Press Releases

Press Releases

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 27 JUNE 2022

  

 

A MOMENTOUS WEEK THAT PROMISES NEW BEGINNINGS

Dear Fellow South African,

For most people in our country, last week was much like any other. As most of us went about our daily lives, we may have noticed, but not necessarily appreciated, two significant developments that will, in different ways, change our country.

Last week, the remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, including limitations on gatherings, international travel and wearing masks in public. The decision to lift the restrictions was made in the light of a decline in daily cases, hospitalisations and reported deaths.

For the first time in over two years, the country does not have any COVID restrictions in place. In my first televised address to the nation on 15 March 2020, I said that we would overcome the deadly pandemic in our midst. I said that we would act decisively and that we would act together.

In the many difficult months that followed, my faith in the resilience and strength of the people of South Africa, and their ability to come together in times of crisis was reaffirmed, time and again.

While there was not much fanfare about the lifting of the last COVID-19 restrictions, there has been a tectonic shift in our national psyche. We are emerging from a great national trauma that caused untold damage, destruction and heartbreak.

And while the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly not over, and vigilance and the utmost caution is demanded of us all, there is a clear sense that we have endured.

Where many thought it would crumble, our health care system survived. It served our nation well by providing care, saving lives and vaccinating millions. We owe an eternal debt to the courage and dedication of the health workers and many other people on the frontlines of the pandemic.

The heroism of every South African has enabled us to weather the storm. And it is the same resilience and fortitude that will enable us to forge ahead with the difficult task of reconstruction and recovery.

With the restrictions lifted, the responsibility for preventing a resurgence of the disease now rests with each of us. It requires that we act sensibly, understand the risks and do what we can to minimise them.

In the same week as the restrictions were lifted, the work of the State Capture Commission drew to a close, and its final report was handed over to the President.

The state capture era was a different kind of national trauma.

Its damage extended beyond the ransacking of the public purse, the attempted destruction of our public institutions and the grand corruption that robbed the South African people of what was rightfully theirs. It was also a betrayal of the values of our Constitution, and of the principles upon which our democracy was founded.

The immoral, unethical and criminal behaviour of self-serving individuals in positions of authority undermined the confidence of the people in the leaders and institutions that are meant to serve them. This has created a trust gap that will take some time to close.

But as has been the case with the pandemic, the people of South Africa have rallied together to wage war against graft and corruption.

The State Capture Commission was able to conduct its work because of the activism of South Africans from all walks of life who made submissions and gave evidence, who acted as whistle-blowers and who uncovered and reported on wrongdoing.

Just as our health care and other frontline personnel are lauded for their bravery, all who were instrumental in shining a light on the corrupt activities eating away at the heart of the state are to be commended for their heroism and patriotism.

Realising a South Africa of full freedom, equality, peace and common prosperity demands that we each play our part.

Having now known what happened and who was involved, our work begins in earnest. We must ensure there is redress, justice and accountability, and that such a shameful period never happens again.

Though they are unrelated, the pandemic and state capture were grave crises in our national life.

Yet in crisis lies opportunity. We should emerge from these experiences more determined and better equipped to rebuild anew.

We now have an opportunity to make a decisive break with the excesses of the past by building a society free of corruption and a state rooted in ethics, professionalism and capability that truly serves the South African people.

We also have an opportunity to reconstruct a society that is more inclusive, more humane, founded in equal opportunity for all, and that protects the most vulnerable.

As much as we did not take to the streets and celebrate last week, it was a momentous few days for our nation. It should remind us of how far we have come and that we need to continue to act and work together if we are to realise the better future that we all seek.

With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 20 JUNE 2022

  

 

BRICS PARTNERSHIP HAS GREAT VALUE FOR SOUTH AFRICA

Dear Fellow South African

Later this week, I will join the leaders of China, Brazil, Russia and India at the 14th BRICS Leaders’ Summit, which will be hosted virtually by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The value of South Africa’s membership of BRICS has grown substantially since we joined this group of emerging economies 12 years ago. As we work to rebuild our country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much to be gained from our participation in BRICS and the relationships we have established with other member countries.

At the outset, BRICS countries identified the strengthening of economic and financial ties as one of the key pillars of its cooperation. The countries have adopted the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership to increase access to each other’s markets, promote mutual trade and investment and create a business-friendly environment for investors in all BRICS countries. An important part of this strategy, particularly for South Africa, is to diversify trade so that more manufactured goods, rather than raw commodities, are traded.

Last year, over 17% of South Africa’s exports were destined for other BRICS countries, while over 29% of our total imports came from these countries. These countries are therefore significant trading partners, and the value of this trade is continuing to grow. Total South African trade with other BRICS countries reached R702 billion in 2021 up from R487 billion in 2017.

