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South Africa Sets Up National Committee for New African Trade Agreement Action Plans

South African Minister for Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel set up a National Committee, comprising business, labor and government, to develop action plans around the new African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

This was done at a strategic session held between the Ministry and social partners at NEDLAC (the National Economic, Development and Labour Council, South Africa’s statutory social dialogue forum).

The engagement was chaired by Minister Patel, and was the first session held with the new Ministry at NEDLAC following the start of the Sixth Administration, and the combination of the dti and Economic Development Department into the new Department of Trade, Industry and Competition.

The day-long session gave rise to a number of tripartite working groups to speed-up actions to grow the number of jobs in the South African economy.

Both Business and Labour sent high level delegations to the engagement, including leaders from BUSA, CEOs of large companies and sector business organisations; as well as trade union leaders from COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU.

Representatives of the Public Private Growth Initiative were also present in the meeting. The state was represented by Deputy Ministers of Trade and Industry, Fikile Majola and Nomalungelo Gina, senior officials from the new Department and a number of regulators, including SARS and ITAC. Minister Patel opened the all-day engagement by reflecting on the state of the economy.

“The South African economy produced R5 trillion worth of goods and services in the last year. We need to boost the size of that output and bring more people into the economy. There are currently 16,3 million people in employment in South Africa. We need to create more jobs, and better jobs for the 10 million South Africans who are willing and able to work but are unable to find employment. Neither despair nor blame constitute effective solutions. We have an opportunity to build on our real strengths as a nation, to turn the relatively modest job creation into a significantly larger effort, with workable and actionable solutions to unblock growth, investment and job creation in the economy,” he said.

The engagement focused on a number of key developments in the local and global economy, including the new Industrial Strategy outlined by President Cyril Ramaphosa during the State of the Nation Address in June, and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which has been ratified now by 27 African countries, including South Africa.

The AfCFTA is intended to be implemented from July 2020, and has been recognize by all constituents as a game-changer for African economies, with the opportunity for new markets for South African goods, balanced by the risk that certain industries may come under threat from imports from across the continent.

The NEDALC parties agreed that a National Committee with sector-level task teams should identify which products South Africa could export to other African countries and what steps needed to be taken to realise such exports. The teams should also point to products that are vulnerable and develop measures to strengthen such sectors.

Government officials also provided updated presentations on South Africa’s export and investment promotion services, plans to improve the ease of doing business, development of special economic zones, changes to the Competition Act, empowerment and black industrialists programs, and the trade dimensions of the digital economy.

The engagement has now resulted in a number of working groups and committees, with constituents drawn from government, business and labor. These include a Ministerial Export Promotion Panel that will be constituted shortly, a Special Economic Zone reference team and a Working Committee on trade policy and the digital economy. Working groups are expected to meet during August and September.

Minister Patel commended social partners on their approach to the engagement, which he noted as solutions-driven.

“Partnership requires that every constituency brings concrete commitments by members to the table and also identifies what it seeks to achieve for its members. We need bold commitments from business and labor. Government will need to be more effective in creating the foundations for growth, transformation and development. This is an opportunity to do things differently. What we have seen in this dialogue begins to reset the tone for a collaborative approach to unlock inclusive growth and job creation in our country,” said Patel.

For more information about AfCFTA, visit the African Union’s website by clicking here.

 

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SA Home Affairs Watchdog Launches Twitter Account to Talk Directly to Customers

The Home Affairs Portfolio Committee has launched a twitter account to play watchdog to strengthen its oversight work.

Parliamentary Communication Services Malatswa Molepo said @PConHomeAffairs was “intended to bridge the communication gap between the committee and the customers of the department”.

Advocate Bongani Bongo, the Chairperson of the committee said if the committee was to enhance service delivery to the required standard, it had to be willing to adapt to changes to the environment in which it operated.

“Social media presents an opportunity for instantaneous communication with the public, and will assist in providing first-hand information about their daily experiences at Home Affairs offices,” Bongo said.

Molepo said the committee viewed effective oversight as a precursor to efficient service delivery.

“Furthermore, effective oversight requires that a variety of voices are heard in order to achieve a balance of views.”

The committee pleaded with customers not to only highlight the negatives, however, note those departmental working optimally and improving service delivery.

The committee said it intends to use issues raised on the platform as a basis for its oversight over the department.

“The department will also be required, from time to time, to respond directly on issues raised on the platform.”

 

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South African Presidential Land Advisory Panel Delivers Final Report on Expropriation

The presidential expert advisory panel on land reform and agriculture has detailed the circumstances under which expropriation without compensation could be applicable in its final report which was tabled in cabinet last week.

The report was released at a media briefing on Sunday. Not all panel members agreed with all the recommendations,

The panel was appointed in September 2018 to support the work of the Inter Ministerial Committee on Land Reform and to advise it on a broad range of policy matters associated with land reform, including restitution, redistribution, tenure security and agricultural support. The independent panel’s report is merely advisory and the government can pick and choose which recommendations to implement.

