SoNA 2018: A new dawn
President Cyril Ramaphosa shares his vision for a better South Africa
President Cyril Ramaphosa used his maiden State of the Nation Address to call on all South Africans to unite to create history, saying “a new dawn is upon us”.
He urged citizens to leave behind the negativity that has dogged the country and in the spirit of honouring former President Nelson Mandela focus on rebuilding as well as hope and renewal.
This year South Africa celebrates the centenary of Madiba, who was born on 18 July 1918.
Turning the tide on corruption
Guided by the values of Madiba, the President said it's time to take a stand against oppression and corruption.
“We will devote our every action, every effort, every utterance to the realisation of his vision of a democratic, just and equitable society.
“This is the year in which we will turn the tide of corruption in our public institutions,” said President Ramaphosa.
A commission led by Judge Raymond Zondo is to investigate what has become known as state capture.
“The commission is critical to ensuring that the extent and nature of state capture is established, that confidence in public institution is restored and that those responsible for any wrongdoing are identified,” said the President.
“The commission should not displace the regular work of the country's law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting any and all acts of corruption,” the President stressed.
Noting that corruption does not occur only in the public sector, he called for corruption in the private sector to be addressed with the same intensity.
The President also urged professional bodies to take action against members who had erred and announced that leadership issues at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) would be given urgent attention. President Ramaphosa stressed that this is to ensure the NPA is stabilised and is able to do its work unhindered.
The President turned to the vital South African Revenue Service which he said must also be stabilised.
“We must understand that tax morality is dependent on an implicit contract between taxpayers and government that state spending provides value for money and is free from corruption,” he added.
Stabilising stateowned entities
The President also highlighted the
need for state-owned entities (SOEs) to be revitalised, saying that many of these entities face serious financial, operational and governance issues.
Government will work to ensure all SOEs fulfil their economic and developmental mandates. He focused on the efforts taken to strengthen governance and eradicate corruption in order to restore Eskom's financial position.
The President conceded that the challenges at some SOEs are structural and that they don't have enough income to fund their operations.
“Such SOEs cannot borrow their way out of financial difficulties and we will therefore undertake a process of consultation with all stakeholders to review the funding model of SOEs and other measures,” said the President.
He also pointed specifically to the way boards of SOEs are appointed and said these will change and board members will no longer be allowed to interfere in procurement processes. President Ramaphosa flagged the fact that the Auditor-General will strengthen external audit processes.
Creating a strong capable state
In his speech, the President said growth, development and transformation depend on a strong, capable and efficient state. He said that the structure and size of the state had to be suited to people's needs and it had to use state funds efficiently.
He said the configuration, number and size of national government departments will be reviewed.
He noted that while most of the million public servants serve with diligence and commitment, there were instances where citizens received poor or no service from public servants.
The President encouraged all who serve the nation to adhere to the principles of Batho Pele and to perform with efficiency, diligence and integrity. Adherence to a new discipline − doing things correctly, completely and timeously − was needed, he added.
President Ramaphosa plans to visit every provincial and local government department and meet provincial and government leaders to ensure that the state meets people's needs.
With South Africa's economic growth lagging, the President has said that the government planned to trim the bureaucracy in opening small businesses which he said are vital to the economic growth of the country.
“We will work with our social partners to build a small business support ecosystem that assists, nourishes and promotes entrepreneurs,” he said.
Government will honour its undertaking to set aside at least 30 percent of public procurement for small, medium and micro enterprises, cooperatives and township and rural enterprises. It will also continue investing in small business incubation and encourages business to do so too.
The President said the
establishment a R1.5 billion small business fund through the CEO Initiative is an outstanding example of the role the private sector can play.
In addition he added that government was finalising a small business and innovation fund aimed at start-ups and would reduce the regulatory barriers for small businesses.
The President said government has to take extra measures to reduce poverty and help unemployed people.
“Since the start of the current Parliament, our public employment programmes have created more than 3.2 million work opportunities.”
“In the context of widespread unemployment, they continue to provide much needed income, work experience and training,” he added.
Government's free basic services programme supports over 3.5 million households, and more than 17 million social grants are paid monthly to almost a third of the 54 million people of South Africa.
With the local economy showing moderate recovery and commodity prices rising, coupled with a more buoyant stock market and stronger rand, there are early indications that investor confidence is on the up.
In addition, he said government has moved to address concerns about political instability and communicate its commitment to ensuring policy certainty and consistency.
With an uptick in business confidence among South
African companies and renewed interest among foreign investors, South Africa will be introducing measures to set the country on a new path of growth, employment and transformation such as building on existing cooperation with business and labour to restore confidence and prevent an investment downgrade.
“There will be a major push to encourage significant new investment and government will address manufacturing capacity that has declined over many years and deeply affected employment and exports,” he said.
“We will seek to reindustrialise on a scale and at a pace that draws millions of job seekers into the economy.”
“We are going to promote greater investment in key manufacturing sectors through the use of incentives and other measures,” added President Ramaphosa.
Critical to any developing state is manufacturing, and the President said the South African government will forge ahead with the localisation programme through which products like textile, clothing, furniture, rail rolling stock and water meters would be designated for local procurement.
“We have already spent R57 billion on locally produced goods that may have been imported from other countries,” said President Ramaphosa.
He also announced the
introduction of a national minimum wage to reduce wage inequality while maintaining economic growth and job creation.
The President will appoint a Presidential Economic Advisory Council that will draw on the expertise of labour, business, civil society and academics in order to implement economic policy coherently and consistently and ensure the ability to respond to changing economic circumstances.
Focus on the youth
The President said government is intent on giving attention to the youth, from the age of early learning right through to the time of tertiary education, work experience and entrepreneurship.
“Breaking the cycle of poverty starts with educating the children of the poor, starting in early childhood,” he noted.
Almost a million children are in early childhood development facilities and at the other end of the spectrum, almost a million students are enrolled in higher education.
This year fee-free education will be introduced among first-year students from homes with a gross annual household income of up to R350 000. President Ramaphosa said this investment in higher education is expected to contribute to economic growth, reduced poverty and inequality, enhanced earnings and better economic competitiveness.
He then singled out youth unemployment as one of the country's most pressing challenges, adding young South Africans had to be moved to the centre of South Africa's economic agenda.
The youth represent the greater proportion of the labour force working on government's infrastructure projects, solar water heaters and the war on leaks programme.
“We continue to draw young people in far greater numbers into productive economic activity through programmes such as the Employment
Tax Incentive,” said President Ramaphosa.
In addition, government will launch the Youth Employment Service Initiative that will place unemployed youth in paid internships in companies across the economy. A million of these internships will be created in the next three years.
He announced that a Jobs Summit would be convened in the coming months to align the efforts of all sectors and stakeholders in job creation efforts.
“The summit will look at what we need to do to ensure our economy grows and becomes more productive, that companies invest on a far greater scale, that workers are better equipped, and that our infrastructure is expanded.”
“We will expect it to come up with practical solutions and initiatives for immediate implementation,” said the President.
President Ramaphosa said he was determined to improve the lives of South Africans as quickly as possible.
He recalled the words of the late Hugh Masekela, who in his song ‘Thuma Mina' said: “I wanna lend a hand, send me”, as he anticipated a day of renewal and new beginnings.
“Now is the time to lend a hand. Now is the time for each of us to say ‘send me'. Now is the time for all of us to work together, in honour of Nelson Mandela, to build a new, better South Africa for all,” urged President Ramaphosa.
“Now is the time to lend a hand. Now is the time for each of us to say ‘send me’ .”
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the State of the Nation Address.