At a time when we are focused on improving the capacity and competitiveness of our economy, these trade linkages will prove vital to the growth of local industry. There is therefore a direct relationship between, on the one hand, our reforms in energy, telecommunications and transport, our investment in infrastructure and our efforts to reduce red tape, and, on the other hand, the work underway to increase exports to our BRICS partners. These reforms are also important for encouraging greater investment from BRICS countries into our economy.

One area with great potential is tourism, which has been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourists from other BRICS countries accounted for 65% of all arrivals in South Africa in 2018, and these markets will therefore be expected to make an important contribution to the recovery of this sector. It is therefore significant that visitors from India and China can now make use of our new eVisa programme to make it easier and less costly to visit our country.

As we mobilise financing from different sources to fund our ambitious infrastructure build programme, we expect the New Development Bank – also known as the BRICS Bank – to play an important role in providing financial and project preparation support for infrastructure and sustainable development projects. South Africa has already received $5.4 billion, currently worth around R86 billion, from the New Development Bank to improve service delivery in critical areas. The Bank also demonstrated its flexibility in rapidly approving $2 billion for each BRICS member under the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Programme to fund the fight against the pandemic and to support our economic recovery.

Alongside the engagements between governments, the BRICS Business Council and the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance are building ties between our respective business communities. They have been looking at the development of sectors such as agribusiness, aviation, financial services, energy, manufacturing and infrastructure, while also improving regulatory environments and developing skills.

The collaboration among BRICS members in the area of health and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in particular has placed South Africa in a better position to respond effectively to the current and future health emergencies. After several years of planning, the virtual BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre was launched in March. This centre will enable BRICS countries to engage in joint vaccine research, development and co-production. It will contribute to the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, strengthen health systems and help our countries to respond to future pandemics.

We see the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre as a valuable development in our efforts to strengthen vaccine manufacturing capacity in South Africa and on the African continent more broadly. We will be calling on our BRICS partners to support the principle that vaccines destined for Africa should be produced on the continent.

Earlier this month, the BRICS Ministers of Agriculture, adopted a BRICS Strategy on Food Security Cooperation. This is especially important as concerns grow around food security in the wake of COVID-19, the conflict in Ukraine and the increasing effects of climate change. The strategy aims to maintain sustainable agriculture production, unhindered supply of seeds, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs, access to markets and stable functioning of food value chains.

More broadly, this week’s summit aims to usher in a new era for global development that is more inclusive, sustainable and fair. Through the reform of the multilateral system, including the United Nations, and by refocusing the attention and resources of the global community on the sustainable development agenda, the BRICS group can support a sustained and equitable global recovery.

The BRICS Leaders’ Summit is a valuable platform for South Africa to strengthen ties with its partner countries in support of our own growth and employment creation. More than that, the summit is our opportunity to contribute to a better world, in which all countries have a better chance to recover from this pandemic and to flourish.

With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 13 JUNE 2022

  

 

SOCIAL EMPLOYMENT OFFERS YOUNG PEOPLE HOPE AND OPPORTUNITY

Dear Fellow South African

Later this week, we will commemorate Youth Day in honour of the bravery and sacrifices of the generation of 1976 in its struggle against an unjust and illegitimate regime.

Today, the youth of South Africa confront new struggles in their quest to lead lives of dignity and in pursuit of a better life. Though we have made substantial progress in broadening opportunities for young people in basic and higher education, millions of young people remain unemployed.

While the latest employment figures give some cause for optimism – some 370,000 jobs were created in the first quarter of this year – we still have a huge mountain to climb in our quest to create more jobs, especially for young people. According to Stats SA, youth unemployment in South Africa is at 66.5%. No society can expect to grow or thrive when the vast majority of its young people are out of work.

Our foremost priority as government is to achieve higher rates of inclusive growth that generate sustainable jobs at the scale of social need.

The economic reforms we are implementing, alongside measures such as industrial policy to support labour-intensive growth sectors, aim to drive growth and expand private sector employment. However, we cannot simply wait for higher growth to create jobs, especially for young people.

I hold the view that even as millions of people are unemployed, there is no shortage of work to be done to build a better South Africa.

This is the fundamental premise of the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which is designed as a once-in-a-generation effort to tackle unemployment at scale.

The employment stimulus is on track to support a million jobs through a wide range of programmes, all of which contribute to improving communities and creating public goods that will last beyond the work itself.

Eighty-four per cent of all participants in these programmes are young people, and 62% are women.

The most recent initiative to be launched through the stimulus is the Social Employment Fund, which will pioneer a new and innovative approach to public employment.

The Social Employment Fund will partner with non-governmental organisations across the country to deliver ‘work for the common good’. This work is in areas like community safety, food kitchens, urban agriculture, early childhood development and the fight against gender-based violence.