Parliament’s constitutional committee was tasked with amending section 25 of the constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation. It was agreed that the constitution would be amended. The policy of expropriation without compensation became the policy position of the governing party after its adoption at the ANC’s 2017 December national conference.

Dr Vuyo Mahlati, chair of the panel, said the panel had offered a proposal for a constitutional amendment, as it may be necessary in limited circumstances.

She said the state was already empowered to expropriate land, but it required just and equitable compensation.

She said there were different views about the necessity of amending the constitution, and that the majority of the panel had advised that compensation may be zero in circumstances that require this.

The panel’s report itself gives details as to the circumstances in which expropriation without compensation could be applied.

The report said that expropriation without compensation was understood to be one of several targeted land acquisition strategies, and that it may commence immediately under specified conditions identified for “nil” compensation, including but not limited to: abandoned land; hopelessly indebted land; land held purely for speculative purposes; land held by state entities and not utilized; land obtained through criminal activity; land already occupied and used by labor tenants and former labor tenants; informal settlement areas; inner city buildings with absentee landlords; land donations (as a form of expropriation without compensation); and farm equity schemes.

The panel’s understanding was that nationalization was not allowed under the constitution.

The full report can be viewed here.

 

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South African Education System: Two Major Areas of Change Imminent

Early Grade Reading Programme

Government is implementing an Early Grade Reading Programme, which consists of an integrated package of lesson plans, additional reading materials and professional support to Foundation Phase teachers.

President Cyril Ramaphosa aims to mobilise the entire nation behind a massive reading campaign, and wants every 10 year old to be able to read for meaning within the next decade.

Speaking in his recent State of the Nation Address, Ramaphosa said that early reading ‘is the basic foundation that determines a child’s educational progress, through school, through higher education and into the workplace’.

“All other interventions – from the work being done to improve the quality of basic education to the provision of free higher education for the poor, from our investment in TVET colleges to the expansion of workplace learning – will not produce the results we need unless we first ensure that children can read,” he said.

As part of this push, Ramaphosa said that all foundation and intermediate phase teachers are to be trained to teach reading in English and the African languages.

He added that government is currently training and deploying a cohort of experienced coaches to provide high-quality on-site support to teachers.

“We are also implementing the Early Grade Reading Programme, which consists of an integrated package of lesson plans, additional reading materials and professional support to Foundation Phase teachers,” he said.

“This forms part of the broader efforts to strengthen the basic education system by empowering school leadership teams, improving the capabilities of teachers and ensuring a more consistent measurement of progress for grades three, six and nine.”

New subjects

As part of plans to future-proof the economy, Ramaphosa also pledged to introduce a number of technology-focused subjects to the curriculum,

“We have to prepare our young people for the jobs of the future,” he said. “This is why we are introducing subjects like coding and data analytics at a primary school level.”

In April 2019, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) said it had trained 43,774 teachers in computer skills and would shortly begin training teachers for the new coding curricula.

Basic Education Angie Motshekga said that these teachers will be trained on coding from June to September 2019.

Coding as a subject will be piloted at 1,000 schools across five provinces starting in the 2020 school year.

The minister said that the DBE will also be introducing a robotics curriculum from Grade R-9.

The curriculum will have a strong foundation in engineering and will enable learners to build and operate robots through programming code, she said.

“This robotics curriculum will not require any infrastructure or devices, but will need maker spaces to provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent; e.g., through cardboard construction activities,” she said.

“This will not only develop STEM skills, but also contribute to effectively developing children’s creativity, critical thinking, design thinking, and digital skills.

“This will ensure that South Africa develops learners who are makers and inventors who will contribute to building an innovative culture in South Africa,” she said.

 

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SA President Ramaphosa Has Announced The Country’s New Cabinet

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the 28 individuals who have been chosen to form the country’s new cabinet. The President said he had reduced the Cabinet from 36 to 28 as part of his plans to reconfigure the state.

Mergers, Gender, and Age

Some departments have been merged such as Trade and Industry, which was combined with Economic Development; Higher Education and Training combined with Science and Technology; Environmental Affairs combined with Forestry and Fisheries; Agriculture combined with Land Reform and Rural Development, and Mineral Resources combined with Energy. Human Settlements has been combined with Water and Sanitation while Sports and Recreation combined with Arts and Culture.

Ramaphosa said that half of the ministers are women (making good on his promise of a balance of men and women in the new cabinet), and that there are now a number of young people in cabinet positions. Ramaphosa said his appointment of young people was part of his fulfilment of his commitment to give young people roles of responsibility. “This is part of a generational transition in which we are creating a pipeline of leaders to take our country further into the future,” he said.

