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SONA 2020 to highlight priorities of constituted sixth administration

The SONA, which is delivered by the President on an annual basis, not only shares with citizens government’s service delivery plans, but also highlights the focus areas of the sitting government.


SONA 2020 to highlight priorities of constituted sixth administration
Recently, the country hosted the second successful Investment Conference which resulted in investors committing around R363 billion into the South African economy. Image Credit: Wikimedia

South Africans will turn on their television and radio sets to listen to President Cyril Ramaphosa deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA), on Thursday, 13 February, which is expected to highlight the priorities of the newly constituted sixth administration.

The SONA, which is delivered by the President on an annual basis, not only shares with citizens government's service delivery plans, but also highlights the focus areas of the sitting government.

The SONA is tabled before a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament - namely the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and the National Assembly - and is accompanied by an annual red carpet, where Members of Parliament (MPs), as well as invited guests, get to put their best foot forward and strut their stuff.

Rich traditions, including the 21-gun salute among others, are expected to accompany the auspicious occasion.

President Ramphosa's address, which he will deliver on the evening of 13 February 2020, is expected to reflect on the first year of the implementation of the 2019-2024 Medium Term Strategic Framework.

The address is expected to set the tone on critical matters following the SONA delivered by the President in June 2019. The June address followed the successful May 2019 General Elections.

Granted that South Africa continues to face a myriad of challenges, SAnews took a look at some of the progress the government has made in efforts to better the lives of citizens as well as to grow the economy.

Attracting investment and doing business in SA

Recently, the country hosted the second successful Investment Conference which resulted in investors committing around R363 billion into the South African economy.

The conference, which was held in November 2019, saw local investors come to the party by committing R262 billion compared to just over R157 billion committed to at the inaugural conference held in 2018.

Since the inaugural conference, eight projects have reached completion or were near completion as of October last year.

In addition, 16 other projects are in construction or in the implementation stage.

Meanwhile, Operation PhakisaOceans Economy has secured investments of R29.4 billion and created 7 351 direct jobs in six ocean sectors since October 2014.

An initiative of the government, Operation Phakisa was designed to fast-track the implementation of solutions on critical development issues highlighted in the country's National Development Plan (NDP).

The establishment of a smartphone production plant at KwaZulu-Natal's Dube Trade Port Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is also aiding in growing the country's manufacturing base.

The launch of the Mara Phone state-of-the-art facility in Durban last year led to the employment of 200 youth, of which 67% are women.

As part of measures to ease doing business in South Africa, the country piloted an online company registration system that enables users to register a company and apply for and obtain a tax number, VAT number, B-B-BBEE certificate, unemployment insurance, and the skills development levy, among others, in one place.

Through BizPortal (https://bizportal.gov.za/) government aims to significantly reduce the time it takes to set up a company.

Ease of travel

In an effort to make travel effortless for both locals as well as those wishing to travel to South Africa, the Department of Home Affairs has lowered turnaround times for critical work skills visas. These visas are now issued within four weeks in 88.5 % of applications.

Business and general work visas are issued within eight weeks in 98 % of applications.

South Africa has also simplified visa requirements for countries like China and India which are key markets for tourism to the southernmost tip of the African continent.

Land

On land matters, R3.9 billion has been released to support black commercial farmers through the Land Bank.

To promote greater certainty in the use of land for productive activities, more than 1 400 30-year leases have been finalized.

Recently, the Ad Hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation Amending Section 25 of the Constitution, extended the deadline for written submissions on the Draft Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill.

The aim of the bill is to amend the Constitution of South Africa so as to, among other things, provide that where land and any improvements thereon are expropriated for the purposes of land reform, no compensation may be payable.

The initial deadline for submissions on the draft bill was 31 January but was extended to 29 February 2020.

This as the government is accelerating the process of land reform guided by the decisions of Parliament and recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform.

The panel was set-up to review, research and suggest models for the government to implement a fair and equitable land reform process.

Meanwhile, the government will continue with its restitution process and with freeing up state-owned land for farming and the building of houses for citizens.

