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SONA 2020 highlights: Key points from Cyril Ramaphosa's 2020 SONA speech

Feb 14, 2020
SONA 2020 highlights: Key points from Cyril Ramaphosa's 2020 SONA speech

Port Elizabeth - Following an hour-long disruption of President Cyril Ramaphosa's 2020 State Of The Nation Address in Parliament on Thursday night, the president eventually took to the podium to address South Africa on the challenges that the country is facing as well as government's plans to address those challenges.

First, the EFF voiced their disappointment that former President, FW de Klerk, had been invited as a guest to the 2020 SONA. The party then demanded that Ramaphosa fires Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan from his Cabinet.


When Parliament proceedings resumed after a being suspended due to the disruptions, the EFF walked out of Parliament.

Domestic Violence Amendment Act to better protect GBV victims

Ramaphosa says the Domestic Violence Act is expected to be amended to better protect victims in violent domestic relationships. He further said the Sexual Offences Act will also broaden the categories of sex offenders whose names must be included in the National Register for Sex Offenders.

“We will pass a law to tighten bail and sentencing conditions in cases that involve gender-based violence (GBV),” President Ramaphosa said.

President Ramaphosa noted that over the last six months, the nation has been galvanised across communities, government, civil society, religious groupings, the judiciary and parliament, to end the crisis of violence perpetrated by men against women.

He said that progress has been made in several areas including the implementation of an Emergency Action Plan to deal with the scourge of GBV.

“We implemented an Emergency Action Plan and reprioritised R1.6 billion to support this plan until the end of the current financial year,” the President said.

The plan focuses on improving access to justice for survivors of violence and prevention campaigns to change attitudes and behaviour. The plan also involves measures to strengthen the criminal justice process and to prioritise the creation of economic opportunities for women who are vulnerable to abuse.

Development model to extend to 23 districts

Government is this year expected to expand the District Development Model to 23 new districts, drawing on lessons from the three pilot districts, Ramaphosa announced.

President Ramaphosa officially launched the first pilot site of the district-based coordination model at a Presidential Imbizo in OR Tambo District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, in September, last year. The model was then launched in the eThekwini Metro in KwaZulu-Natal and Waterberg District Municipality in Limpopo.

The model aims to address the challenge of government working in silos, resulting in a lack of coherent planning and implementation, which has made monitoring and oversight of government’s programme difficult.

“It is only when the structured support has failed that the provincial executive or national government will invoke a Section 139 intervention,” he said.

Currently, there are 40 municipalities in the country subjected to the Section 139 intervention.

Government introducing Coding, Robotics in Grades R to 3

Ramaphosa said government will this year introduce Coding and Robotics in Grades R to 3, in 200 schools - with a plan to implement it fully by 2022.

This is one of the steps taken by government to improve education in the country.

Government is piloting the Coding and Robotics Curriculum for Grades R – 3 in selected schools across the country to equip learners with the required skills for the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Delivering the State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Thursday, President Ramaphosa said the most significant contribution government can make to inclusive economic growth is in the development of appropriate skills and capabilities.

President Ramaphosa said government is building nine new TVET college campuses in Sterkspruit, Aliwal North, Graaff Reinet and Ngungqushe in the Eastern Cape, and in Umzimkhulu, Greytown, Msinga, Nongoma and Kwagqikazi in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We are making progress with the introduction of the three-stream curriculum model, heralding a fundamental shift in focus towards more vocational and technical education.

“Various technical vocational specialisations have already been introduced in 550 schools and 67 schools are now piloting the occupational stream,” President Ramaphosa said.

He said through bilateral student scholarship agreements, government has signed with other countries, government is steadily building a substantial cohort of young people who go overseas each year for training in critical skills.

“We have seen the impact this can have with the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Medical Training Programme in Cuba which has produced over 1 200 medical doctors and a further 640 students are expected to graduate in December 2020,” President Ramaphosa said.

President Ramaphosa also mentioned that government has decided to establish a new University of Science and Innovation in Ekurhuleni.  