The African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) is pleased that half of the president’s new Cabinet are women. ANCWL’s general secretary Meokgo Matuba said: “As disciplined as we’re, we still have further consultation and engage with those who are deployed various spheres of government to get to align our role in dealing with socio-economic challenges that we’re faced with as a country.”

Ramaphosa’s announcement follows weeks of speculation about who would be included and who will be left out from the previous cabinet. He has also faced tough pressure to appoint a scandal-free cabinet which does not include individuals who have been tainted by allegations of corruption.

Notably, Deputy President David Mabuza has retained his position, after initially delaying his being sworn in as an MP so as to report to the ANC’s Integrity Commission on matters concerning his conduct. Mabuza supported Ramaphosa in his initial bid for the Presidency in 2017.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was appointed to the portfolio of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. She competed with Ramaphosa for ANC leadership in 2017.

Pravin Gordhan has been retained as Minister of Public Enterprises. The move came despite the fact that Gordhan has still not been legally “cleared” by the court after Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s adverse finding against him last week. Gordhan has lodged an application for a court review of the protector’s report, but there has been no decision yet. Ramaphosa’s move may indicate confidence in Gordhan, and a rejection of Mkhwebane’s assessments.

Office Holders

The office holders can be seen in the table below.

Surprise Appointment

Interestingly, GOOD party leader Patricia de Lille has been appointed a Minister in the ANC’s new cabinet. After a protracted debate with the DA in the Western Cape, former Cape Town Mayor de Lille formed the GOOD party not long before the 2019 general election, and won seats in both the National Assembly and the Western Cape Provincial Parliament.

de Lille has pledged to “continue the struggle for dignity and fairness for all South Africans”. In a short statement after her appointment on Wednesday night, the GOOD party leader said she was humbled to have received the call from president Cyril Ramaphosa to serve in his Cabinet.

She said her new post would enable her to continue fighting for an accountable and compassionate government. “On President Ramaphosa’s election to the Presidency last week I pledged GOOD’s constructive support for turning South Africa around.

“This support we will wholeheartedly give, but I will be joining President Ramaphosa’s executive with open eyes and ears as a representative of good South Africans of integrity who love their country and demand better of their leaders,” said de Lille.

Responses

The reappointment of finance minister Tito Mboweni and minister of public enterprises Pravin Gordhan has been positively received by the market, with Ramaphosa also ditching controversial figures such as Nomvula Mokonyane and Bathabile Dlamini.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader Mmusi Maimane said that there was very little to inspire in the line-up. “This is a Cabinet that looks the same actors playing to the same script, they’ve just been reshuffled along the deck and our focus now is to refine our plan, a plan that will bring us jobs”.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema is not impressed with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet for a number of reasons, including stating that it is still too large. Malema said, “There was no way [The President] was going to reduce cabinet because he wants to balance factions. He must appease everyone so that there is no war declared against him”. Malema was referring to the notion that factions within the ANC aligned with former President Jacob Zuma, including those in Parliament and those at Luthuli House, as well as organizations that the ANC consults on such decisions (which include the South African Communist Party and trade union COSATU) all have their own agendas and attempt to influence the President.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)’s response was lukewarm. Member of Parliament and spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said that the only real surprise inclusion in the new Cabinet was the inclusion of De Lille. “It’s safe to say the only surprise is Patricia de Lille, for the president to get an opposition member into the Cabinet,” Hlengwa said.

Promises from the President

At his inauguration on Saturday, Ramaphosa admitted that the journey ahead was not easy. He faces expectations for a clean-up of corruption which has engulfed a number of government departments and crucially state-owned enterprises.

“In recent times, our people have watched as some of those in whom they had invested their trust have surrendered to the temptation of power and riches. They have seen some of the very institutions of our democracy eroded and resources squandered. The challenges that we face are real. But they are not insurmountable,” Ramaphosa said.

The President also faces the tough battle of dealing with social economic issues that have plagued the country including rising unemployment and an under-performing economy. There is also the issue of a lack or poor service delivery in many parts of the country.

In his announcement on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said revitalising the economy is key while also ensuring that the public purse is kept in check. He said a reconfigured State is a process and journey and that combining the various departments was part of the process.

Ministerial Benefits

Ministers are slated to earn R2,401,633, while Deputy Ministers are expected to cost taxpayers R1,977,795 each in the 2018/19 financial year. Deputy President David Mabuza is set to earn R2,825,470. For comparison, a normal member of the National Assembly (MP) will earn R1,106,940, while the leader of a minority party will earn R1,309,563.

Had the cabinet been kept the same (at 72 members, with 36 ministers and 34 deputies) the total cost – excluding the President – would have come to R156.5 million. The reduced cabinet will save the country R19.2 million during the financial year.

AfricaCheck reports that some of the major perks include private cars, official vehicles, accommodation, travel expenses, and other expenses.

 

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Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9]. Image sources: [1], [2].