- President Cyril Ramaphosa made strong assertions as he delivered the year's State of the Nation Address (SONA)
- Speaking at the Cape Town City Hall, Ramaphosa reflected on the challenges the country faced in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic
- Ramaphosa spoke at length about fighting corruption and promoting an equal and just society while encouraging citizens to support local businesses
- The president announced a bold plan to reform the education system in South Africa with the introduction of more innovative infrastructure solutions
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CAPE TOWN - President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived at the Cape Town City Hall to deliver the much-anticipated 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday evening. As South Africans paid close attention to what the government plans for the year ahead, Ramaphosa spoke boldly about the path the country will embark on.
The president opened his address by reflecting on the fire that engulfed the National Assembly building on 2 January. He acknowledged the extraordinary scale of this event, leading to the historic change in venue.
Moving past this, Ramaphosa discussed corruption and encouraged South Africans to continue to stand together against this ill. He conceded that the current situation of abject poverty, unemployment and inequality is not unsustainable.
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State of disaster to end
Ramaphosa said the Solidarity Fund raised R3.4 billion to ease the economic burden on ordinary citizens. He revealed the Fund benefitted more than 300 000 South Africans and companies.
Perhaps to the liking of many, Ramaphosa said the state of emergency will soon be a thing of the past. Nearly 42 per cent of all adults and 60 per cent of people above the age of 50 are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, giving the government the confidence that it can move forward with scrapping it.
"As soon as we have finalised other measures under the National Health Act and other legislation to manage and contain the pandemic, the state of disaster will likely be halted," said Ramaphosa, before speaking enthusiastically about the need to support local businesses.
Support local – local is lekker
"The Foschini Group (TFG) has a formalwear factory in Epping in the Western Cape. Previously, nearly all TFG merchandise came from east Asia. Today, more than 50 per cent of their merchandise is locally made," he said.
"The genuine leather shoes I'm wearing today were made by members of the National Union of Leather and Allied Workers (NULAW). Let us create local brands and support them – local is lekker! We can see more growth in our economy as we buy more local products."
Education to get a boost
The president then moved on and discussed a new special purpose vehicle that will be introduced to speed up the delivery of education infrastructure. He said this innovation in the education sector is currently in the testing phase in the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape.
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Additionally, he said infrastructure projects worth more than R200 billion and pipeline infrastructure projects to the value of R96 billion are in the works. Meanwhile, private projects worth R133 billion are also on the way.
He spoke passionately about employment creation, stressing that this was heavily reliant on the role that the private sector plays.
Electricity system compromised
"The government does not create jobs, businesses create jobs. The main objective of the government is to create the conditions that will help the private sector make good on this vision," he said.
Ramaphosa added that enormous amounts of renewable energy are making their way onto the country's shores, driven by the implementation of far-reaching structural reforms to promote growth.
"The fragility of the electricity system persists to have a tremendous effect on the lives of our people. Policy blunders and state capture are among the contributing factors to this. However, [rest assured], renewable energy is on the way.
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"Transnet will welcome private partners and provide access to its rail network. Port deficiencies are hampering exports, but the rail, port and pipeline company is working on ways to improve the situation," said Ramaphosa.
No place for state capture
Ramaphosa lamented state capture and the impact this had on the nation. He stressed that it is a history that should be resigned to the past, and never repeat itself. He pledged to protect whistleblowers.
Underscoring his point, he said the time had come to confront corruption head-on, adding that the first two parts of the State Capture Report paint a clear picture of infiltration in public and state-owned institutions.
"The reports outline the devastating effects of criminality. We must do [everything in our power] to ensure it never happens again. No later than June, I will present the plan of action in response to the commission's recommendations,", said Ramaphosa.
"We will strengthen the system to protect whistleblowers. We are doing a detailed review of all applicable legislation and a comparative study of other jurisdictions. We face daunting challenges but we will emerge victoriously."
Ramaphosa said talks between the government and the judiciary are underway for the creation of special court rolls for state capture and corruption cases. He decried corruption related to Covid-19 procurement and noted that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had undertaken a strenuous task to lift the lid on the illicit happenings.
"Forty-five matters with a combined value of R2.1 billion have been referred to the Special Tribunal. Some 386 cases have been referred for possible prosecution," said Ramaphosa.
Relief of distress grant extended
Ramaphosa said the monthly R350 monthly social relief of distress grant has helped 10 million South Africans navigate the economic disruptions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. He outlined cases of people who used the grant to turn their circumstances around, to rousing applause in the hall.
"We must recognise that we face extreme fiscal restraint but appreciate the proven benefits of the grant. [The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) has resolved] to extend the grant for another full year," said the president.
Ramaphosa said the DNA backlog has been cut from 210 000 to 58 000, highlighting significant progress. He called for a sustained programme of social action to tackle the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV).
Cabinet to blame for July unrest
Shining the spotlight on the July unrest, he said the government accepts full responsibility for its failure to respond to the crisis before the chaos spread. To ensure there is no repeat of the unrest, he announced a plan to unveil 12 000 more law enforcement officers.
"Gaps in state security and crime intelligence will be filled, and leadership changes in key agencies will be announced soon. Staffing in the public order policing unit will be brought to an appropriate level," he disclosed.
"Resources will be made available for 12 000 more police officers. Community policing forums will be re-established. We need to take a more inclusive approach to assessing the threats to our country's security and determining the necessary responses."
Protestors descend on Cape Town City Hall
Earlier, Briefly News reported that various groups bearing raised placards made their way to the Cape Town City Hall to protest just hours before the SONA address.
The groups seemed to have had different grievances they wanted to be addressed, including the seriousness of farm murders in South Africa. One protester stated they had formed a national rural committee that was supposed to meet with the Police Minister Bheki Cele to speak about the farm attacks.
Another group of protestors comprising mostly women aired their grievances with the Democratic Alliance (DA)-elected Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis. They said the SONA was a great opportunity to get Hill-Lewis to address the issues of the "walking bus" system before raising concerns about child safety, News24 reported.
Source: Briefly News