“Ekurhuleni is the only metro in our country that does not have a university. This will enable young people in that metro to be trained in high-impact and cutting-edge technological innovation for current and future industries,” President Ramaphosa said.

The President said various technical vocational specialisations have already been introduced in 550 schools and 67 schools are now piloting the occupational stream.

Government has introduced new technology subjects and specialisation, including Technical Mathematics and Technical Sciences, Maritime Sciences, Aviation Studies, Mining Sciences and Aquaponics.

Government allocates funds to reduce youth unemployment

Government is scaling up its efforts to tackle the high levels of unemployment, particularly among the youth. 

“We will lead a youth employment initiative, which will be funded by setting aside 1% of the budget to deal with the high levels of youth unemployment,” said the President.

This will be done through “top slicing from the budget”, which requires that government tighten its belt and redirect resources to address the national crisis of youth unemployment.

Highlighting the other five priorities, President Ramaphosa explained that the solution to the unemployment crisis must be two-pronged – by creating opportunities for youth employment and self-employment.

“Firstly, we are creating pathways for young people into the economy. We are building cutting-edge solutions to reach young people where they are – online, on the phone and in person,” the President said.

This, the President said, will allow the youth access to active support, information and work readiness training to increase their employability and match themselves to opportunities.

“Starting this month, we are launching five prototype sites in five provinces that will grow to a national network, reaching three million young people through multiple channels.

“This will allow them to receive active support, information and work readiness training to increase their employability and match themselves to opportunities,” said the President.

The second priority action will focus on getting young people ready for the future of work; providing shorter, more flexible courses in specific skills that employers in fast-growing sectors need.

Thirdly, government plans to develop new and innovative ways to support youth entrepreneurship and self-employment.

The fourth priority includes scaling up the Youth Employment Service and working with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and the private sector to ensure that more learners receive practical experience in the workplace to complete their training.

As the fifth priority, government will establish the first cohort of a Presidential Youth Service programme that will empower young people and provide opportunities for them to earn an income.

“These six actions will together ensure that every young person in this country has a place to go, that their energy and capabilities are harnessed, and that they can contribute to the growth of their communities and their country,” said the President.

As part of this intervention, the National Youth Development Agency and the Department of Small Business Development will provide grant funding and business support to 1 000 young entrepreneurs in the next 100 days.

Tapping into the international market

South African businesswomen are set to benefit from a government platform that will assist in taking their ventures to global markets.

“We are introducing the SheTradesZA platform to assist women-owned businesses to participate in global value chains and markets,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

Delivering his State of the Nation Address on Thursday to a joint sitting of Parliament, the President said over the next five years, the Industrial Development Corporation is targeting R10 billion of its own and partner funding for women-empowered businesses.

“The empowerment of women is critical to inclusive economic growth,” the President said.

In addition, government plans to designate 1 000 locally produced products that must be procured from small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in an effort to create a larger market for small businesses.

The President said the Procurement Bill will soon be presented to Parliament as part of an effort to empower black and emerging businesses and advance radical economic transformation.

“This year, we intensify our investment drive with the establishment of an integrated investment promotion and facilitation capability coordinated from the Presidency,” President Ramaphosa said.

Government will hold its third South Africa Investment Conference in November to review the implementation of previous commitments and to generate new investment into the economy.

“At the second South Africa Investment Conference last year, over 70 companies made investment commitments of R364 billion in industries as diverse as advanced manufacturing, agro-processing, infrastructure, mining, services, tourism and hospitality.

“In the first two years of our ambitious investment drive, we have raised a total of R664 billion in investment commitments, which is more than half of our five-year target of R1.2 trillion,” he said.

The President said these investments are having a real impact.

“Already, projects with an investment value of R9 billion have been completed and 27 projects worth just over R250 billion are in implementation phase, with more coming on-stream this year,” he said.

Meanwhile, the President emphasised that the digital economy will increasingly become a driver of growth and a creator of employment.

“An important condition for the success of our digital economy is the availability of high demand spectrum to expand broadband access and reliability,” President Ramaphosa said.

He said the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has undertaken to conclude the licensing of high demand spectrum for industry via auction before the end of 2020.

