On Thursday evening, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the public in the annual State of the Nation Address (SONA).
He shed some light on various issues and highlighted multiple achievements of the past year.
He said, “This year, we fix the fundamentals, we pursue critical areas of growth and we ensure excellence in planning and execution in government.”
The president says load shedding is the result of Eskom’s inability to service plants over many years, due to debt, lack of capacity and state capture.
He added that load shedding will remain a possibility for the immediate future because “fundamental maintenance is necessary to improve the reliability of supply.”
The government will put measures in place to significantly increase generation capacity at Eskom.
The Section 34 Ministerial Determination will be issued shortly to give effect to the Integrated Resource Plan 2019, which will enable the development of additional grid capacity from renewable energy, natural gas, hydropower, battery storage, and coal.
They will also enable municipalities in good standing to procure their own power from independent power producers.
Trade unions, federations, businesses, community-based organizations, and the government want to address Eskom’s financial crisis in a financially suitable manner which will not put workers’ pensions at risk.
The government is currently working on measures to contain the public wage bill and reduce wastage and reduce government irregular expenditure.
They have established a sovereign wealth fund so that the people can share in the country’s wealth and a state bank to extend access to financial services to all South Africans. This will be elaborated on in the Minister of Finance’s budget speech in two weeks’ time.
The government will be modernising PRASA rail networks, like the Central Line in the Western Cape and the Mabopane Line in Pretoria. They are investing R1.4 billion in each to ensure safe, reliable and affordable service.
Early childhood development and early school learning
The President said they are busy introducing the three-stream curriculum model, which focuses more on vocational and technical education. “Various technical vocational specialisations have already been introduced in 550 schools and 67 schools are now piloting the occupational stream,” he added.
The government will also introduce coding and robotics in grade R to grade 3 in 200 schools and introduce it on a more universal basis in 2022.
“We are building nine new TVET college campuses this year. Through bilateral student scholarship agreements, we have signed with other countries. We are steadily building a substantial cohort of young people who go overseas each year for training in critical skills,” Ramaphosa said.
Specialised units are mandated to fight crimes of economic disruption. The SAPS will increase visibility at identified tourist attraction sites.
“Anti-Gang Units will be further strengthened, with priority given to the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and Free State.”
A Crime Detection University will be established in Hammanskraal to improve the quality of general and specialised SAPS investigations.
An Emergency Action Plan for the fight against Gender-Based Violence has been implemented. A total of R1.6 billion has been reprioritized to support the plan until the end of the current financial year.
Ramaphosa said, “We will amend the Domestic Violence Act to better protect victims in violent domestic relationships and the Sexual Offences Act. To broaden the categories of sex offenders whose names must be included in the National Register for Sex Offenders. We will pass a law to tighten bail and sentence condition in cases that involve gender-based violence.”
Corruption and State Capture
The joint government and civil society working group are busy developing a national anti-corruption strategy and implementation plan, of which this phase is almost complete. They are planning on launching it by mid-year.
Ramaphosa said, “The social housing program to build rental housing for low-income families is at the implementation stage, which could leverage as much as R9 billion of private investment in the construction of 37 000 rental apartments.”
They are going to spend R64 billion on student accommodation over the next few years and will leverage at least another R64 billion in private investment.
As part of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, the government is launching five prototype sites in five provinces that will grow to a national network reaching 3 million young people through multiple channels.
They are preparing young people for the future of work. Providing shorter, more flexible courses in specific skills that employers in fast-growing sectors need. Developing new and innovative ways to support youth entrepreneurship and self-employment.
In a joint venture with TVET colleges and the private sector, the government is improving the Youth Employment Service. This is to ensure that students get practical training in the workplace.
The establishment of the first cohort of a Presidential Youth Service programme that will unlock the agency of young people and provide opportunities for them to earn an income while contributing to nation-building.
We will lead a youth employment initiative which will be funded by setting aside a portion of our budget to deal with the high levels of youth unemployment.
“The Minister of Finance will prioritise this initiative and give specific details when he delivers the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement later this year.”
“We are introducing the SheTradesZA platform to assist women-owned businesses to participate in global value chains and markets. Over the next five years, the Industrial Development Corporation is targeting R10 billion of own and partner funding for women empowered businesses.”
“The competition authorities are now working towards a resolution with the large mobile operators to secure deep cuts to data prices across pre-paid monthly bundles. Additional discounts targeted at low-income households. Free daily allocation of data and free access to educational and other public investment websites is going to also happen.”
“The licensing of the wireless open-access network, or WOAN, is likely to be completed during the course of next year.”
The government is ready to complete the parliamentary process to amend section 25 of the Constitution and “to table an Expropriation Bill that outlines the circumstances under which expropriation of land without compensation will be possible.”
So far, they have released 44 000 hectares of state land for settlement of land restitution claims and a further 700 000 hectares will be released this year for agricultural production.
“A new beneficiary selection policy includes compulsory training for potential beneficiaries before land can be allocated to them.”
This year the commercial use of hemp products will open which will provide opportunities for small-scale farmers. The government is formulating a policy on the use of cannabis products for medicinal purposes, to build this industry in line with global trends.
The National Health Insurance
The government is putting mechanisms in place for the implementation following the conclusion of the parliamentary process. “In preparation for NHI, we have already registered more than 44 million people at over 3,000 clinics in the electronic Health Patient Registration System and are now implementing this system in hospitals.”
Ramaphosa said, “To strengthen the capacity of the state and increase accountability, I will be signing performance agreements with all Ministers before the end of this month. These agreements which are based on the targets contained in the Medium-Term Strategic Framework will be made public so that the people of South Africa can hold those who they elected into office to account.”
“We see these performance agreements as the cornerstone of a new culture of transparency and accountability, where those who are given the responsibility to serve, whether as elected office bearers or public servants, do so as expected of them,” the President addressed the public.