Tuesday, 08 February 2022
Cape Town: President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to deliver the 2022 State of the Nation Address (SONA) in an environment that continues to be challenging.
The SONA is traditionally delivered by the President before a joint sitting of the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The SONA sets out government’s key policy objectives and deliverables for the year ahead.
However, the 2022 SONA – which also reflects on successes, challenges as well as outlines interventions needed– will take place for the first time, at the Cape Town City Hall, this Thursday.
A devastating fire that destroyed Parliament’s buildings, including the NA and sections of the Old Assembly Chamber, necessitated the change of venue.
While the move from the historic parliamentary precinct is not ideal, the City Hall is also a venue of historical significance having served as the place where Nelson Mandela addressed the nation after his release from prison on 11 February 1990.
Mandela, would later become democratic South Africa’s first President.
The President will deliver the address at a time when the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment and corruption, amongst others.
Recently, the Presidency received the second part of the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector. Acting Chief Justice and Commission Chairperson, Judge Raymond Zondo, presented the first part of the report to the President in January.
The report is a key cog in the fight against corruption and is a step forward in the work needed to rid the country of corruption.
Senior Researcher at Corruption Watch, Melusi Ncala said the President should speak to what steps are being taken to address the matter.
“The President should tell us about key officials that are being held accountable. Don’t only tell us about the ‘small fish’. The perception is that politicians and big businesspeople are the ones that get away with the most heinous forms of corruption. He should tell us how far those investigations are, and give a progress report,” he said.
It is expected that the Presidency will receive the third and final part of the report by 28 February 2022.
“[We are] waiting to see if the President will change some of his tactics or tone based on what he’s reading now on a preliminary basis in this report,” said Ncala.
The fight against the scourge also received a boost through a Special Tribunal order compelling two Free State departments to invoke the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) in order to recoup financial losses, suffered from officials implicated in the awarding of unlawful personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts.
The move is a deterrent for would-be errant public servants. The order invalidated PPE procurement contracts of at least 36 companies contracted to the Free State Health and Treasury departments.
As the President fine-tunes his speech, which he will deliver at 7pm, the Government news agency took a look at some of the progress made by government in the last year.
In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to cast a tall shadow across the world, including South Africa. However, government procured the much-needed lifesaving jabs for all within the borders of the country with the first consignment of vaccines having arrived on 16 February 2021.
The arrival of the jabs strengthened the fight against the pandemic and to date; more than over 30 million inoculations have been administered.
Meanwhile, South Africa recently became the home of a vaccine manufacturing campus in the Western Cape. President Ramaphosa alongside Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong, founder of the multinational conglomerate NantWorks, LLC, launched the campus last month.
The two also launched the Coalition to Accelerate Africa’s Access to Advanced Healthcare (The AAAH Coalition). The launch follows Dr Soon-Shiong’s announcement in September of an ambitious initiative to build capacity for advanced health care in Africa.
NantSA, a division of NantWorks, and The AAAH Coalition aim to accelerate domestic production of pharmaceuticals, biologics and vaccines that will reach patients across the African continent.
In addressing South Africa’s energy challenges, government announced that 25 preferred bidders are expected to add at least 2583MW of energy to the electricity grid through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement (REIPPP) Programme.
The projects are expected to inject at least R50 billion into the economy and create about 13 900 jobs during and after construction.
Meanwhile, South Africa was offered R131 billion by the US, UK, Germany and the European Union (EU), to help it transition from coal to clean energy. However, the offer made at the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), does not mean the country must accept any unfavourable terms.
The support will take the form of various financial instruments, ranging from grants to concessional loans at a lower interest rate.
Government also took the decision to amend Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act, 2006 (Act No. 4 of 2006), to exempt generation facilities up to 100MW from the licensing requirement. The move aimed to resolve the country’s energy supply shortfall and reduce the risk of load shedding.
Given the hardships brought on by the pandemic, President Ramaphosa in July 2021 announced the reinstatement of the Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant, which is set to run until the end of March 2022. Set at R350, it benefits unemployed citizens, most of whom lost their jobs when COVID-19 struck in 2020.
Initially, the grant was approved from May 2020 – April 2021. Government has allocated R26.7 billion for the latest iteration of the grant.
During the first iteration of the grant, almost 10 million applications were received with just over 6 million approved for payment to the tune of R24 billion and an additional R15 billion paid as top-ups for a period of 6 months to all grant types.
Economic growth and employment
While it is no secret that the country faces an uphill battle against unemployment, government initiatives like the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) have gone some way in tackling this challenge.
In October, government announced that R11 billion in new funding has been allocated for the next phase of the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES) in the 2021/22 financial year. Phase 2 of the PES was launched in November.
The President launched the PES in October 2020 in response to the impact of the Coronavirus on employment.
As part of the ERRP, the stimulus aims to create new employment, provide livelihood support and protect existing jobs in vulnerable sectors.
Phase 2 of the employment stimulus supports the continuation of some programmes from Phase 1, as well as a range of new programmes. Among these is the recruitment of young people as school assistants.
In addition, the country’s R800 million Social Employment Fund is expected to create at least 50 000 jobs, which is critical for uplifting communities and driving development. The Fund is the second phase of the PES.
Through this fund, non-governmental, community-based and civil society organisations, as well as social enterprises will be supported to create jobs while undertaking work that serves the common good and is not for profit.
Organisations that will be supported include those working in “food security, healthcare, education support, greening the environment, better public spaces, community safety and action against gender-based violence”.
Applications for organisations to become implementing agents of the fund were opened with organisations – or implementing agents – expected to create no less than 1 000 jobs within the first quarter of receiving the funding and to spend no less than 80% of the funds received on wages.
Tackling gender-based violence
Government is also addressing Gender-based violence (GBV) with legislation aimed at strengthening efforts to end gender-based violence, with a victim-centred focus on combating such criminal acts, and to make it more difficult for perpetrators to escape justice.
The President has approved the amendment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill; the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill.
The legislation is a deliverable from the National Strategic Plan on Gender-based Violence and Femicide, which was called for at the November 2018 Presidential Summit against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF).
While the country faces a myriad of challenges, the SONA provides a roadmap in tackling these and taking the country to greater heights.