SONA Creates Hope for the People
The incident prone State of the Nation Address (SONA), managed to create hope once again for ordinary folk. Despite the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) sideshow that caused an unprecedented adjournment of Parliament during a SONA, the President maneuvered through the obstacles to deliver an encouraging address.
ESKOM and load shedding
According to President Ramaphosa extra grid capacity will be developed from renewable energy, natural gas, hydro power, battery storage and coal by giving effect to the Integrated Resource Plan of 2019. Ramaphosa further guaranteed as a first that applications by commercial and industrial users to produce electricity for own use above 1MW will be processed within the prescribed 120 days. The President believes that the opening of bid window 5 of the renewable energy Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and working with producers to accelerate the completion of window 4 projects will also relieve ESKOM of some pressure. Government will also negotiate for supplementary power purchase agreements to access more capacity from existing wind and solar plants. Seen by many experts as extraordinary and progressive Ramaphosa announced that financially stable municipalities would be allowed to purchase power from IPP’s.
The President acknowledged that the public purse is drying out and ways of reducing government spending, prioritize resources more effectively, and improve the efficiency of the tax system will contribute towards stabilizing the public finances. He highlighted the need to deal with the structural contradictions in the economy that has been the cause of rising cost of living and barriers to doing business. Ramaphosa indicated that the repurposing of embattled state-owned enterprises (SOE’s) will support growth and development. The Minister of Finance, Ramaphosa mentioned, will in the budget speech, shed more light on government’s proposals on how to sort out the public coffers.
The Early Childhood Development investment will lead to “great economic benefits in the next two decades – and beyond’’ Ramaphosa emphasized. According to Ramaphosa progress are being made with the introduction of the three-stream curriculum model, which includes the traditional academic model which prepares learners for university, the technical vocational model which prepares learners for further studies at the technical college which will include 12 subjects focusing on electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering.
Lastly the technical occupational model focuses on preparing learners for work immediately after secondary school. It will comprise of skills like spray-painting, panel-beating, hairdressing, woodwork, glasswork, glazing, welding, upholstery, etc. New TVET colleges are being built in Sterkspruit, Aliwal North, Graaff Reinet and Ngungqushe in the Eastern Cape, and in Umzimkhulu, Greytown, Msinga, Nongoma and Kwagqikazi in KwaZulu-Natal. More young people, according to Ramaphosa, will continue to study overseas as a direct benefit from bilateral student scholarship agreements with other countries like Cuba and China. The distribution of tablets to learners is apparently ongoing while the introduction of coding and robotics in Grades R to 3 in 200 schools has commenced and implemented fully by 2022. The President announced that the third new post-apartheid university will be constructed in Ekurhuleni, currently the only metro without a university.
Government will strengthen anti-gang units in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and the Free State. Local policing will be enhanced through the 7000 police trainees that will commence with training; an increase of 2000 compared to the 5000 that graduated in 2019. The establishment of a Crime Detection University in Hammanskraal will improve the quality of general and specialized SAPS investigations, Ramphosa said. Along with other efforts the Domestic Violence Act to will be amended to provide for better protection for victims in violent domestic relationships while the Sexual Offences Act will widen the categories of sex offenders whose names must be included in the National Register for Sex Offenders, and legislation will be introduced to rigidify bail and sentencing conditions in cases that involve gender-based violence (GBV).
Government’s Infrastructure Fund implementation team has, as mentioned by Ramaphosa, finalised the list of ‘’shovel-ready projects and has begun work to expand private investment into public infrastructure sectors with revenue streams.” These projects include student accommodation, social housing, independent water production, rail freight branch lines, embedded electricity generation, municipal bulk infrastructure, and broadband roll-out. The total costs for these projects amount to R700 billion over the next 10 years, which will be financed by means of government and non-government contributions.
New smart city
In what can be seen as delivering on last year’s SONA promise of a new smart city, President Ramaphosa announced that a new smart-city is taking shape in Lanseria, wherein about 350,000 to 500,000 people will reside. Working with development finance institutions, government has developed a process that will fund the bulk sewerage, electricity, water, digital infrastructure and roads that will be the foundation of the new city. As the first city to be built post-apartheid, it will be 5G ready, and environmentally friendly.
The President believes that to tackle this pandemic, a two-pronged solution should be followed, i.e. to create opportunities for youth employment and self-employment. The immediate implementation of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention will see six priority actions being realised over the next five years to reduce youth unemployment.
A combination of creating pathways for young people into the economy, building cutting-edge solutions to reach young people where they are – online, on the phone and in person and the launching of five prototype sites in five provinces will allow the youth to ”receive active support, information and work readiness training to increase their employability and match themselves to opportunities.”
The other proposals include providing shorter specific skills courses needed by the fast growing sectors of the economy; developing new and innovative ways to support youth entrepreneurship and self-employment; scaling up the Youth Employment Service to ensure a substantial increase in practical experience in the workplace; establishing the Presidential Youth Service Programme that will provide opportunity to earn an income; setting a side 1% of the budget for a youth employment initiative.
44 000 Hectares of state land for the settlement of land restitution claims have been released and an additional 700 000 hectares of state land for agricultural production will be made available in 2020. Compulsory training for potential beneficiaries before land can be allocated to them is now part of the new beneficiary selection policy. Government is conducting research under the auspices of the Agricultural Research Council and has developed drought mitigation strategies that focus on developing drought resistant seeds, planting and storing fodder, removing of invasive plants. Youth, women, people with disabilities and those who have been farming on communal land and are ready to expand their operations will be prioritised for training and allocation of land. Regulation of the hemp industry will be relaxed to provide opportunities for small-scale farmers and new policies will be formulated for the use of cannabis products for medicinal purposes in order to realise opportunities as per the global trend.
“Now is the time for us to build on that foundation, to unite, to work, to persevere.
We will not surrender our future to doubt, despair, or division or to those who are permanently negative to the work that is being done to improve the lives of our people.
We will continue our onward march to improve the lives of our people.
We will embrace change.
We will cherish life.
We will fear nothing,”