The licensing of high demand spectrum is one of the critical components to facilitate deployment of digital infrastructure to ensure that all consumers and the business environment participate meaningfully in future Information and Communications Technology (ICT) opportunities towards the digital economy.

The release of high demand spectrum is an important step that gives effect to government’s policy objectives of ensuring broadband access for all, transformation of the Information and communications technology (ICT) sector, reduction of costs to communicate (particularly data costs), promotion of competition in the ICT sector and stimulation of inclusive economic growth.

“Because of additional requirements, the licensing of the wireless open access network – or WOAN – is likely to complete during the course of next year,” the President said.

He said the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution has made far-reaching recommendations that impact on nearly every aspect of the economy.

“The commission’s report provides us with the tools to ensure that we extract the greatest benefit of these revolutionary technological changes,” he said.

State to intensify SOE re-purposing for growth, development

Government will this year intensify efforts to stabilise and re-purpose the country’s state-owned enterprises to support growth and development, Ramaphosa announced.

“In consultation with the Presidential SOE Council, we will undertake a process of rationalisation of our state owned enterprises and ensure that they serve strategic economic or developmental purposes.”

He said the extent of capture, corruption and mismanagement in SOEs is best demonstrated at South Africans Airways (SAA), which was placed under business rescue late last year.

The business rescue practitioners are expected to unveil plans for the restructuring of SAA in the next few weeks.

“In the interests of South Africa’s aviation industry and our economy, it is essential that a future restructured airline is commercially and operationally sustainable and is not dependent on further government funding,” said the President.

A key priority this year, he said, is to fix commuter rail which is vital to the economy and to the quality of life of the people.

“Our rail network daily transports over a million commuters to and from work,” said President Ramaphosa. “We are modernising PRASA’s rail network.”

The Central Line in the Western Cape and the Mabopane Line in Pretoria have been closed for essential refurbishment and upgrades.

Government, he said, will over the next years invest R1.4 billion in each of these lines to provide a safe, reliable and affordable service.

“Work underway on other lines includes station upgrades, parkway replacements, new signalling systems and overhead electrical traction upgrades,” said the President.

Furthermore, the President announced that government will over the next year undertake a fundamental overhaul of the Durban port – the third largest container terminal in the Southern Hemisphere – to reduce delays and costs.

“Our ports are congested and inefficient,” he said.

Government to regulate commercial use of hemp products

Government will this year open up and regulate the commercial use of hemp products, providing opportunities for small-scale farmers, Ramaphosa announced.

“The regulatory steps will soon be announced by the relevant ministers,” President Ramaphosa said.

He reiterated that agriculture is one of the industries with the greatest potential for growth.

This year, government implemented key recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture to accelerate land redistribution, expand agricultural production and transform the industry.

The Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform was established to review, research and suggest models for government to implement a fair and equitable land reform process.

Ramaphosa said that government stands ready, following the completion of the Parliamentary process to amend section 25 of the Constitution to table an Expropriation Bill that outlines the circumstances under which expropriation of land without compensation would be permissible.

“To date, we have released 44 000 hectares of state land for the settlement of land restitution claims, and will this year release round 700 000 hectares of state land for agricultural production.

“We are prioritising youth, women, people with disabilities and those who have been farming on communal land and are ready to expand their operations for training and allocation of land,” the President said. 

He added that a new beneficiary selection policy includes compulsory training for potential beneficiaries before land can be allocated to them.

The President also noted that due to the drought in many parts of the country, farmers have lost crops and livestock, and many workers have lost their livelihoods.

Working with the Agricultural Research Council and other scientific and agricultural bodies, President Ramaphosa said government has developed drought mitigation strategies that focus on developing drought resistant seeds, planting and storing fodder, removing of invasive plants and management strategies to prevent soil degradation.

President announces new crime detection university

To improve the quality of general and specialised police investigations, government will be establishing a Crime Detection University in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria.

Ramaphosa said his plans for investment and growth in South Africa would require a safe, stable and crime-free environment.

“It is fundamental to the aspirations of all our people to live in security, peace and comfort,” the President said.

