the nation’s cherished principles are at stake. A powerful plea to preserve the dream of a free and prosperous South Africa.

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Dear President Ramaphosa

On the 25th of May 2019, you were duly sworn in as President of the Republic of South Africa at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. The Oath of Office which you recited at this occasion, and to which you are bound, includes the following solemn affirmations:

“I solemnly and sincerely promise that I will always promote all that will advance the Republic, and oppose all that may harm it, protect and promote the rights of all South Africans, do justice to all, and devote myself to the well-being of the Republic and all of its people.”

Mr President, in a country like South Africa, this oath for the nation’s first citizen is far more poignant than that of any other state. Because South Africa’s very existence rests on our nation’s unique and admirable ability to always place the principles of unity, diversity, and equality ahead of populism and divisiveness.

Indeed, it is this ability which pulled South Africa from the brink of civil war, that made our country the darling of the free world – a country which demonstrated that people are stronger when they join hands rather than bind them. A country that proved to the world that the peaceful coexistence of different peoples is possible. But South Africa now faces a new threat, one which risks destroying the very fabric of our nation and our society altogether. One which you, to date, have yet to address as is your responsibility as South Africa’s head of state.

At the weekend, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) celebrated its 10th Anniversary celebrations. It was here that Julius Malema once again chanted the song ‘Kill the Boer’, going so far as to say, and I quote: “shoot to kill”. He then mimicked the sound of machine gun fire to members of his political cult, who answered with thunderous approval. For millions of South Africans, this was a spinechilling reminder of the horrors of our violent and divisive past. It struck fear into the heart of our nation.

Mr President, this is not the first time that Julius Malema has incited total anarchy and citizen-on-citizen violence. It is not the first time that he has called for a civil war and wanton bloodshed for political gain, and it will certainly not be the last. But given the tightrope that South Africa now walks between a nation in pursuit of peace and unity, and a people divided by hatred and intolerance, this must be the last time that you remain silent on Julius Malema and his vitriolic and fascist hatred for his fellow citizen.

As the world watches Julius Malema unstitch the very fabric of South African society, and undo the South African dream with absolute impunity, South Africans now cower away from each other, fearful of their fellow man. All because you refuse to call out and condemn those who dare to spit in the face of Nelson Mandela and the sacrifices he and many others made for the South Africa we all so desperately want to call our own. The longer Malema uses racial nationalism and Chavez-style rhetoric to pull South Africa apart, the more disgusted and dissuaded investors will become with South Africa and our economy. The more our country will suffer from poverty and inequality as the world abandons us – a nation once revered for our unity and peaceful disposition. Mr President, your continued silence on Julius Malema as chief antagonist to the South African dream is deafening.

In the nearly five years since you took up office in 2019, your refusal to condemn Julius Malema’s repeated hateful utterances has shown our country what kind of man you are, and indeed what kind of President you are: one who seemingly condones racial division and hatred, and whose oath of office means little to nothing when the blood of innocent citizens is shed at the command of one man and his red cult. Mr President, in the words of American novelist Walter Mosley, and I quote: “Our collective freedom depends on our ability to defend the rights of others”.

It is unfathomable that you have never, to date, called out Julius Malema for inciting total anarchy and the mass slaughter of members of our society. In many cases, Julius Malema has targeted the very people who plough our soil, grow our food, and feed our nation – the very people who keep us alive. Your failure to condemn Julius Malema is an indictment on your responsibility and your capacity to uphold the very foundations of the South African Constitution which you helped forge, and to which you have pledged your unwavering allegiance. This failure is the ultimate violation of the solemn affirmations enclosed in your oath of office.

And so I urge you, President Ramaphosa, from one peace-loving South African to another, to speak out against Julius Malema and the EFF’s radical and dangerous vitriol, and their smug disregard for the Constitution and the spirit of unity and diversity in our land. I urge you to uphold your oath of office to advance the rights of all South Africans and ensure the well-being of the Republic. I urge you to be as courageous as those who came before you to speak out against the very same injustice and racial division which scars our country’s broken past. For if you are the first citizen of the nation, then you must set the example against hateful prejudice and violence, especially when used as a dangerous political tool in our free and fair democracy.

If there is one thing we have learned from history, it is that we must always stand up to bullies. When we embolden those who hate and divide with impunity, we risk destroying our society altogether. I do not have to quote the many examples throughout history which have proven this to be frighteningly true.

South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Mr President. It is time that you as President of the Republic start to remind all South Africans of this truth. History will judge us all, but on this matter, it will judge you harshly on your paralysis and inaction. Speak out against Julius Malema and his hatred, or risk sacrificing the project of a free, fair, and prosperous South Africa forever. The choice is yours.

Yours sincerely,

John Steenhuisen MP
Leader of the Official Opposition
Parliament of RSA

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