The Social Employment Fund will create 50,000 new work opportunities in the first phase before scaling up further in subsequent phases.

The unique feature of social employment is that it recognises that unemployed people in communities are a powerful resource for development, not a ‘problem’ to be solved.

We have many real problems to address – from improving waste collection to creating safe and beautiful public spaces – that require work, and many people who are eager to do it.

Not only does social employment provide an income for participants by supporting locally-driven initiatives to fulfil local needs; social employment can also unlock creativity and agency, build local participation and strengthen mutual support systems in communities.

Another important programme that has now entered implementation, and which I announced in the State of the Nation Address, is a revitalised National Youth Service.

This programme will create a further 50,000 jobs for unemployed young people performing acts of service across the country, while providing much-needed work experience and reinforcing the value of active citizenship.

The recruitment of participants for social employment and the youth service is currently underway.

What these programmes show is that public employment can achieve multiple objectives at once. These include addressing unemployment, building skills and experience, providing public goods and services, and, perhaps most important of all, contributing to a massive national effort to improve the state of our country.

Despite the great setback caused by COVID-19, our economy is slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels. As government, we will continue to champion programmes and initiatives that limit the impact of unemployment on young people until the private sector starts creating more jobs at scale.

I once again call on business to be part of this effort by employing more young people, by making use of the Employee Tax Incentive and other measures, and by supporting and buying from businesses owned and run by young people.

This Youth Day, as we recall the struggles of our past, let us remain firmly focused on the work that we are doing – including through our innovative public employment programmes – to build a better future for all the young people of our country.

With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 6 JUNE 2022

 
RISING COST OF LIVING CALLS FOR A UNITED RESPONSE

Dear Fellow South African,

Over the past few months, South African consumers have been hit by steep price increases that have dramatically affected their quality of life.

It has become increasingly more expensive to buy food and other essentials, to pay for basic services and to use public or private transportation. While these rising costs affect everyone, low-income households are feeling them the most.

The latest Consumer Price Index for April 2022 published by Stats SA shows there has been little respite for hard-pressed South Africans. Food inflation was recorded at 6.2 per cent. The most basic foodstuffs cost more than a year ago, with staples like cooking oil recording the highest increases.

The price of fuel, which affects the price of almost everything else, has risen by a third in the twelve months to March 2022.

South Africa is not alone in this regard.

A recently published poll for the World Economic Forum shows that nearly a quarter of people globally, including those in developed economies, are struggling financially due to rising prices.

These increases, particularly the price of fuel, are the consequence of events over which we have little control. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has had a significant impact on the price of fuel and food. Both countries are major exporters to international markets of fertilisers, grains and oilseeds that are needed for a range of items such as cooking oil.

Another factor is lower agricultural output due to extreme weather events caused by climate change, such as flooding and droughts.

While many of these events are beyond our control, government is doing what it can to shield the South African from current and future price increases.

One of our greatest advantages as a country is a strong, independent Reserve Bank that has managed to keep inflation within a narrow target range, well below what many other countries are experiencing.

Last week, we announced that the fuel levy will be suspended for another two months to August, which will bring some relief to households. The suspension of the levy has provided essential relief to South Africans since it began in April. Since the suspension of the levy comes at a significant cost to public finances, which affects other programmes of government, it will be difficult to continue this indefinitely.

There are, however, other things we can do.

Improving our nation’s food security is vital to withstanding this and future shocks. We have a strong agricultural sector that continues to grow and create jobs.

To further increase agricultural production and strengthen our food sovereignty, we are investing heavily in improving local capacity, supporting commercial and small-scale farmers alike and helping more people to grow their own food.

Through the Presidential Employment Stimulus, input vouchers have been given to over 65,000 smallholder farmers, and work is underway to reach 250,000 such farmers. Government is also providing subsistence farmers with fertilisers and equipment to produce food, and helping groups or individuals to start their own food gardens. In provinces like North West, small-scale farmers are supported with agricultural ‘starter-packs’ of seedlings and poultry, in partnership with local agricultural colleges.

Through the Pro-Active Land Acquisition Strategy and the release of state-owned land for agriculture, we are supporting more small-scale farmers to expand their businesses and make them commercially successful.  We are also focusing on establishing more public-private partnerships to support the expansion of black commercial farming through initiatives like the Partners in Agri Land Solutions and the Agricultural Development Agency.

To enhance biosecurity and safeguard animal health against diseases like foot-and-mouth, we are strengthening our animal movement control measures and vaccine production capabilities.

In addition to boosting local food production, our extensive social grants system and zero-rating of basic goods helps to protect the poor from rising costs. Through free basic services like water and electricity for indigent households, we can ensure that no family goes without basic services.

