I promised, and I delivered – Ramaphosa

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER

SOUTH African President Cyril Ramaphosa has used the annual state of the nation address (SONA) to provide proof that he has delivered on promises made to revive one of Africa’s biggest economies, pull people out of poverty and provide jobs.

Ramaphosa, delivering the first SONA under COVID-19 conditions without pomp and ceremony, tabled a progress report to prove that the promises made last year were being fulfilled.

The president did not deliver a bouquet of promises but instead said his government would be focussed on three priorities in 2021. 

“First, we must defeat the coronavirus pandemic.  Second, we must accelerate our economic recovery.  Third, we must implement economic reforms to create sustainable jobs and drive inclusive growth. And finally, we must fight corruption and strengthen the state,” Ramaphosa said.

He then devoted the bulk of his speech to report back to South Africans on promises made 12 months ago. 

This is is Ramaphosa’s progress report to the nation:

PROMISE: A massive rollout of infrastructure throughout the country.

DELIVERY:

  • South Africa has developed an infrastructure investment project pipeline worth R340 billion in network industries such as energy, water, transport and telecommunications.
  • Government has launched two major human settlements projects that will provide homes to almost 68,000 households in the Gauteng province. Similar human settlements projects are planned in other provinces.
  • New post-apartheid cities are being conceptualised. “The Lanseria Smart City, the first new city to be built in a democratic South Africa, is now a reality in the making. The draft masterplan for this smart city – which will become home to between 350,000 to 500,000 people within the next decade – was completed in November 2020 and is now out for public comment.”
  • Progress is being made on several major water infrastructure projects. These include Phase 2A of the Mokolo and Crocodile River project, and the uMkhomazi Water Project. 
  • Financing of roads projects worth R1- billion covering the spine of the South African road network is being finalised.
  • The R100 billion Infrastructure Fund is now in full operation. Its approved project pipeline for 2021 is varied and includes the Student Housing Infrastructure Programme, which aims to provide 300,000 student beds. Another approved project is SA Connect, a programme to roll out broadband to schools, hospitals, police stations and other government facilities. 

PROMISE: A massive increase in local production by reducing reliance on imports by 20%.

DELIVERY:

  • A total of 42 products – ranging from edible oils to furniture, fruit concentrates, personal protective equipment, steel products and green economy inputs – that can be sourced locally, have been identified. ‘If we achieve our target, we will significantly expand our productive economy, potentially returning more than R200-billion to the country’s annual output.”

PROMISE: Rejuvenate and grow key industries.

DELIVERY:   

  • Four master plans that have been completed and signed to date – which are part of the social compact between labour, business, government and communities – have already had an impact in their respective industries.
  • Through the implementation of the poultry master plan, the industry has invested R800-million to upgrade production. South Africa now produces an additional one million chickens every week.
  • The sugar master plan was signed during the lockdown, with a commitment from large users of sugar to procure at least 80% of their sugar needs from local growers. ‘Through the implementation of the plan, last year saw a rise in local production and a decline in imported sugar, creating stability for an industry which employs some 85,000 workers.”
  • Since the signing of the clothing, textile, footwear and leather masterplan in November 2019, the industry has invested more than half a billion rand to expand local manufacturing facilities, including SMMEs.

Ramaphosa expanded: “We have worked closely with the auto sector to help it weather the pandemic. 

By the end of the year, the sector had recovered around 70% of its normal annual production, in difficult circumstances. Last week, the Ford Motor Company announced a R16 billion investment to expand their manufacturing facility in Tshwane for the next generation Ford Ranger bakkie. This investment will support the growth of around 12 small and medium enterprises in automotive component manufacturing.

“Nearly half of the procurement spend on construction of the bulk earthworks and top structure at the Tshwane Special Economic Zone during this phase is expected to be allocated for SMMEs, an amount equal to R1.7 billion in procurement opportunities.  Toyota has invested in their KwaZulu-Natal facility to start production of the first generation of hybrid electric vehicles to come off a South African assembly line.  This follows investment announcements by Nissan, Mercedes Benz and Isuzu in expanded production facilities, all of which cement South Africa’s position as a global player in auto manufacturing.”

PROMISE: A rapid expansion of our energy generation capacity.

DELIVERY: 

  • Restoring Eskom to operational and financial health and accelerating its restructuring process is central to this objective.  Eskom has been restructured into three separate entities for generation, transmission and distribution.
  • Eskom is making substantial progress with its intensive maintenance and operational excellence programmes to improve the reliability of its coal fleet.
  • In December 2020, the government and its social partners signed the historic Eskom Social Compact, which outlines the necessary actions we must take, collectively and as individual constituencies, to meet the country’s energy needs now and into the future.
  • The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy will soon be announcing the successful bids for 2,000 megawatts of emergency power. 
  • The necessary regulations have been amended and the requirements clarified for municipalities to buy power from independent power producers. Systems are being put in place to support qualifying municipalities.
  • Government will soon be initiating the procurement of an additional 11,800 megawatts of power from renewable energy, natural gas, battery storage and coal in line with the Integrated Resource Plan 2019.
  • Government will in the coming weeks issue a request for proposals for 2,600 megawatts from wind and solar energy.  This will be followed by another bid window in August 2021.
  • To help ease the impact of load shedding, the government will amend Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act within the next three months to increase the licensing threshold for embedded generation.

PROMISE: National Youth Development Agency and the Department of Small Business Development would provide grant funding and business support to 1,000 young entrepreneurs within 100 days.

DELIVERY: 

  • While the programme had to be put on hold due to the coronavirus restrictions, it nevertheless managed to reach its target of 1,000 businesses by International Youth Day on 12 August 2020.  This provides a firm foundation for our efforts to support 15,000 start-ups by 2024.

PROMISE: Establish a national Pathway Management Network to provide support and opportunities to young people across the country.

DELIVERY: 

  • “I want to encourage every young South African to join the more than 1.2 million people who are already in the network, and take their next steps to a better future.”

Ramaphosa said the COVID-19 pandemic, which broke out after he had delivered last year’s SONA, forced the government to change its plans and to repriotise budgets. Promises were made to respond to the pandemic, which has killed over 45 000 South Africans and infected over 1.4-million.

PROMISE: Relief measures worth a total of R500 billion – or about 10% of our GDP – to provide cash directly to the poorest households, to provide wage support to workers and to provide various forms of relief to struggling businesses.

DELIVERY:  

  • “A total of 18 million people, or close to one-third of the population, received additional grant payments through these relief measures.
  • It is estimated that this grant lifted more than 5 million people above the food poverty line, helping to alleviate hunger in a moment of great crisis.
  • To date, more than R57 billion in wage support has been paid to over 4.5 million workers through the Special UIF TERS scheme.
  • More than R1.3 billion has been provided in support mainly for small- and medium-sized businesses.
  • In addition, over R70 billion in tax relief was extended to businesses in distress.
  • Around R18.9 billion in loans have been approved for 13,000 businesses through the loan guarantee scheme.”
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