He further said that police visibility, effective training and better resourcing of police stations are part of South Africa’s priorities.

“I prioritised our response to the growing problem of criminal groups that extort money from construction and other businesses,” the President said.

Specialised units – bringing together the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority – are mandated to combat these crimes of economic disruption.

It was also stated that Anti-Gang units will be further strengthened, with priority given to the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Free State.

“Following the graduation of 5 000 police trainees last year, 7 000 new police trainees have been enlisted this year to strengthen local policing,” the President announced.

Furthermore, President Ramaphosa said that in order to support growth of the tourism industry, the SAPS will increase visibility at identified tourist attraction sites.

“It is training Tourism Safety Monitors and will establish a reserve police capacity to focus on the policing of tourist attraction areas,” he said.

President Ramaphosa said that the fight against corruption and state capture will continue and that there is a need for South Africans to work together to root out corruption and strengthen the rule of law.

He discouraged citizens from paying bribes or engaging in corrupt acts, saying that South Africans should rather join forces and upgrade the culture of reporting crime when it is being committed as a means to win the fight against corruption.

“We therefore welcome the joint government and civil society working group charged with developing a national anti-corruption strategy and implementation plan, which is close to completion of this phase of its work,” he said.

The President said this strategy would be launched by mid-year.

The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture continues with its critical work with the full support of government and other institutions.

“I have received a detailed and voluminous report on the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and will make it available to the public together with a plan on taking the findings and recommendations forward in the next few days,” said President Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa said to strengthen the capacity of the state and increase accountability, he would sign performance agreements with all ministers before the end of the month.

“These agreements – which are based on the targets contained in the Medium-Term Strategic Framework – will be made public so that the people of South Africa can hold those who they elected into office to account,” the President said.

“We see these performance agreements as the cornerstone of a new culture of transparency and accountability, where those who are given the responsibility to serve – whether as elected office bearers or public servants – do what is expected of them,” he said.

The performance agreements would not tolerate corruption, nepotism and patronage, and action would be taken against ministers who abuse their powers or steal public money.

R64bn allocated for student accommodation

Ramaphosa said an amount of R64 billion will be spent over the next few years in student accommodation.

“Some don’t even have places to sleep after lectures and resort to sleeping in libraries. We are going to spend R64 billion over the next years in student accommodation, and will leverage at least another R64 billion in private investment. These building projects are ready to start,” President Ramaphosa said.

President Ramaphosa said the country is making progress with the introduction of the three-stream curriculum model, heralding a fundamental shift in focus towards more vocational and technical education.

Various technical vocational specialisations have already been introduced in 550 schools and 67 schools are now piloting the occupational stream.

The President announced that the building of nine new TVET college campus sites is underway and expected to be completed this year.

“We are building nine new TVET college campuses this year, in Sterkspruit, Aliwal North, Graaff Reinet and Ngungqushe in the Eastern Cape, and in Umzimkhulu, Greytown, Msinga, Nongoma and Kwagqikazi in KwaZulu-Natal,” the President said.

Government has decided to establish a new University of Science and Innovation in Ekurhuleni.

“Ekurhuleni is the only metro in our country that does not have a university. This will enable young people in that metro to be trained in high-impact and cutting-edge technological innovation for current and future industries,” the President said.

Major economic reforms set to change SA's fortunes

Ramaphosa has announced that government will soon undertake far-reaching economic reform measures aimed at resuscitating the country’s economy.

“We need to fix our public finances. Our debt is heading towards unsustainable levels, and spending is misdirected towards consumption and debt-servicing rather than infrastructure and productive activity.

“We cannot continue along this path, nor can we afford to stand still,” said President Ramaphosa on Thursday.

Some of these touted reforms are contained in the Economic Transformation, Inclusive Growth and Competitiveness Paper produced by National Treasury.

President Ramaphosa said the country’s low levels of growth mean it is not generating enough revenue to meet its expenses.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni will outline a series of measures to reduce spending and improve its composition when he delivers his Budget Speech in two weeks’ time, President Ramaphosa said.

“We are engaged with labour and other stakeholders on measures to contain the public wage bill and reduce wastage,” he said.