To get through this difficult period, all of society should get involved.

For our part, government will continue to monitor the situation closely and will do everything within its power to protect South Africans from unsustainable increases in the cost of living.

Corporate South Africa should ensure that consumers do not pay more for food than they have to. We welcome the indications from food manufacturers and retailers that they are putting measures in place to help consumers get more for their money.

In March this year the Competition Commission released for public comment the terms of reference for a market enquiry into the fresh produce market. It noted that the cost of fresh produce has been increasing at above-inflation levels, and that this has had a disproportionate effect on the poor. The inquiry will examine if there are any distortions in the value chain that make food more expensive.

We will use our competition policy to protect consumers against unjustifiable price increases and anticompetitive practices by businesses, as we did during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ongoing process of structural reform of our economy will support these efforts. Reforms in the energy, transport and telecommunications sectors aim to reduce the cost of electricity, logistics and data in the long term through greater competition and efficiency. We should be paying less, not more, for these services in the future.

Though oil prices and extreme weather are events over which we have little control, there is still much we can do, as government, business, labour and communities to help the people of South Africa through this difficult time.

With best regards,
 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 30 MAY 2022

  

 

BLACK ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT A MUST FOR GROWTH

Dear Fellow South African,

Last week a landmark broad-based black economic empowerment transaction was concluded in the Eastern Cape that significantly improves the participation of black women-owned businesses in the energy sector.

A liquid bulk fuel terminal operated by BP Southern Africa in East London has been sold to Wasaa, an independent petrochemicals company. Wasaa has acquired all the terminal’s moveable assets and a 20 per cent share in berth-to-terminal pipelines.

With the 2020 report by the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Commission showing that most economic sectors are falling short of their black women ownership targets, this acquisition by a black and female-owned company of a liquid fuel terminal is a historic development.

It contributes to our national effort to redress inequality and ensure there is meaningful participation by the country’s majority in our economy.

This week, I am announcing the new appointment of the new Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Advisory Council. This council, which comprises government, business, labour and other stakeholders, was established to champion the cause of economic transformation.
The council has its origins in a 2001 report produced by the BEE Commission.

This report emanated from an extensive study into the structure of the South African economy, and what was needed to transform this structure, grow black entrepreneurship, ensure greater black management and ownership of businesses, and bring black women into the mainstream of the economy.

Next year, it will be two decades since the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Act – which established the council – was passed.

Our commitment to entrench and deepen economic empowerment is unwavering. That is why black economic empowerment is an integral part of our economic reconstruction and recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is one of the reassurances I articulated to the Black Business Council earlier this month, where we discussed the state of BBBEE in the country, the progress that has been made and what we need to do as a collective to build on our gains.

While there has been significant progress over the last two decades, there are some areas where there has been regression. We have gone backwards when it comes to increasing black management control, upscaling skills development, entrenching enterprise development and broadening procurement to give opportunities to black women and the youth.

The apartheid government deliberately built a distorted economy designed to benefit white people. The majority of South Africans were marginalised from the mainstream economy, with black entrepreneurs confined to small retail industries in the townships.

At the end of apartheid, black ownership of JSE-listed companies was less than 1%. This figure has not improved much in the past 28 years.

At the same time, there have been important private sector initiatives and deliberate measures by the state to facilitate greater and more meaningful participation of black people in the economy.

Between 2017 and 2020, nearly 500 empowerment transactions were submitted for registration to the BBBEE Commission. In key sectors such as construction, property, information and communications technology, tourism and transport, black ownership has exceeded targets.

Economic transformation and economic growth are intertwined. There cannot be one without the other.

By integrating transformation into the process of industrialisation, we are advancing a more inclusive growth model that shares, rather than concentrates, wealth.

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition is (DTIC) pursuing this goal through various programmes. They include a support programme for township businesses, export-related training by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to black, women and youth-owned businesses, and increased infrastructure budget to SMMEs in the Tshwane Special Economic Zone.

Through sectoral masterplans we are driving localisation that benefits black owned businesses. For example, 10 black contract growers have been established with an investment of R336 million as part of the poultry masterplan. Government has also launched a black exporters network that will connect black- owned companies in food, engineering products, auto components, beauty products and other sectors of the economy.
 
As part of our drive to create a new generation of black industrialists, last year government approved R2.5 billion in new support to about 180 black industrialists in the form of loans from the IDC and National Empowerment Fund (NEF) and grants from the DTIC incentive scheme. Over the next three years a further R21 billion has been committed by the IDC, NEF and other institutions to support black industrialists. An additional R25 billion has been committed to support black, women, youth and worker-owned companies.

