President Ramaphosa: Some said we couldn't protect lives. Yet here we are

In his response to the State of the Nation debate, President Cyril Ramaphosa referred to the beginning of the vaccine rollout as a new chapter in the fight against COVID-19.

President Cyril Ramaphosa responds to Parliament’s debate on the 2021 State of the Nation Address during a hybrid joint sitting of Parliament in Cape Town. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

CAPE TOWN - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday spoke out against so-called Doubting Thomases and doomsayers, saying South Africans needed to look at the positives in the country.

He delivered his reply to parties’ debate on his State of the Nation Address (Sona), which he conveyed last Thursday.

Fresh from getting his COVID-19 jab at the Khayelitsha District Hospital on Wednesday, Ramaphosa referred to the beginning of the vaccine rollout as a new chapter in the fight against the pandemic.

“Many said that we have neither the ability nor the will to protect lives. Yet here we are, on the threshold of a new era in our fight against the pandemic. This pandemic has almost become our enemy number one,” he said.

READ: No tears - Ramaphosa gets his COVID-19 vaccine jab

Officially, South Africa has recorded close to 1.5 million coronavirus cases, of which just under 48,500 have been fatal - the highest toll in Africa.

Ramaphosa urged South Africans to look on the positive side of the country’s balance sheet, saying there were many positives that were often ignored while people focused on the negatives.

Ramaphosa did not respond directly to some of the barbs hurled at him by opposition parties during the two days of debate on his Sona address, though he did say he found the personal insults unwarranted.

“Much of what we heard from the opposition benches over the last two days was little more than name-calling and mudslinging. It is the business of this House to engage not in insults, but on what is needed to restore confidence and to bring stability to our nation,” he said.

He told the House the government was making concrete progress with its plans to rebuild the economy and that the main fight right now was defeating the coronavirus pandemic.

READ: Delivering hope & babies: Nurse Gidi-Dyosi's joy at being first to be vaccinated

Ramaphosa also said the start of the vaccination campaign - only 24 hours after the vaccines landed in South Africa - gave people hope.

“Yesterday this great and hopeful nation, devastated by a deadly pandemic, lifted its head, straightened its back and welcomed a new era in our fight against the pandemic.”

He said the vaccination programme was the best defence against the pandemic.

“This has happened not in a month, not in two months, but now, in mid-February, just as we said it would.”

Ramaphosa added that this proved government had the ability and the will to protect the lives of South Africans.

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