Education

Steady improvement has also been made in the education sphere. The 2019 Class of 2019 made the country proud through their 81.3% pass rate. This is the highest pass rate recorded since the advent of democracy in 1994.

This matric pass rate is in line with local and international studies further highlighting the fact that the South African basic education system is on the rise.

The country has also seen the number of learners from previously disadvantaged schools who passed mathematics and physical science increase.

Meanwhile, the government is working to implement the Sector Reading Plan, which will help improve reading outcomes in both the foundation and intermediate phases.

The plan comprises training teachers on the latest how-to-teach reading methodologies and provides age and language relevant materials to all learners.

Government is also firmly focused on early childhood development as part of efforts to ensure that children are equipped and ready for school at the earliest possible age.

To keep up with an ever-changing world, the government is piloting the Coding and Robotics Curriculum for Grades R – 3 in some schools across the country. The curriculum is expected to equip learners with the required skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

School infrastructure and the safety of learners have also been prioritized at a time when the country has seen the deaths of several school children since the start of the 2020 academic year.

Since the inception of the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Development Initiative (ASIDI) programme, 229 inappropriate and unsafe schools have been replaced with new schools.

The programme which was launched in 2011, has also ensured that 834 sanitation facilities, 957 water infrastructure and 372 electricity connections, were completed in schools across the country.

Focus has also been placed on the safety of university students. Government continues to work closely with Universities South Africa (USAF) to address urgent safety and security concerns on university campuses.

USAF is an organization tasked with representing South Africa's universities.

In 2019, a Ministerial Task Team was established to advise the government on matters of sexual harassment and gender-based violence as well as ensure policy alignment.

Fighting gender-based violence

Government has intensified the fight against gender-based violence which has gripped the country through the 365 days campaign for No Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF).

The campaign which is an existing government programme is a long-term communication programme that aims to inspire change.

The campaign aims to facilitate behavioral change through content and strategies that facilitate positive responses as well as to encourage citizens to work towards a society free of GBVF.

Health

Government has in the last year handed over eight state-of-the-art, as well as National Health Insurance (NHI) compliant clinics, to various communities across the country.

President Ramaphosa opened the Lusikisiki village clinic located in the Eastern Cape while Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize opened the Maxwell and Lotana clinics in September 2019 as part of the pilot for the National Health Insurance (NHI).

Through the NHI, the government seeks to fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide quality universal health care for all as envisaged in Section 27 of the Constitution and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Corruption

The fight against corruption continues after the government established the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture as well as the Commissions of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance at the South African Revenue Service (SARS), among others.

To ensure that allegations of corruption from the commission of inquiry are properly investigated, the government has also established an Investigating Directorate in the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions.

The directorate is expected to work closely with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the SIU Special Tribunal and the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigations (DPCI) in ensuring speedy prosecution and the recovery and return of stolen assets.

Employment

On jobs, R600 million had been provisionally allocated to support rural and township entrepreneurs.

To further support job creation efforts, the government has reduced the financial burden on public service job applicants in relation to the certification of documents that accompany applications for employment.

This means that all national departments, provincial departments, and government components are to stop the practice of requiring certified copies of documents not older than three months to accompany applications for employment.

Departments have been advised to at least accept certified copies of documents submitted with an application for employment that are up to six months old.

The decision followed complaints raised with President Ramaphosa on social media and through other channels about the onerous requirements for compliance with public sector job applications.

Government has made inroads to secure growth as well as attract more investors into the country.

Progress has also been made in improving the education system and facilitating easier travel for residents and visitors since the last SONA in June 2019.

President Ramaphosa will take the country into his confidence come the evening of 13 February, in which he will chart the way forward as well as set the tone on critical matters facing the country.

The President's address also comes at a significant week where South Africa marks the 30th anniversary of the release of former President Nelson Mandela from the Western Cape's Victor Verster prison (now known as the Drakenstein Correctional Centre) on 11 February 1990.

President Mandela spent 27 years in prison and his release set the wheels in motion for a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

(With Inputs from South African Government Press Release)

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