On Thursday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the State of the Nation Address  (SONA) to fewer than 30 MPs and delegates in the House due to Covid-19 protocols…

Along with the rest of the country, politicians watched the President’s address online. He began with reference to former President Nelson Mandela who walked out of prison gates into freedom on this day, 31 years ago. “A living embodiment of the resilience and courage of the South African people.”

Ramaphosa continued with his theme of resilience, looking at how the country’s fynbos and national flower – the Protea – is designed to adapt and thrive in adverse conditions. So to, are the South African people.

“Like the hardy fynbos of our native land, we too have proven to be resilient in many ways,” says Ramaphosa.

After the devastation of the Coronavirus pandemic, “The year ahead must be a time for change, for progress and for rebirth. It must be a year in which we rise. This is no ordinary year, and this is no ordinary State of the Nation Address.”

President Ramaphosa said that the government is focussing on four key pillars to rebuild the country in 2021:

  1. First, we must defeat the coronavirus pandemic.
  2. Second, we must accelerate our economic recovery.
  3. Third, we must implement economic reforms to create sustainable jobs and drive inclusive growth.
  4. And finally, we must fight corruption and strengthen the state.

1.     More vaccines secured

After last week’s vaccine debacle – where it was found that the Oxford/AstraZeneca rollout was suspended due to the vaccine’s inefficacy against the COVID-19 501Y.V2 variant, the government has secured 9 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The President revealed that the first batch, of 80,000 doses, would arrive in the country next week.

“Further consignments will arrive over the next four weeks, totalling 500,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines. All provinces have roll-out plans in place as the first vaccines come through.”

“In addition, we have secured 12 million vaccine doses from the global COVAX facility.”

“This will be complemented by other vaccines that are available to South Africa through the AU’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team facility as well.”

2.     Defeating poverty and hunger, joblessness and inequality.

“We must overcome a legacy of exclusion and dispossession that continues to impoverish our people, and which this pandemic has severely worsened,” said Ramaphosa.

The country’s unemployment rate now stands at a staggering 30.8%.

Ramaphosa detailed a number of positive results from the nation’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.

“This evening, we stand here not to make promises but to report on progress in the implementation of the recovery plan, and the priority actions we must now take to restore growth and create jobs,” he said.

“Since the launch of the plan, we have focused on four priority interventions:”

  • a massive rollout of infrastructure throughout the country,
  • a massive increase in local production,
  • an employment stimulus to create jobs and support livelihoods,
  • the rapid expansion of our energy generation capacity.”

An infrastructure investment project pipeline worth R340 billion in network industries such as energy, water, transport and telecommunications has been developed.

Construction has started and progress is being made on a number of projects including the Lanseria Smart City, the first new city to be built in a democratic South Africa, is now a reality in the making.

Progress is also being made on several major water infrastructure projects.

There is emphasis on supporting local production and making South African exports globally competitive.

“Key to this plan is a renewed commitment from government, business and organised labour to buy local,” noted the President.

Note:

  • The Special COVID-19 Grant of R350 has been extended by a further three months.
  • The COVID-19 TERS benefit has been extended until 15 March 2021 only for those sectors that have not been able to operate.

3.     Economic reforms and job creation

“Our third priority intervention is an employment stimulus to create jobs and support livelihoods,” said the President.

“The largest numbers of jobs will be created by the private sector in a number of industries as the economy recovers. We continue to work in a social compact with the private sector to create a more conducive environment for them to be able to create jobs.”

Restoring Eskom to operational and financial health and accelerating its restructuring process is central to the government’s objective to rapidly expand energy generation capacity.

“Eskom is making substantial progress with its intensive maintenance and operational excellence programmes to improve the reliability of its coal fleet,” said the President.

“We are working closely with Eskom on proposals to improve its financial position, manage its debt and reduce its dependence on the fiscus. This requires a review of the tariff path to ensure that it reflects all reasonable costs and measures to resolve the problem of municipal debt.”

4.     Tackling corruption

“Corruption is one of the greatest impediments to the country’s growth and development,” noted Ramaphosa.

“Advancing honesty, ethics and integrity in the public service is critical if we are to build a capable state.”

All ministers must now work in line with Ministerial Performance Agreements. This will enhance accountability and focused performance by members of the executive.

“We remain on course to build a capable and professional civil service that delivers on its mandate and is accountable to the South African people,” promised the President.

Ramaphosa highlighted the corruption that had been exposed by the Zondo Commission of Inquiry.

“Testimony at the Commission has shown how the criminal justice system was compromised and weakened. It is therefore vital that we sustain the momentum of the rebuilding effort that we began three years ago.”

“There has been great progress in turning around law enforcement bodies.”

Tackling crime, and Gender Based Violence

“Tackling crime is central to the success of our recovery,” said the President.

“When I launched the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence in April last year I made a promise to the women and children of this country that we were going to strengthen the criminal justice system to prevent them being traumatised again, and to ensure that perpetrators face justice.”

The President also revealed that the country had launched a “groundbreaking private sector-led GBVF Response Fund.”

“Several South African companies and global philanthropies made pledges to the value of R128 million. Over the next three years, government will allocate approximately R12 billion to implement the various components of the National Strategic Plan.”

 Building a different, better South Africa

“Just as a harsh fire gives new life to our country’s fynbos, this crisis is an opportunity to build a different, better South Africa,” said Ramaphosa.

“In counting the great cost to our society over the past year, we may be tempted to lose faith.”

“But we can get through this. Because we are a nation of heroes.”

“I am referring not to the glorious lineage of struggle icons, but to the everyday heroes that walk among us, who work hard every day to put food on the table, to keep the company running, and to give support, help and care to our people.”

“People of South Africa, it is your country that calls on you to rise.”

“Let us march forward together to equality, to dignity and to recovery.”

“May God bless South Africa and protect her sons and daughters.”

 

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