President Cyril Ramaphosa has strongly hinted at reshuffling his Cabinet and reviewing the number and size of national government departments.
In his inaugural state of the nation address (Sona), he said growth, development and transformation depend on a strong and capable state.
“It is critical that the structure and size of the state [are] optimally suited to meet the needs of the people and ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources,” he said.
“We will therefore initiate a process to review the configuration, number and size of national government departments.”
Ramaphosa continued to preach unity in the country and outlining the process for revitalising various sectors of society.
He spoke about his plan for 2018 ahead of South Africa’s national elections next year and focused on the economy, job creation, industrialisation, land redistribution, health education and corruption.
But before that, he made a point of extending gratitude to his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
Ramaphosa said he would continue the long walk former president Nelson Mandela began to build a society in which all may be free and equal before the law, and in which all may share in the wealth of the land and have a better life.
“We are building a country where a person’s prospects are determined by their own initiative and hard work, and not by the colour of their skin, place of birth, gender, language or income of their parents… We should honour Madiba by putting behind us the era of discord, disunity and disillusionment,” he said.
“We should put behind us the era of diminishing trust in public institutions and weakened confidence in leaders. We should put all the negativity that has dogged our country behind us because a new dawn is upon us. It is a new dawn that is inspired by our collective memory of Nelson Mandela and the changes that are unfolding.”
— African National Congress (@MYANC) February 16, 2018
Ramaphosa said that while poverty declined significantly since 1994, there has been “reverses” in recent years.
“Poverty levels rose in 2015, unemployment has gone up and inequality has persisted. For several years our economy has not grown at the pace needed to create enough jobs or lift our people out of poverty. Public finances have been constrained, limiting the ability of government to expand its investment in economic and social development,” he said.
“As we enter a new era, we are determined to build on these achievements, confront the challenges we face and accelerate progress in building a more prosperous and equitable society.”
Ramaphosa said one of the focuses of rebuilding the economy will be by the collaboration with business and labour to restore confidence and prevent an investment downgrade.
“Tough decisions have to be made to close our fiscal gap, stabilise our debt and restore our state-owned enterprises to health… One of the initiatives will be to convene a jobs summit within the next few months to align the efforts of every sector and every stakeholder behind the imperative of job creation,” he said.
We will organise an investment conference in the next three months, targeting both domestic and international investors, to market the compelling investment opportunities to be found in our country. We are going to address the decline over many years of our manufacturing capacity, which has deeply affected employment and exports.”
He said government will seek to re-industrialise on a scale and at a pace that draws millions of job-seekers into the economy.
“To further stimulate manufacturing, we will forge ahead with the localisation programme, through which products like textile, clothing, furniture, rail rolling stock and water meters are designated for local procurement,” he said.
“Through measures like preferential procurement and the black industrialists’ programme, we are developing a new generation of black and women producers that are able to build enterprises of significant scale and capability.”
Radical economic transformation
Ramaphosa said there would be a push to capacity to support black professionals, deal decisively with companies that resist transformation, use competition policy to open markets up to new black entrants, and invest in the development of businesses in townships and rural areas.
“Radical economic transformation requires that we fundamentally improve the position of black women and communities in the economy, ensuring that they are owners, managers, producers and financiers… It is a matter of great urgency that we draw young people in far greater numbers into productive economic activity,” he said.
“Next month, we will launch the Youth Employment Service initiative, which will place unemployed youth in paid internships in companies across the economy. Together with our partners in business, we have agreed to create a million such internships in the next three years.”
He said mining was another area that had “massive unrealised potential for growth and job creation”.
“This year, we will intensify engagements with all stakeholders on the Mining Charter to ensure that it is truly an effective instrument to sustainably transform the face of mining in South Africa,” he said.
“Processing of the MPRDA Amendment Bill through both houses of parliament is at an advanced stage, with an indication by Parliament that the Bill will reasonably be finalised during the first quarter of 2018.”
“When they triumph over poverty
I wanna be there when the people win the battle against AIDS
I wanna lend a hand
I wanna be there for the alcoholic
I wanna be there for the drug addict
I wanna be there for the victims of violence and abuse
I wanna lend a hand
Send me.” #SONA2018
— AC Fick (@acfick72) February 16, 2018
Ramaphosa reiterated that government was determined that expropriation without compensation should be implemented in a way that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensure that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid.
“Government will undertake a process of consultation to determine the modalities of the implementation of this resolution.We make a special call to financial institutions to be our partners in mobilising resources to accelerate the land redistribution programme as increased investment will be needed in this sector,” he said.
Former president Jacob Zuma announced last year that government would be phasing in fully subsidised free higher education and training for poor and working-class South Africans over a five-year period.
“The Minister of Higher Education and Training will lead the implementation of this policy, while the Minister of Finance will clarify all aspects of the financing of the scheme during his Budget Speech next week,” he said.
Ramaphosa said government would take the next critical steps to eliminate HIV.
“By scaling up our testing and treating campaign, we will initiate an additional two million people on antiretroviral treatment by December 2020. We will also need to confront lifestyles diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancers and cardiovascular diseases. In the next three months we will launch a huge cancer campaign similar to the HIV counselling and testing campaign,” he said.
“The time has now arrived to finally implement universal health coverage through the National Health Insurance. The NHI Bill is now ready to be processed through government and will be submitted to Parliament in the next few weeks.”
Ramaphosa said corruption, fraud and collusion in the private sector must be fought with the same purpose and intensity as within the public sector.
“The commission of inquiry into state capture headed by the Deputy Chief Justice, Judge Raymond Zondo, is expected to commence its work shortly. The Commission is critical to ensuring that the extent and nature of state capture are established, that confidence in public institutions is restored and that those responsible for any wrongdoing are identified,” he said.
“We will urgently attend to the leadership issues at the National Prosecuting Authority to ensure that this critical institution is stabilised and able to perform its mandate unhindered. We will also take steps to stabilise and strengthen vital institutions like the South African Revenue Service.”
Ramaphosa announced he will appoint a Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance of SARS, to ensure a restoration in the credibility of the service and strengthen its capacity to meet its revenue targets.
President Cyril Ramaphosa concludes his #SONA2018 speech: How would you rate the content of his speech (his approach, plans, vision)?
— HuffPost SouthAfrica (@HuffPostSA) February 16, 2018