It is clear that much more work needs to be done to address the many challenges that black businesses face. This includes the difficulty of accessing start-up and expansion capital and the ability of SMMEs to find markets for their products. Black women-owned businesses, in particular, encounter difficulties in taking on large-scale empowerment transactions.

Breaking the cycle of underdevelopment through black economic empowerment is not just a moral imperative; it also makes business sense.

The continued exclusion of the black majority from the economy’s mainstream constrains economic growth, which ultimately impacts all business. Expanding the country’s entrepreneurial base is fundamental to growth.

We have a shared responsibility to drive the effort to entrench BBBEE because it is about eradicating inequality. Unequal economies breed unequal societies, and unequal societies don’t grow and flourish.

It is not only wrong, but also unsustainable, for businesses to keep their management and ownership structures mostly white or male.

It is, after all, the South African public that are the primary consumers of their goods and services. This should be reflected in diversity of hiring and management practices, in ownership and in procurement.

Broad-based black economic empowerment will only be achieved through partnership and a shared commitment to transformation.

The appointment of the new BBBEE Council will help us to expand the frontiers of broad-based black economic empowerment. I call on business, labour and industry to work with the council as it undertakes this vital work.

With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 23 MAY 2022

  

 

RACISM IS STILL PART OF THE DAILY SOUTH AFRICAN EXPERIENCE

Dear Fellow South African,

The country has, in recent days, been outraged at the sight of a white student at the University of Stellenbosch degrading and humiliating a fellow black student in a despicable act.

There has been widespread anger that such acts still take place in a country with a bitter past like ours; a past which we have fought so hard to overcome.

It is more troubling that such incidents are happening at schools and places of higher learning. A number of the people involved were born after the end of apartheid.

While the incident at the University of Stellenbosch may seem like an aberration – an appalling act that has been roundly condemned – the truth is that racism is still a feature of every-day life in South Africa. The sooner we recognise that reality, the sooner we can change it.

We know that racism, here and around the world, is driven by feelings of superiority on the part of those who perpetuate it. And although racism can be directed against anyone, it is black people who bear the brunt, both in the past and in the present. As the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has so strongly asserted, we need to systematically dismantle and eradicate attitudes of white superiority.

It is encouraging and exhilarating to see young South Africans taking the lead in this effort. The thousands of students who have joined protests at Stellenbosch and elsewhere were not responding to just one incident.

They were responding to a deep and pervasive problem in our society, which they themselves have to confront daily.

As Kwenzokuhle Khumalo, a 4th year Management Sciences student and leader, told students on the Stellenbosch campus this week: “You’ve met the wrong generation this time.”

Like the youth of 1976, a new generation of young South Africans is stepping forward to proclaim their birth right and reclaim their future. They are challenging society to grapple with racism, its causes and its effects. As Ms Khumalo rightly said, it is not black people who are the problem and need attention, but those people who still hold on to ideas of white superiority.

It cannot be that the onus must rest with the formerly oppressed as the main victims of racism to advance reconciliation. It cannot be that black South Africans have to continue to prove themselves worthy of dignity and respect.

In a 2016 judgment on a case involving an employee of the South African Revenue Service who was fired for using the k-word at work, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng wrote: “There are many bridges yet to be crossed in our journey from crude and legalised racism to a new order where social cohesion, equality and the effortless observance of the right to dignity is a practical reality.”

If we are going to cross these bridges, we need to understand what is causing racist attitudes to flourish in our schools and places of higher learning. We need to understand what kind of institutional cultures contribute to racism in the workplace, in social organisations and in communities.

We need frank and honest dialogue between people of different races on the experiences of black people in South Africa 28 years into democracy.

These discussions should be part of the life orientation curriculum in our schools. The arts and culture community should produce content and programming that fully reflects the diversity of the country and the lived experiences of people of all races.

Greater emphasis should be placed on inculcating tolerance and respect for diversity in the classroom from a young age. Parents should be part of this effort because the reality is that racist, chauvinistic and sexist attitudes among the younger generation are often a reflection of what they observe and learn from their parents and older relatives at home.

As many student leaders who took part in protests over the past week said, when it comes to transformation the time for half-measures is over.

This doesn’t only apply to overt racism in schools, workplaces and places of higher learning, but to all of society. Just as racists must be held accountable for their actions, all sectors of society, including business, must advance transformation.

The rights to equality and human dignity are the cornerstones of our Constitution and building a non-racial and non-sexist society is our shared fundamental responsibility.

In complying with employment equity legislation, in advancing broad-based black economic empowerment, in taking practical steps towards redress and undoing the legacy of our discriminatory past, we are not just obeying the law.

We are redressing a grave injustice and building a new country in which race, class and gender no longer determine the circumstances of one’s birth or one’s prospects in life.

Ending racism is not just about changing attitudes; it is also about changing the material conditions that still today separate black and white South Africans.

