Ramaphosa confident SA is on a positive growth path
Government is working hard to tackle challenges, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday, including climate change, damage to infrastructure during lockdown, gender-based violence (GBV) and the energy crisis which has led to ongoing blackouts across the country.
On damage to infrastructure during the lockdown Ramaphosa said: “Damage to public infrastructure, whether through vandalism or theft, amount to nothing less than acts of sabotage against the aspirations of the South African people.”
He said the significant increase in such criminal acts during lockdown was predominantly in the commuter rail and education sectors.
“Metrorail has started to gradually return commuter services as it works to repair and replace critical infrastructure. This includes projects to rehabilitate railway tracks, reinstate electricity infrastructure, wall off rail lines, build and repair pedestrian bridges, station improvements and automated signalling infrastructure,” he said.
He said the department of basic education reported that more than 1,700 schools across the country were vandalised or had equipment stolen since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown.
KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Eastern Cape were the worst affected provinces.
On tackling climate change, Ramapohosa said he had established the Presidential Climate Commission to identify a path towards low emissions economy and climate resilient society that promotes inclusive development and job creation and leaves no one behind.
“The commission is constituted by members from different sectors of society, including business, labour, civil society, youth, research institutes and government. This signifies that we recognise the multidimensional nature of climate change and a just transition.”
He said cabinet ministers, particularly those from the economic cluster, actively participate in the commission’s work to ensure there is political oversight.
On the issue of economic recovery, Ramaphosa told MPs the plan aims to ensure “swift and lasting economic recovery, with measures to limit the immediate impact of the pandemic on vulnerable workers and households and to revive economic growth in the short and medium term”.
“Significant progress has been made since the announcement of the plan less than eight months ago,” he said.
He said an infrastructure fund had been established, and its investment committee had been constituted.
“A total of R18bn has been allocated to the Infrastructure Fund over the next three years for blended finance arrangements that will leverage private sector funding. To achieve greater energy security, a total of 1,200MW of new generation capacity has been connected to the grid from projects approved through Bid Window 4 of the Renewable Energy IPP Programme.”
Furthermore, he said, a request for proposals has been issued for 2,600MW of power from wind and solar PV projects through bid window.
He said 11 preferred bidders have been approached as part of the emergency power procurement programme, which will together deliver nearly 2,000MW of power to the grid over the next 18 months.
“As I announced earlier this afternoon, schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act will soon be amended to increase the licensing threshold for embedded generation projects from 1MW to 100MW.”
Answering questions on the local government elections, Ramaphosa pleaded with South Africans to trust the panel led by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke which was investigating whether holding the elections during a pandemic would be viable.
He said: “For the first time since its establishment, the Electoral Commission (IEC) is faced with the prospect of conducting elections in the midst of a global pandemic.”
He said concerns have been expressed by some political parties represented on the party liaison committee that the forthcoming general elections may not be free and fair given the impact of the Covid-19 and the measures taken to curb the continued spread of Covid-19.
“Cognisant of its obligation to ensure the elections are free and fair, the IEC has commissioned justice Moseneke to lead the inquiry into ensuring free and fair local government elections during Covid-19.
“The inquiry is expected to do three things: inquire into the conditions for free and fair elections; come up with findings following the inquiry, and; issue a report in which recommendations are set out concerning the likelihood the IEC would be able to ensure the forthcoming government elections will be free and fair.
“Any possible postponement of elections is a matter on which the IEC will have to make a determination in terms of the provisions of the Constitution and applicable legal prescripts. The Moseneke inquiry is about inquiring into and providing a report on the conditions for free and fair elections to enable the IEC to fully consider the matter.”
On terrorism in Mozambique, Ramaphosa said South Africa was working within the established systems of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to address destabilisation of the Cabo Delgado province and establish political stability in the neighbouring country.
“The SADC double troika technical assessment mission, which was deployed to the Cabo Delgado province in April 2021, proposed, among others, the deployment of the SADC standby force in support of the Mozambican defence force to combat the threat of terrorism and acts of violent extremism.”
Ramaphosa said an extraordinary SADC organ troika summit on May 27 in Maputo agreed to convene an extraordinary SADC summit on June 23 to reach an agreement on the appropriate regional response in support of Mozambique.
Regarding GBV in SA, Ramaphosa said following the state of the nation address in June 2019, the emergency response action plan was implemented to further strengthen the fight against GBV and femicide (GBVF) and provide justice for the victims and survivors.
“This was a short-term plan implemented over six months through partnerships between civil society networks, government, development partners and academic institutions.
“The national strategic plan on GBVF was approved by cabinet in March 2020. It builds onto the emergency response action plan and focuses on improved accountability, responsiveness to the needs of survivors, addressing impunity and driving a comprehensive prevention agenda. We are beginning to see positive results through joint interventions.”
“In February 2021, we launched the private sector GBVF response fund and an initial amount of R128m was pledged.
“Last week, the National Assembly passed three bills: - the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill, Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, and Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill.
“These three bills are on their way to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). I would encourage the NCOP to carefully consider these three important bills with a sense of urgency within the legislative mandate of the NCOP.”
He said the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, once passed, will make it possible for complainants to apply for protection orders online.