Sixth administration expected to knuckle down

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

By Sihle Manda

South Africans on 8 May took to the polls to elect the sixth administration, 25 years since the advent of democracy, with much optimism.

Since the free and fair elections, which were won by the African National Congress (ANC) by 57 percent, the country’s 400 Members of Parliaments, the President and Members of the Executive have been sworn into office.

With boots strapped and sleeves rolled up, now begins the toil of providing services to the country’s 57 million citizens. President Cyril Ramaphosa was inaugurated on 25 May signalling a new era in the country. 

He called on business, labour, as well as South African citizens, to mobilise all resources to address poverty, inequality and unemployment, while forging an ethical state, free of corruption.

“Let us forge a compact for an efficient, capable and ethical state, a state that is free of corruption, for companies that generate social value and propel human development, for elected officials and public servants who faithfully serve no other cause than that of our people. We must be a society that values excellence, rewards effort and rejects mediocrity,” he said.

Acknowledging that the road ahead will be difficult, the President said the entire society would have to use courage, wisdom and perseverance to “achieve the South Africa we want”.

President Ramaphosa began his new administration by trimming the government departments by eight. This, he said last month, was in an effort to cut back on what was deemed a bloated executive. Departments have been reduced from 36 in the previous administration to 28. 

On June 20, the President will outline his plans for the country for the rest of the year when he delivers the State of the Nation Address. It will be his time to inspire the nation to work together to forge a compact for growth and economic opportunity, for productive lands and viable communities, for knowledge, for innovation, and for services that are affordable, accessible and sustainable.

During his upcoming address, the President is expected to accentuate the project of renewal and reinforce the Government’s “commitment to ethical behaviour and ethical leadership” that had been steadily eroded over the years. Initiating measures to set the country on a new path of growth, employment and transformation are expected to take prominence in the speech.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa took over the reins in February 2018, the country was teetering on the brink of uncertainty. His appointment at the time heralded an opportunity for government to carve a new path: policy certainty; economic growth; and accelerated job creation.

After 17 months at the helm, South Africans on Election Day 2019 gave President Ramaphosa the mandate to fully implement his plans of reviving the country’s stymied economy.

With the South African economy battered by stagnation and relative regression, President Ramaphosa’s inaugural SONA last year aimed to inspire a somewhat disillussioned nation.  

Job Creation

At the centre of the national agenda in 2018 was the creation of jobs, especially for the youth. In October, as outlined in SONA, the Presidency hosted a Jobs Summit as part of measures aimed at addressing souring unemployment statistics. 

Agreements reached at the Jobs Summit included initiatives that would lead to the creation of 275 000 jobs a year.

The summit also explored what needed to be done to revive South Africa’s lagging economy and ignite investments. This mission was reiterated during the three-day inaugural South African Investment Conference later that month, as indicated in SONA.  The aim of the Investment Conference was to target domestic and international investors and to market the compelling investment opportunities to be found in our country. 

South Africa Investment Conference

The inaugural South Africa Investment Conference secured nearly R290 billion worth of investment announcements for the country.

The investments were a culmination of a six-month investment drive by the four envoys tasked with globetrotting in search of over R1.2 trillion worth of investments over the next five years.

Former Finance Minister Trevor Manual, Former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, businesswoman Phumzile Langeni as well as retired banker, Jacko Maree, form part of the team of envoys searching for investors with deep pockets. Presidential economic advisor Trudi Makhaya is also part of the team. 

In September, President Ramaphosa had outlined a stimulus package with which government sought to boost the country’s sluggish economy. With the package, the President said, government announced the immediate prioritisation of infrastructure - through the establishment of the South Africa Infrastructure Fund. It was announced that about R400 billion will be channelled to the Infrastructure Fund.

Land Redistribution

During 2018, the President Ramaphosa-led administration also saw government make well on the SONA promise to accelerate the land redistribution programme as the country sought to redress historical injustices and bring producers into the agricultural sector.  

A majority of Members of Parliament in November voted for the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution that will see land expropriated without compensation. The development was a culmination of public consultation where oral and written submissions were made.  

In November, in a move that was widely commended, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the much anticipated National Minimum Wage Bill. The bill now sees workers earn a minimum of R3 500 per month in an effort to uplift low income earning workers.   

Digital Industrial Revolution Commission

During SONA, the President announced a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission, which will include the private sector and civil society, would be established. This would be to ensure that the country is in a position to seize the opportunities and manage the challenges of rapid advances in information and communication technology. 

“We will finalise our engagements with the telecommunications industry and other stakeholders to ensure that the allocation of spectrum reduces barriers to entry, promotes competition and reduces the cost to consumers,” President Ramaphosa said in his address.

In December, invited nominations were asked for members to serve on the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Fee Free Higher Education programme phased in

2018 also saw Government roll out the phasing in of fully subsidised free higher education and training for poor and working class South Africans over a five-year period. 

First year students from households with a gross combined annual income of up to R350 000 were the beneficiaries.

Still on the question of education, the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative programme continued to deliver modern facilities to schools in rural and underprivileged urban areas across the country, with at least 187 schools being completed at the time. 

Health system resuscitation

On issues plaguing the country’s health system, the President in his SONA announced South Africa’s first Presidential Health Summit. Here government, academics and civil organisations gathered to deliberate on how to rescue the flailing system.

Tabling the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in October, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said Government would reprioritise funds to make R350 million available to recruit over 2000 new health professionals. A further R150 million was set aside for the purchase of beds and linen for hospitals.

Fighting corruption

Chief among the President’s priorities continued to bear fruit as he continued to make good on his word to tackle and rid the state of blemishes of fraud and corruption. This much is evident as three critical commissions of inquiry play themselves out, as promised on 16 February 2018.

The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture headed by the Deputy Chief Justice, Judge Raymond Zondo, commenced its function in August.

“The Commission is critical to ensuring that the extent and nature of state capture is established, that confidence in public institutions is restored and that those responsible for any wrongdoing are identified,” the President said. “The Commission should not displace the regular work of the country’s law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting any and all acts of corruption.”

The Commission of Inquiry into allegations of impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), headed by Former President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Lex Mpati began on 21 January. –