Sitting through a marathon 10-hour joint sitting of both houses of Parliament Tuesday, enduring a lashing as opposition speakers tore into his speech, President Cyril Ramaphosa responded strongly today.
The president began by saying that did not view yesterday’s debate as opposition to his SONA but that he rather welcomed the inputs as “complementary and supplementary.”
But he added: “There are no shortcuts and there are no quick fixes” to many challenges ahead.
Ramaphosa said his SONA2019 was guided by the ANC election manifesto and about setting out seven priorities of the current administration:
- Economic transformation and job creation
- Education, skills and health
- Consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services
- Spatial integration, human settlements and local government
- Social cohesion and safe communities
- A capable, ethical and developmental state
- A better Africa and World
This year, Ramaphosa said, “We are intensifying our investment drive because we have seen that it is producing results. We are going to hold our second South Africa Investment Conference in November because we have seen commitments made at last year’s conference being implemented.”
He said government’s investment drive is not only to generate foreign direct investment, but also to encourage local businesses to invest. “We also intend to crowd in local investors into various sub-sectors of economy.”
Ramaphosa said he is happy to see that small businesses are benefiting more from government procurement. “We want to support village and township enterprises to ensure their sustainability. Those with a monopoly hold on certain markets would now have to make space for smaller businesses to come and compete on an even keel,” he said.
As the incoming chair of the African Union in 2020, South Africa will champion the aspirations of the AUs Agenda 2063, he said.
Key to this is the movement of goods, services, capital and means of production across the continent, Ramaphosa added. “We must look forward to a time when the goods that we import do not come across the ocean, but from across the Limpopo.”
We Are Getting There
The secure supply of electricity is fundamental to the recovery of the SA economy, Ramaphosa emphasised.
“We want to put Eskom on a sustainable operational path and we have seen great improvements. We are closely engaged with the situation at Eskom, with the implementation of the nine-point plan, strengthening the board and setting out a road map for the future,” Ramaphosa said.
He added that government was also supporting SOEs like South African Airways (SAA) and Denel, as they “seek to manage their dire financial positions.”
Ramaphosa pointed to the Post Office fulfilling its mandate to deliver SASSA payouts as proof that “government institutions do have the capacity and capability to effectively implement projects of this magnitude.”
The president said government disagreed with the view that the most effective and efficient way to provide services to our people is through the private sector.
South Africa needs a reinvigorated industrial strategy, which involves government, state-owned enterprises, business and labour, according to Ramaphosa.
Such a strategy, he said, would focus on economic sectors like auto manufacturing. His vision is for SA to sell auto parts to the rest of Africa.
“Two weeks from now I am going to attend a meeting in Niger where the boldest plan ever to promote economic integration of Africa will be discussed,” said Ramaphosa.
“Remember, the rest of Africa is our biggest trading partner and underpins our industrial strategy.”
The Land Question
He devoted a huge chunk of his response to the issue of land.
The president said government will soon release the report of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture which will “inform the finalisation of a comprehensive, far-reaching and transformative land reform programme.”
He added that a priority of the new Parliament will be to finalise constitutional amendments to clearly indicate how expropriate land without compensation will be put into effect.
“Parliament will also need to debate and finalise the Expropriation Bill, which deals with the modalities and the circumstances in which expropriation will take place,” Ramaphosa added.
Holding You To Account
“Through interventions like the National Clean Audit Task Team under the Hawks we are serious about cleaning up our municipalities so they can fulfill their primary mandate – not to adjudicate tenders, but to deliver services to our people,”Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said each government department will have to produce a forward-looking and practical annual performance plan in tandem with each minister signing a performance agreement by which they will be held accountable.
Ramaphosa his ‘dream’ of a new cities are driven by the significant backlogs in housing, schools, clinics and social services reality in almost all major urban centres.
“Sona is about articulating a vision and a direction for government programmes,” he said, adding that ministers would provide details of the government’s programmes in their budget speeches in the coming weeks.
He conclude by quoting the late Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah and called on all South Africans to play their part in charting a new course for the country.