We have come too far and the sacrifices made have been too great for such appalling acts of racism to turn us against each other. Rather, we must use this incident to confront the issue of race and racial inequality in our society.

It is our wish and expectation that the student population and the broader Stellenbosch university community, both black and white, find each other and rally together to confront racism honestly with courage and truthfulness. They must roundly reject what has happened and express their determination to achieve a learning environment free of bigotry, racism and chauvinism and embrace a non-racial future for Stellenbosch University. By so doing they will set the standard for us all.

With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 16 MAY 2022

 

 

REBUILDING LIVES AND LIVELIHOODS AFTER THE FLOODS

Dear Fellow South African,

It has been just over a month since heavy flooding wreaked havoc across parts of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and North West, causing extensive loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure.

Yesterday, I visited eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal to meet with businesspeople in the city to lend our support to their efforts to restore their operations.

When this natural disaster struck, there was some concern that authorities had neither the capacity nor the will to respond efficiently and effectively to the dire situation of those who had lost everything.

Having paid my second visit to the city since the floods, I am clear that this concern was misplaced. In KwaZulu-Natal, as in the Eastern Cape and North West, all stakeholders have been hard at work to recover from these tragic events.

The National Disaster Management Centre has been coordinating all spheres of government in their efforts to provide humanitarian relief to the many households that have been affected. It has been pleasing to see the NGO community, business and relief organisations joining in working with government to provide much-needed relief assistance.

All these stakeholders have provided food, clothes, blankets, dignity packs and school uniforms to vulnerable families to meet their basic needs. Sheltering services are currently being provided to over 7,000 people in the four most affected districts in KwaZulu-Natal. Work has started to build temporary residences for affected families on state-owned land parcels have been identified in KwaZulu-Natal for possible resettlement.

The Departments of Home Affairs, Health and Social Development have been assisting affected communities to access important services. For example, mobile units are helping those who lost critical documents in the floods to get new smart IDs and to re-issue birth certificates. Mobile health services, including COVID-19 vaccinations, are being provided to people in areas where the physical facilities are not yet fully operational. Mechanisms are in place to pay out the social grants of affected individuals.

Mobile classrooms are being procured so that learning and teaching should not be interrupted for longer than necessary in flood-affected schools.

Work is underway to repair damaged waste water treatment works, pump-stations and reticulation. Damaged roads are being repaired. Eighteen new bridges are planned as part of the Welisizwe Rural Bridges programme.

There has also been considerable progress in fixing key infrastructure supporting the Port of Durban. Given the importance of the port to the national and continental economy, port traffic has been restored, terminal operations are back at full capacity and work to repair damaged rail infrastructure is underway.

Additional measures are being put in place to provide financial support to both big and small businesses in distress. This is needed as a matter of urgency to ensure that businesses can stay afloat and that jobs can be sustained.

At different times in our democracy’s history, we have been confronted with events and circumstances that have severely tested the resolve of our people and the effectiveness of our institutions.

Over the last month, we have seen extraordinary solidarity and support to affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and North West. Municipal and provincial governments have been working closely with national departments and agencies to enable people to rebuild their lives and to get local economic activity back on track.

They have been working with all stakeholders in all of these areas to ensure that we effectively coordinate recovery efforts and that we plan and rebuild in a manner that is more resilient to extreme events of this nature in the future.

The perseverance of affected communities, their determination to succeed and their ability to rally together in times of crisis has been an inspiration. We salute all those who have been part of the effort to help the people of the affected provinces.

As government, we are mobilising all available resources and undertaking every effort to ensure that, as we rebuild, no-one is left behind.

With best regards,
 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 9 MAY 2022

   

 

OPERATION VULINDLELA IS OPENING THE PATH TO GROWTH

Dear Fellow South African,

The South African economy, like any other economy, cannot function, let alone grow, without efficient and competitive network industries. These industries – which include electricity, water, transport and telecommunications – are the arteries through which the oxygen of the economy runs.

Structural problems in these areas have long been cited as some of the main constraints on South Africa’s economic growth. Inefficiency and the high cost of network services are an impediment to doing business in the country.

A factory can only operate effectively with a reliable and affordable supply of electricity. A farm with irrigated farmlands can only produce food if its application for a water use license is processed timeously. A mine can only transport its minerals for export if the railways are functioning properly. And a small business cannot thrive if it lacks access to the internet or if the cost of data is too expensive.

To address and overcome these challenges, we set up Operation Vulindlela in October 2020 as an initiative of the Presidency and National Treasury to accelerate structural reforms in these network industries. While the responsible government departments and entities drive these reforms, Operation Vulindlela monitors and identifies challenges and blockages. Where needed, it facilitates technical support to departments.

