SONA 2023 to reflect on progress made

President Cyril Ramaphosa is due to deliver the 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA) before a joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces on Thursday (9 February 2023).

The annual SONA which is traditionally delivered by the President before a joint sitting of the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), sets out government’s key policy objectives as well as deliverables for the year ahead.

The address also flags challenges and outlines interventions that are to be made to unlock development interventions for the coming financial year.

For the second year in a row, the SONA will take place at the Cape Town City Hall.

The address will also reflect on successes made by the administration since the last SONA in 2022. Over this period, the sixth administration made headway in pressing areas that impact daily life.

Crime and corruption

Corruption is among the key areas of concern for South Africans. In the previous year, several corruption-related cases were enrolled in the country’s courts, with some convictions secured. This as multi-disciplinary units, which bring together a range of law enforcement agencies are identifying more implicated individuals and entities and preparing cases against them.

After close to four years, the State Capture Commission concluded its work and presented its final report to President Ramaphosa. Consisting of six parts, the report was handed over to the President over a period of six months with the final instalment of the report handed over to the President in June 2022.

Led by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the Commission was established as part of the remedial action contained in the report of the Public Protector released in November 2016.

The Commission made over 350 recommendations and in October, the President submitted Cabinet’s response to the recommendations to Parliament. The response contained government’s detailed implementation plan of the commission’s recommendations.

August 2022 saw the appointment of members of the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council (NACAC) which is tasked with advising the President on matters related to fighting corruption, in line with the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2020-2030.

The strategy which was adopted by Cabinet in 2020, is aligned to the National Development Plan (NDP) that in part, envisages a zero-tolerance culture to corruption.

Among other areas of focus, the NACAC was expected to advise the President on effective implementation of the anti-corruption strategy by government and civil society, including the private sector. The council’s appointment is a fulfilment of commitments made by the President in the February 2021 SONA.

On the policing front, the President last year announced that the South African Police Service (SAPS) would recruit 10 000 people into the service. At a pass out parade in December, the President called on the newly appointed police constables to fight crime, uphold the law and to make South Africa safe and peaceful.

The 2 938 newly trained police officers formed part of the larger contingent of 10 000 recruits, who recently completed the nine-month Basic Police Development Learning Programme.

Building a capable state

As part of efforts to build a capable state, Cabinet in October approved the National Implementation Framework towards the Professionalisation of the Public Service. The framework provides five pillars aimed at professionalising the public service which includes pre-entry recruitment and selection within the public service and induction and on-boarding.

The framework was published for public consultation in 2021.

The Professionalisation Framework is introduced to ensure that only qualified and competent individuals are appointed into positions of authority, in pursuit of a transformed, professional, ethical, capable and developmental public sector.

To further professionalise the public service, the President signed the Local Government Municipal Systems Amendment Act into law.

The Act among others, disallows municipal officials from also holding political office, defines competency criteria for the appointment of municipal managers and strengthens the performance evaluation process.



Energy

With South Africa continuing to experience various stages of loadshedding, government has announced a series of interventions aimed at solving the worsening power crisis and easing the ongoing load shedding.

Recently through the Presidency, the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM) released a six-month update on progress in the implementation of the Energy Action Plan which in the short term, aims to reduce the severity and frequency of load shedding through measures to improve the performance of Eskom’s existing power stations and stabilising the energy system.

The long term objective of the plan is to end load shedding altogether and to achieve energy security by adding new generation capacity to the grid.

The NECOM, is a body run by the President’s Office, which was established to coordinate government’s response and ensure swift implementation of the plan. Among the key achievements made to date include the amending of the Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation to remove the licensing requirement for generation projects of any size.

In addition, 19 projects from Bid Window 5 of the renewable energy programme have signed project agreements to supply 1800 MW of solar and wind capacity, while a further six preferred bidders from Bid Window 6 will provide 1000 MW of capacity.

An additional 300 MW has been imported through the Southern African Power Pool, and negotiations are underway to secure a potential 1000 MW from neighbouring countries starting this year.

Meanwhile, Eskom has developed and launched a programme to purchase power from companies with available generation capacity through a standard offer.

Growing the economy and employment

November 2022 marked two years since President Ramaphosa announced the establishment of Operation Vulindlela to drive a far-reaching economic reform agenda for the country to shift its economic growth trajectory and enable investment and job creation.

Operation VUlindlela was established in October 2020 as a joint initiative of the Presidency and National Treasury to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms and among the progress achieved is the clearing of the backlog of water use licence applications and processing 80% of all new applications within 90 days.

Reforms in the water sector are aimed at improving governance and investment in water infrastructure to drive efficiency and improvement of a sustainable supply of quality water.

Operation Vulindlela has been providing technical support to the Department of Water and Sanitation to effectively implement a plan for the granting of water-use licences within reduced timeframes.

In supporting the growth of small business, a revised Bounce-Back Loan Guarantee Scheme to make it easier for small businesses to access finance was established. In April, National Treasury announced the commencement of the Bounce Bank Support Scheme aimed at providing additional funding to qualifying businesses in order to grow the South African economy and to facilitate job creation. The Scheme was first signalled in the February 2022 Budget Speech.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Employment Stimulus Package (PESP) spearheaded and coordinated by the Presidency as part of the 2019-2022 SONA commitments has created over one million work opportunities by various government departments.

Vaccines

With COVID-19 continuing to be a factor in everyday life, the country is entering a new phase in its response to the pandemic.

As at February 2023, 38.4 million vaccine doses administered and more than half of all adult South Africans have received at least one dose. In January 202,3 the Department of Health announced that it would begin to make additional COVID-19 vaccination booster doses available to all adults, following the detection of the more transmissible XBB.1.5 sub-variant of the Omicron variant in the country.

Ending GBVF

In November last year, government hosted the second Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF). The President convened the summit to reflect on the work undertaken since the first Presidential Summit on GBVF held in 2018.

Progress made to end the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide shows that by September 2022, there was 90% implementation of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on GBVF.

The NSP provides a strategic roadmap and sets out specific plans for a multisectoral approach to end GBVF and build a society where women, children, and the LGBTQIA+ community are safe from violence directed at them.

In addition, the GBVF Response Fund which was launched in February 2021, has so far received R157 million.

The fund was established to allocate financial support to various programmes under the National Strategic Plan to address GBVF such as prevention and rebuilding social cohesion, justice, and protection and safety measures.

Social assistance

Given the hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Ramaphosa in July 2021 announced the reinstatement of the Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, which was set to run until the end of March 2022.

Set at R350, it benefits unemployed citizens, most of whom lost their jobs when COVID-19 struck in 2020.

The grant was introduced in May 2020 as a temporary measure to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable, who were affected by COVID-19 induced lockdown measures. It has been extended several times since then.

In October 2022, government announced that the SRD grant was to be extended to the end of March 2024. –SAnews.gov.za


 

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