The President said efforts to reduce government spending, prioritise resources more effectively, and improve the efficiency of the country’s tax system are important contributions towards stabilising public finances. However, much more needs to be done.

President Ramaphosa said the State will improve public finances by working with the Auditor General to reduce irregular expenditure, shifting government spending from consumption expenditure to investment in infrastructure.

“Achieving sustainability will ultimately require us to address structural challenges in the economy that raise the cost of living and doing business,” said the President.

Measures to improve energy generation

Government will be implementing measures that are set to fundamentally improve South Africa’s energy generation capacity.

“Over the next few months, as Eskom works to restore its operational capabilities, we will be implementing measures that will fundamentally change the trajectory of energy generation in our country,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

Eskom recently announced that the probability of load shedding was expected to increase as the power utility carries out its newly developed comprehensive maintenance plan, aimed at fixing its system which is constrained, unreliable and unpredictable.

Last December, Eskom implemented Stage 6 load shedding for the first time in its 96 year history.

Government has moved to rapidly and significantly increase generation capacity outside of Eskom by introducing measures that will be implemented in an effort to improve the constrained energy supply.

These include a Section 34 Ministerial Determination that will be issued shortly to give effect to the Integrated Resource Plan 2019, enabling the development of additional grid capacity from renewable energy, natural gas, hydro power, battery storage and coal.

“We will initiate the procurement of emergency power from projects that can deliver electricity into the grid within three to 12 months from approval. The National Energy Regulator will continue to register small scale distributed generation for own use of under 1 MW, for which no licence is required,” Ramaphosa said.

The National Energy Regulator will ensure that all applications by commercial and industrial users to produce electricity for own use above 1MW are processed within the prescribed 120 days.

The President noted that there is now no limit to installed capacity above 1MW.

“We will open bid window 5 of the renewable energy IPP and work with producers to accelerate the completion of window 4 projects,” he said.

Government will also negotiate supplementary power purchase agreements to acquire additional capacity from existing wind and solar plants.

In addition, measures will be put in place to enable municipalities in good financial standing to procure their own power from independent power producers.

“For over a decade, South Africans have had to contend with the effects of a constrained energy supply. I have spoken extensively about the critical role that Eskom plays in the economy of our country and in the livelihood of every South African,” Ramaphosa said.

The President said the load shedding of the last few months has had a debilitating effect on the economy.

“At its core, load shedding is the inevitable consequence of Eskom’s inability over many years – due to debt, lack of capacity and state capture – to service its power plants. The reality that we will need to accept is that in order for Eskom to undertake the fundamental maintenance necessary to improve the reliability of supply, load shedding will remain a possibility for the immediate future,” President Ramaphosa said. 

He said where load shedding is unavoidable, it must be undertaken in a manner that is predictable and minimises disruption and the cost to firms and households.

In line with the roadmap announced last year, Eskom has started with the process of divisionalising its three operating activities – generation, transmission and distribution – each of which will have its own board and management structures.

The President said the social partners organised under National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) have been meeting over the last two weeks to agree on the principles of a social compact on electricity.

“This is a historic and unprecedented development since it demonstrates the commitment of all social partners to take the necessary actions and make the necessary sacrifices to secure our energy needs,” Ramaphosa said.

The President said through this compact the social partners seek an efficient, productive and fit-for-purpose Eskom that generates electricity at affordable prices for communities and industries.

“This requires both a drastic reduction in costs – including a review of irregular contracts – and measures to mobilise resources that will reduce Eskom’s debt and inject fresh capital where needed,” he said.

The President said the social partners – trade unions, business, community and government – are committed to mobilising funding to address Eskom’s financial crisis in a financially sustainable manner.

“They would like to do this in a manner that does not put workers’ pensions at risk and that does not compromise the integrity of the financial system. While they work to finalise this agreement, the reality is that our energy system will remain constrained until new energy generation comes on stream,” he said.

The President said through these immediate measures and the work underway to fundamentally restructure the electricity industry, government will achieve a secure supply of reliable, affordable and, ultimately, sustainable energy. 

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