Today, we are releasing an update report on the work of Operation Vulindlela for the first quarter of 2022. The quarterly report outlines the progress made by Operation Vulindlela and the departments responsible for these reforms.

Across government, our focus is on reforms that are fundamental and transformative; that reshape the way our economy works.

This includes the auction of high-demand spectrum for mobile telecommunications, which was delayed for more than 10 years and finally completed in March. The release of new spectrum will improve connectivity and bring down broadband costs.

The establishment of the National Ports Authority as a separate subsidiary of Transnet last year had been delayed for more than 15 years. This was the necessary first step towards enabling private sector participation and increasing the efficiency of our port terminals.

We have also reinstated the Blue Drop, Green Drop and No Drop system for the first time since 2014 to ensure better monitoring of water and wastewater treatment quality. We have published an updated Critical Skills List, also for the first time since 2014.

These are just some examples where, by focusing effort and attention on a limited number of priority reforms, this administration has been able to drive progress.

Through Operation Vulindlela, we have also been able to take a more focused and holistic approach to reforms, ensuring better coordination where multiple departments and entities are involved. 

The best example of this is in the energy sector, where a number of important, interconnected reforms are underway to change the way that we generate and consume electricity.

Milestones include the raising of the licensing threshold for new generation projects to 100MW, allowing these projects to connect to the grid and sell power to customers. We have revived the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme through the opening of new bid windows.

Changes to the regulations on new generation capacity have allowed municipalities to procure power independently for the first time. And legislative reforms will ultimately give birth to a new competitive electricity market, supported by the publication of the Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill and the work underway to amend the Electricity Pricing Policy.

The process of unbundling Eskom is on track, with the entity meeting its December 2021 deadline for the establishment of a National Transmission Company. By December this year we hope to complete the unbundling of Eskom’s generation and distribution divisions.

The quarterly report highlights a number of other important achievements, as well as areas where intensive work is underway.

In the water sector, Operation Vulindlela has been providing technical support to the Department of Water and Sanitation to implement a turnaround plan for the granting of water use licences, with a target to process 80% of all applications within 90 days.

Work is also underway to establish a National Water Resources Infrastructure Agency that will ensure better management of our national water resources.

In the transport sector, inefficiencies in port and rail have severely affected our ability to export goods. Work is underway to establish partnerships with private sector operators to invest in port infrastructure and improve the management of container terminals at the ports of Durban and Ngqura.

The White Paper on National Rail Policy, which was approved by Cabinet in March, outlines plans to revitalise rail infrastructure and enables third‐party access to the freight rail network. Transnet Freight Rail is already in the process of making slots available for private rail operators on the network.

A fully operational e-Visa system has been launched in 14 countries, including some of our largest tourist markets. A comprehensive review of the work visa system is also underway to enable us to attract the skills that our economy needs.

These reforms have been made possible due to better collaboration across government behind a shared reform agenda.

Many of these reforms are complex, involving new ways of working and even the establishment of new institutions. In some cases, it will take time for us to see their full impact. Yet they are the only way to shift our economy from stagnation to dynamism. 

I would encourage those who continue to raise concerns about the slow pace of reform to read this latest report. What has been achieved by Operation Vulindlela and the respective departments in a relatively short space of time should demonstrate the commitment of government to implementing reforms that are necessary to inject growth into our economy and inspire confidence in the business and investor community.

We call on business and investors to take advantage of the changes that are underway and turn their pledges and commitments into tangible, job creating investments.

The reform agenda is moving and its momentum is unstoppable.

Together, let us build on this progress and translate economic reform into growth, opportunity and employment.


With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 3 MAY 2022

  

 

THE WORKERS HAVE SPOKEN AND WE MUST LISTEN

Dear Fellow South African,

Two days ago, South Africa’s workers joined millions across the globe in marking Workers Day, also known as May Day. This is a day on which workers celebrate the victories they have achieved in the fight for their rights and reaffirm their commitment to struggle for the improvement of the conditions under which they work and live.

At the advent of democracy, we decided that this should be a public holiday because the struggles of workers are fundamentally about the betterment of society. It is a day which all South Africans should honour.

This year, I was invited to address a Workers Day rally at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg. I was, however, unable to address the gathering because workers there had grievances that they expressed loudly and clearly. While the main grievance appeared to be about wage negotiations at nearby mines, the workers' actions demonstrated a broader level of discontent. It reflects a weakening of trust in their union and Federation as well as political leadership, including public institutions.

These workers wanted to be heard. They wanted their union leaders and government to appreciate their concerns and understand the challenges they face. In raising their voices, these workers were upholding a tradition of militance that has been part of the labour movement in this country for decades.

As political and union leaders, we have all heard the workers and understand their frustration.

