President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on white South Africans to assist in creating an inclusive economy, rather than holding on to the privileges of the past.
Ramaphosa was responding to questions during a hybrid sitting of the National Assembly on Thursday afternoon when he was questioned on how to grow the economy by Freedom Front MP Pieter Groenewald.
"Our people have been patient forever and a day… they have been waiting for solutions. I am saying let us work together... [find] real solutions that are going to be impactful on the livelihoods of our people. An inclusive economy is what should be occupying you, honourable Groenewald, in your mind and everything you do, rather than let us continue holding on to the privileges that white people have always had in this country," Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa's first virtual question-and-answer session went smoothly and, despite some disruptions, the president had sleek responses to questions.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema accused Ramaphosa of putting profits before lives by easing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. The accusation caused a stir and African National Congress (ANC) MPs launched a verbal attack on EFF members.
Ramaphosa kept his cool and, despite the insults and interjections, answered all of Malema's questions.
Democratic Alliance interim leader John Steenhuisen also peppered Ramaphosa with questions around the government's Covid-19 response and the National Coronavirus Command Council, but Ramaphosa stood firm in his responses.
He was also questioned on the government's efforts to clamp down on corrupt officials.
Ramaphosa, however, asked for a rain check when questioned about ANC councillors and the distribution of food parcels.
On Groenewald's questions around the economy, Ramaphosa said the privileges given to white people under apartheid were unsustainable.
"It has served this country very badly. Our economy is where it is today because this country in the past focused on just a few and giving privileges to a few and not advancing privileges to all.
"We say the only way to move forward… the world is saying let's have inclusive growth that will advance everybody's interests. It has been that where you are actually partial and look after the sectional interests of a few, your country never moves forward," he said.
Ramaphosa said there should be inclusive growth on matters like land and the ownership of companies.
In a follow-up question, Groenewald asked Ramaphosa whether it was time to scrap Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) to ensure inclusive growth.
"Don't you think this a golden opportunity to get rid of black economic empowerment, get rid of affirmative action? You have asked the youth to get involved in building South Africa. Does that include all the youth? Does that include, black, white, coloured and Indian?" he asked.
Ramaphosa said that BBBEE is here to stay.
"If anything, it needs to be enhanced. We need to ensure that the black people, who were under apartheid rule, excluded from playing an important role in the economy of their own country, are given their rightful position in playing an important role in the economy. This is something that has to be done without any fail," he said.
Ramaphosa also said the economy is not being utilised properly.
With several reforms and interventions, Ramaphosa said the government is working on transforming the economy.
To cushion the blow of the pandemic, the government will provide R500-billion in fiscal support to be directed to Covid-19 priorities.
Of this amount, R130-billion was to be reprioritised from the national budget, to be tabled in February.