Employment, structural reforms & labour legislation: What SA's expecting from Ramaphosa's recovery plan

15 October 2020 - 13:34
By Unathi Nkanjeni
President Cyril Ramaphosa is on Thursday expected to detail the much anticipated economic reconstruction and recovery plan.
Image: Supplied President Cyril Ramaphosa is on Thursday expected to detail the much anticipated economic reconstruction and recovery plan.

As the country waits for President Cyril Ramaphosa to detail the government's much anticipated economic reconstruction and recovery plan, politicians and citizens have expressed their expectations.

Ramaphosa is expected to detail the plan on Thursday during a joint sitting of parliament with the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

This comes after the Covid-19 pandemic has plunged SA's already ailing economy into turmoil.

Since the government declared a state of disaster on March 15, companies have closed their doors, many have lost their jobs, and the expanded unemployment rate increased to 42%.

According to the presidency, the recovery plan has been widely deliberated among government and social partners, business, labour and community, under the auspices of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). 

The draft plan was tabled at the cabinet lekgotla last week and it was finalised at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Here is what SA is expecting from Ramaphosa's recovery plan:

DA: Rapid implementation of big-ticket structural reforms

DA leader John Steenhuisen said if the plan fails on implementation, it will go down in history as Ramaphosa's “economic destruction inaction plan” and his presidency will mark the biggest ever sustained contraction of SA's economy.

Endless plans and empty rhetoric are not going to cut it. Implementation is all that counts now.
John Steenhuisen

“Assuming the final version of this plan echoes the most recent draft circulated, it contains some long-overdue pro-growth reforms which, if actually implemented, will have a major positive impact on SA’s economic and social wellbeing,” he said.

Steenhuisen said the plan is unlikely to move the needle on socioeconomic wellbeing unless SA sees the real and rapid implementation of the big-ticket structural reforms promised, particularly energy reform.

“Our future, and President Ramaphosa’s legacy, is at stake,” he said. “The president has long and often promised pro-growth reforms, and he must be held to account for these commitments. Endless plans and empty rhetoric are not going to cut it. Implementation is all that counts now.”

ATM: Youth employment programme

The president of the African Transformation Movement (ATM), Vuyo Zungula, says he expects the plan to cover youth employment.

“If the economic recovery plan doesn't prioritise and provide any clear programme on youth unemployment it's not a recovery plan,” he said.

Zungula said the plan has to heal not only the economy but the people as well.

“ATM is calling for a people-centred economic recovery plan driven by ubuntu, peace, and accountability.

“We proposer a four-legged plan comprised of a legislative amendment to create efficiencies, a different tax regime, a fundamental restructuring of economic paradigm and a secure energy plan.”

ActionSA: Change labour legislation

ActionSA president Herman Mashaba said for SA to move forward, government must change labour legislation which he characterised as “rigid”. 

“SA’s unemployment rate sits at 42% and 2.2 million jobs lost to date. A factor to be considered, our labour laws make it difficult to hire South Africans instead of making it easier,” he said.

“They protect the employed for now, at the expense the employable. Many SMMEs lose out on growth opportunities so they can hire more South Africans.”

Mashaba said the “rigid labour laws” limited employment opportunities.

“While workers’ rights must certainly be protected, we cannot afford to do so at the expense of 10 million people living without the dignity that comes with gainful employment.”

Numsa: Move away from what's not working

National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim said Ramaphosa must take forward what works in terms of fundamental structural change.

Speaking on Newzroom Afrika, Jim said Ramaphosa must come up with a budget that will ensure that economic growth is stimulated.

“What the president needs to do is to come up with an expansionary budget so that we can stimulate economic growth and ensure that manufacturing, in particular, is harnessed by defending the current capacity. We expect the government to be pushing for a moratorium on job losses.”

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SA chimes in

On social media, many said they expect Ramaphosa to save the economy, fight corruption, and create a sustainable and long-lasting solution for the country.