More than that, we are firmly committed to take the necessary action to improve their lives and their working conditions. This is not something that government can do on its own. It needs both labour and business, and indeed the whole of society, to work with government to implement an agreed set of measures to grow and transform the economy.

South Africans have seen how such partnerships can bring about real change. The progressive labour laws that we have in place are the product of engagement among all social partners. Together, these social partners devised an effective response to the 2008 global financial crisis and laid the foundation for the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, which is guiding our response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was such a partnership that led to the introduction of a national minimum wage in 2019, a process that I was privileged to lead, giving effect to a demand that had been made more than 50 years before at the Congress of the People in Kliptown. And it is these partners that are, at this moment, once again engaged in deliberations on how to accelerate growth and create employment.

The wage grievances of the workers in Rustenburg deserve the attention of all stakeholders, employers and labour so that a fair and sustainable settlement can be reached. As government, we are committed to play our part.

But the workers at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium also made plain what nearly every South African knows: the working class and the poor of our country are suffering.

They made the firm point that we must do more, and act with greater urgency, to address issues of unemployment, poverty, deprivation and hunger. At the same time, we must establish more efficient mechanisms to enable workers to participate more fully in the formulation and implementation of policy and programmes.

Since the advent of democracy, significant progress has been made in improving the social and economic position of the poor and working class through the improvement of conditions of employment, the general provision of basic services and access to education and health care.

Yet, the growth of our economy and the creation of jobs that followed the advent of democracy has been undermined over the past decade and more by the combined effects of the 2008 financial crisis, the sharp decline in commodity prices, state capture, corruption and poor governance.

The COVID-19 pandemic struck just as the country was emerging from the era of state capture. In addition to the loss of more than 100,000 lives, the pandemic caused massive damage to people’s lives and livelihoods. Our economy shrunk and more than 2 million jobs were lost in a period of 12 months. This was a massive blow to our country, from which it will take many years to recover.

While the pandemic has affected everyone in our society, it is the working class and the poor that have suffered most. They have also been the most affected by service delivery failures, corruption, crime and weaknesses in local government. It is the working class and the poor who were affected most by the public violence and destruction in July last year, and who were most vulnerable when catastrophic flooding struck parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.

As the tragedies have struck our nation, we have not been idle, either as government or the social partners. We have responded with all the means at our disposal.

As the effects of the pandemic became evident, in April 2020 we introduced the largest social and economic relief package in our history. This provided cash directly to the poorest households, wage support to workers and various forms of relief to struggling businesses. As a result, many jobs were saved, many businesses were kept afloat and millions of households were kept out of dire poverty.

Some measures, like the R350 Social Relief of Distress, remain in place. The grant now reaches more than 10 million recipients. With the end of the National State of Disaster last month, we are engaging with various stakeholders on how to ensure that the grant continues to reach those who most badly need it.

This is happening alongside measures to promote employment, like the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has provided work and livelihood opportunities to more than 860,000 since it was started. It includes the expansion of the Employment Tax Incentive to encourage small businesses to employ more people, a loan guarantee scheme that has been redesigned to provide finance to smaller businesses, and the reduction of the red tape that holds back the growth of businesses.

We are undertaking fundamental economic reforms that will improve the competitiveness and economic contribution of the energy, water, telecommunications and transport industries. These reforms, together with increased investment in infrastructure, will enable faster economic growth and employment creation.

In the long term, these reforms will unlock much higher economic growth. And as businesses grow, they will create more jobs, helping workers and unions in a virtuous cycle. However, the workers that gathered at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium and millions of other people across our country cannot wait for the impact of these reforms to be realised. That is why, as we implement these measures, we are seeking – within our constrained public finances – to provide a basic level of social protection to the most vulnerable.

Almost all of those who were at the Rustenburg rally would know someone in their family and their immediate community who is receiving an SRD grant, who is in a Presidential Employment Stimulus programme, who has received a NSFAS grant, or who is another way benefiting from some of these programmes.

While much is happening, there is still much more that needs to be done to unleash the potential of our economy and provide the employment opportunities that our people need.

That is why we need to all work together to ensure that it will not be long before the workers of Rustenburg – and indeed workers across the country – begin to experience the benefits of ports and rail infrastructure that can effectively carry our goods to export. So that we can all experience the benefits of a stable electricity supply that is cleaner and cheaper, of fewer restrictions on small and informal businesses, of better access for all to broadband technology, and of an exploration strategy that leads to an increase in mining investment.

The challenges that workers face this Workers Day are many and the hardships they endure are great. The road ahead will be difficult and there is much work to do. That is why we need to rebuild trust and confidence, and why we need to forge a social compact that not only has the support of workers, but also delivers meaningful benefits to them.

The workers have spoken. We must listen. And, together, we must act.

With best regards,