Wednesday, 09 September 2020

Pretoria: President Cyril Ramaphosa says government is hard at work to address COVID-19, economic recovery and corruption as it lifts the country out of the crisis caused by the pandemic.

President Ramaphosa was speaking during a virtual question-and-answer session with the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) on Tuesday.

The engagement is part of the President’s ongoing dialogue with different sectors of society. It also fulfils a commitment the President made to SANEF during a similar engagement on 31 May 2020, that he would interact with the forum and other media institutions as part of maintaining transparency and dialogue with various stakeholders in society.

“I welcome this opportunity to engage with the country’s leading editors, particularly at a time of crisis, such as the one we are going through.

“This engagement takes place as government is focused on three critical areas, the first being COVID-19. We are working to prevent a second wave,” said the President.

While the country has witnessed dwindling COVID-19 figures in the past two weeks, the President said work is still underway to ensure the country stands ready to handle a spike in infections.

The drop in COVID-19 cases, the President said, presents the country with an opportunity to further open up the economy. In this regard, President Ramaphosa said government is inundated with plans for economic recovery.

On Tuesday, Stats SA revealed that the country’s economy contracted by 51% in Quarter 2 of 2020.

“On the contraction of the economy, I did expect that it would be quite severe, as it has been in many other countries.

“We were in quite a different situation because we entered the pandemic on a weak wicket. We had been downgraded by rating agencies, entering a recession and the pandemic dealt a triple blow to us,” acknowledged the President.

Putting government’s shoulder to the wheel, the President said an economic recovery strategy is being fine-tuned by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), in partnership with all the social partners.

The President said there is consensus among all sectors that implementation must be the cornerstone of the recovery plan. Additionally, infrastructure investment has also been highlighted as the low hanging fruit to jump start the battered economy.

Curbing corruption

Tackling corruption is the third focus of government’s plan.

In this regard, the President highlighted the Fusion Centre, which boasts a number of law enforcement agencies including the Special Investigating Unit, National Prosecuting Authority and the South African Revenue Service, among others, to address corruption.

To assist these entities to fight corruption, the President said government has committed to support them with resources to ensure they are capacitated to do their work.

Furthermore, the President touched on what he terms the second pandemic of the country – gender-based violence.

“We are also confronted with gender-based violence and femicide, and it is the other area that government is focusing on. We want to strengthen the resolve of the women of our country,” he said.

In addressing gender-based violence, the President punted the need to conscientious boys and men on issues of GBV to ensure they take charge in the fight.