South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered South Africa’s State of the Nation address last night, and announced a number of changes for the country going forward. Among them are plans to attract foreign direct investment, improve the quality of education, and resolve Eskom’s (the country’s power utility) debt crisis. The date of the 2019 general election was also announced; 8 May. Key announcements are outlined below.
Eskom will be split in three
Government plans to “immediately embark” on a process of establishing three separate entities – Generation, Transmission and Distribution – under Eskom Holdings. “The consequences may be painful, but they will be even more devastating if we delay,” Ramaphosa said.
‘Investment books’ will be compiled for each province
Following the success of the 2018 investment conference which attracted over in R300 billion in investment, Ramaphosa said a second conference will be held in 2019. Investment in South Africa should be spread out in projects throughout the country, Ramaphosa said. “In this regard, I have asked provincial governments to identify investable projects and ensure that we build investment books for each of our nine provinces to present to potential investors,” Ramaphosa said.
A new target to improve South Africa’s ease-of-doing-business ranking
Ramaphosa said the World Bank’s annual Doing Business Report currently ranks South Africa 82 out of 190 countries tracked. The state aims to be among the 50 global performers within the next three years, Ramaphosa said. A team from the Presidency, Invest SA, National Treasury and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation will address the policy, legal, regulatory and administrative barriers that frustrate investors.
A requirement for work experience will be dropped in the public sector
It is important that more youth be absorbed into South Africa’s labour market, Ramaphosa said. The government would, therefore, do away with entry-level work experience requirement in the public sector. “Our young people need to be given a real head start in the world of work,” he said.
Release of state-owned land for human settlements
Ramaphosa said as part of accelerated land reform, the government identified land parcels owned by the state for redistribution. Strategically located land will be released to address human settlements needs in urban and peri-urban areas, he said.
Introduction of eVisa regime
The South African government will introduce a “world class” eVisa regime in 2019 to assist in growing the local tourism sector, Ramaphosa said. The goal is reach 21 million tourists by 2030, up from 10 million in 2018. Instead of applying for a South African visa at an embassy, prospective visitors will be able to apply for an eVisa online and the final visa can be printed at home.
New gas and oil legislation after the Brulpadda boon
Following Total’s discovery of “world-class” oil and gas in the Brulpadda field off the coast of South Africa, Ramaphosa said the government will develop legislation to ensure that it is properly regulated for the interests of all concerned. “We are extremely encouraged by the report this morning about the Brulpadda block in the Outeniqua Basin, which some have described as a catalytic find. This could well be a game-changer for our country and will have significant consequences for our country’s energy security…”, ANC National Chairperson Gwede Mantashe stated.
New infrastructure implementation model
Ramaphosa said Cabinet has adopted a new infrastructure implementation model to ensure projects are implemented. He said the new model is underpinned by the new Infrastructure Fund announced in September last year. Ramaphosa said government has committed to contribute R100 billion into the Infrastructure Fund over a 10-year period and use this to leverage financing from the private sector and development finance institutions. “As a first step, we will expand projects underway already, such as student accommodation.”
Eradicate unsafe school toilets within 3 years
Ramaphosa expressed deep sadness at the tragic deaths of Michael Komape, who drowned in a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School in Limpopo in 2014, and Lumka Mkethwa, from Luna Junior Primary School in the Eastern Cape, who lost her life in March last year. He said the government has since August already provided safe and appropriate sanitation to 699 schools, with sanitation at a further 1,150 schools either in planning, design or construction stages. Government identified that nearly 4,000 schools require appropriate sanitation, and hopes to eradicate unsafe sanitation by 2022.
Compulsory early development for all children
The responsibility of early childhood development centres are being migrated from the social development department to basic education, Ramaphosa said. He said during the migration the government will proceed with the process towards two years of compulsory early childhood development for all children before they enter grade 1. “This is essential in equipping children to succeed in education, in work and in life – and it is possibly the single most important factor in overcoming poverty, unemployment and inequality,” Ramaphosa said.
Access to a tablet for every pupil by 2025
“Over the next six years, we will provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device,” Ramaphosa said. He said government will start with the schools that have been historically most disadvantaged and are located in the poorest communities, including farm and rural schools.
New technology subjects, and technical high schools
Ramaphosa said several new technology subjects and specialisations will be introduced into basic education such as technical mathematics and technical sciences, maritime sciences, aviation studies, mining sciences, and aquaponics. Several “ordinary” state schools will also be transformed into technical high schools, he said.
A new bank for housing
If the South African government is to effectively address the substantial housing backlog it needs to develop different models of financing for human settlements, Ramaphosa said. Therefore a new human settlements development bank will be established to leverage both public and private sector financing to aid in housing delivery. He said the state’s housing development agency will construct an additional 500,000 housing units in the next five years..
No taverns, shebeens and liquor outlets near schools
Ramaphosa promised the complete shutdown of all taverns, shebeens and liquor outlets near schools as the country deals with extremely high levels of substance abuse. “South Africa has extremely high levels of substance abuse, which feeds crime and violence against women and children, it deepens poverty and causes great hardship and pain for families. As government, we continue to roll out interventions to address social ills tearing our communities apart, such as alcoholism and substance abuse. Knowing, as we do, that there are strong linkages between substance abuse, drug trafficking, crime and insecurity in communities, we are focusing on tackling this problem at its source through prevention programmes targeting vulnerable persons especially our youth. We are resolute that all taverns, shebeens and liquor outlets near school premises must be shut down,” Ramaphosa stated.
Strengthening the focus on gender-based violence
“We will strengthen the national hotline centre that supports women who experience gender-based violence and ensure it is functional. We have listened to the call to make funds available to combat gender-based violence and have allocated funding in the current budget to support the decisions taken at the [Gender-Based Violence] Summit. Government will lead the campaign to include men and boys as active champions in the struggle against gender-based violence. Ending gender-based violence is an urgent national priority that requires the mobilisation of all South Africans and the involvement of all institutions,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said he agreed with the new NPA head that an investigation directorate dealing with serious corruption and associated offences will be established as soon as possible. In broad terms, the Directorate will focus on the evidence that has emerged from the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, other commissions and disciplinary inquiries, Ramaphosa said.
General election date
National elections will be held on May 8.
A war room for public health
The National Health Insurance Bill will soon be submitted to Parliament. The NHI will enable South Africans to receive free services at the point of care in public and private quality-accredited health facilities. Ramaphosa said a ‘War Room’ in the presidency has been established to improve public heallth. “We have a funded national quality health improvement plan to improve every clinic and hospital that will be contracted by the NHI.”
To read the SONA address in full, click here.
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