- President Cyril Ramaphosa has sent the nation his first letter of the year
- The politician says the most pressing issue in South Africa is building a capable state
- While he admits its not the most exciting task, Ramaphosa is adamant this is essential to SA's future
President Cyril Ramaphosa has addressed the nation with the return of his weekly letters to South Africa.
Kicking off 2020, Ramaphosa highlighted what he felt was the most pressing task for the country:
"A few weeks ago we celebrated the start of a new year and a new decade. This gave us an opportunity to reflect on our plans for the year ahead but also to think deeply about the challenges that confront us. Of these challenges, and perhaps the most pressing, is the need to build a capable state. This is a task that does not capture the imagination of most people, yet it is essential to everything we want to achieve."
Ramaphosa explained how walking through the streets of Kimberley during the ANC's birthday celebrations had been an eye-opener:
"Walking through the streets of Kimberley and other towns in the Northern Cape a fortnight ago drove home the point that if we are to better the lives of South Africans, especially the poor, we need to significantly improve the capacity of the government that is meant to as improve their lives."
Briefly.co.za gathered that the service delivery failures had been disheartening to see, with Ramaphosa explaining:
"It was disheartening to see that, despite progress in many areas, there were several glaring instances of service delivery failures. Many of the places we visited struggle to provide social infrastructure and services simply because they have such a small revenue base. But, in some cases, elected officials and public servants have neglected their responsibilities. A common feature in most of these towns, which is evident throughout all spheres of government, is that the state often lacks the necessary capacity to adequately meet people’s needs."
Ramaphosa has vowed to clamp down on politicians who fail to perform in their respective fields:
"A capable state starts with the people who work in it. Officials and managers must possess the right financial and technical skills and other expertise. We are committed to end the practice of poorly qualified individuals being parachuted into positions of authority through political patronage. There should be consequences for all those in the public service who do not do their work."
The nation's embattled state-owned entities were also mentioned by the president in his letter:
"A capable state also means that state-owned enterprises need to fulfil their mandates effectively and add value to the economy. State companies that cannot deliver services – such as Eskom during load-shedding – or that require continual bailouts – such as SAA – diminish the capacity of the state. That is why a major focus of our work this year is to restore our SOEs to health. We will do this by appointing experienced and qualified boards and managers. We will be clarifying their mandates, and give them scope to execute those mandates."
Ramaphosa, despite the challenges, has denied that South Africa is a dysfunctional state:
"Much of the work will not be immediately apparent. But as we make progress, people will notice that government does things faster. Already, for example, we have drastically reduced the time it takes to get a passport or receive a water licence. As we continue to improve, people will notice less interruption of services, more roads are being built, infrastructure is better maintained, more businesses are opening up and more jobs are being created. Those who follow such things, will notice that government audit outcomes are improving, money is being better used and properly accounted for."
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