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Tag: From The Desk of the President

News: From the Desk of the President.

Dear Fellow South African,

In many countries around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has required the limitation of many civil liberties and put social cohesion to the test.

But countries with strong institutions, vigilant judicial systems and a robust media have been able to prevent human rights from being undermined and the authority of the state being abused.

It has been six months since the national state of disaster was proclaimed. Despite the unprecedented nature of the disease and the immense challenge of placing a country of 58 million people under lockdown, we have fared well. We have managed to contain the spread of the disease primarily because of the cooperation and vigilance of all citizens.

This is in no small part due to the sterling work of our media.

We owe a debt of gratitude to South Africa’s hardworking and tenacious journalists. They have kept our people informed by disseminating key health messages about social distancing and hygiene. They have done so under extremely trying conditions, often with limited resources.

They have told the stories of the effects of lockdown on the lives of people and their businesses. They have been out in the villages, towns and cities, bringing stories of ordinary people and drawing national attention to problems being experienced in hospitals and clinics, prompting government action.

Our media have also shone a light on excesses that perhaps would not have ordinarily come to light. They have fulfilled their watchdog role by unearthing acts of corruption and maladministration, sparking a massive national debate and leading to a number of high-profile investigations. Through this reporting they have earned people’s trust.

A free press is not an end in itself. It is a means by which democracy is secured and upheld. During this pandemic, our media has played not just its traditional watchdog role, but exercised its civic duty in supporting the national effort to contain the coronavirus.

Given the importance of the media to the health of our democracy, it is a great concern that like all other sectors of the economy, the coronavirus crisis has hit our media houses hard. Some publications lost as much as 60% of their income in the early days of the lockdown. A number of companies have had to implement salary cuts, reduce staff numbers or reduce hours worked. Regrettably, some publications have even been forced to close, among them some of South Africa’s most established and well-known magazine titles.

The job losses that have resulted from the lockdowns have exacerbated a crisis for media companies already facing challenges like loss of advertising revenues, falling circulation and market share being taken by mobile-first news and other technologies. These financial difficulties are being faced across the board, from online titles to traditional broadsheets to the public broadcaster.

This was one of the issues that was raised sharply during my engagement with the South African National Editors’ Forum last week. Instead of lamenting their fate, however, the media industry is working hard to refine business models, to drive innovation and to retain staff as much as possible.

At the same time, the media is a unique entity in any society because its practitioners fulfil a role that is so essential to our democratic order. They work to keep the public informed and to keep power in check.

We need more journalists, not less. That is why the loss of even a single journalist is not just a loss to the industry but to the country.

We need our media veterans, who bring with them vast experience and institutional memory, and are able to offer critical reportage and informed analysis. At the same time we need more young journalists in the profession who are tech-savvy, abreast with new trends in storytelling and in touch with the concerns of a youthful population.

As a society we owe the media our full support. Whether it is electing to pay for content, supporting crowdfunded journalism, paying our SABC license fees or simply buying a newspaper, we can all play our part to support this industry in crisis. As government, despite the gloomy economic climate we will continue to extend advertising spend to publications and broadcasters, especially community media.

The private sector must also continue to support the industry through advertising and working with media houses in the production of innovative content in line with global media trends. Local philanthropic and donor organisations should also come on board and support public interest journalism ventures, as is the case in many democracies.

The proliferation of fake news during the pandemic, primarily on social media platforms, has added to the urgency for more news that is accurate, fair and impartial. During this time our people have relied on our established media houses for information, once again underscoring their importance as pillars of our democracy.

As we begin the great task of rebuilding our economy in the aftermath of the pandemic, the media industry will need our support more than ever. The free press was once described as ‘the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men and women prize’. As we salute their role in this pandemic, let us do what we can to ensure that the free and diverse media in our country is able to survive and thrive.

Best regards,
Cyril Ramaphosa

News: From the Desk of the President

Dear Fellow South African,

A year ago, almost to the day, thousands of women, men and children marched to Parliament to protest against a spate of rapes and killings of women and girls.

At the time, the nation was reeling from the murders of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Leighandre Jegels, Jesse Hess and a number of other women who had lost their lives at the hands of brutal men.

From all social backgrounds, young and old, students and working women, the peaceful protesters held aloft placards that read ‘Enough is Enough’ and ‘Am I next?’. The anguish and the anger was palpable that day. As I received their clearly articulated demands, it was clear to me that we needed to act urgently and with determination. It was important to me that I did not respond with hollow words and empty promises.

I committed to marshal the substantial resources of the state to tackle gender-based violence and femicide. I gave an undertaking that we would review our laws around gender-based violence. One of the key demands made by many women’s organisations was that the laws of our country should be tightened on granting bail to suspects and enforcement of long sentences for offenders.

I concluded that the struggle to end gender-based violence needed a multipronged strategy that should be led by the President and enlisted government to act. The Cabinet agreed to allocate resources and commit to a plan of action. A few days later, I called a joint sitting of Parliament, where we announced a R1.6 billion Emergency Response Action Plan to combat gender-based violence and femicide.

Over the six months of its implementation, public spending in various government departments was reprioritised to support interventions for care and support for survivors, for awareness and prevention campaigns, to improve laws and policies, to promote the economic empowerment of women, and to strengthen the criminal justice system.

And now we are on the cusp of the most far-reaching legislative overhaul in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.

Over the past week, three key Bills relating to gender-based violence have been introduced in Parliament. Through the introduction of these Bills, we are honouring the promise we made to the protestors last year and to all the women of this country.

The three amendment Bills are designed to fill the gaps that allow some perpetrators of these crimes to evade justice and to give full effect to the rights of our country’s women and children.

The sad reality is that many survivors of gender-based violence have lost faith in the criminal justice system.

Difficulties in obtaining protection orders, lax bail condition for suspects, police not taking domestic violence complaints seriously and inappropriate sentences have contributed to an environment of cynicism and mistrust.

These Bills, once finalised, will help to restore the confidence of our country’s women that the law is indeed there to protect them.

The first is the Bill to amend the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act. This creates a new offence of sexual intimidation, extends the ambit of the offence of incest, and extends the reporting duty of persons who suspect a sexual offence has been committed against a child.

It expands the scope of the National Register for Sex Offenders to include the particulars of all sex offenders. Until now, it has only applied to sex offenders convicted of sex crimes perpetrated against children or persons with mental disabilities. The time an offender’s particulars must remain on the register has been increased, and those listed on the register will have to disclose this when they submit applications to work with persons who are vulnerable. The Bill also makes provision for the names of persons on the National Register for Sex Offenders to be publicly available.

The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill tightens, among others, the granting of bail to perpetrators of gender-based violence and femicide, and expands the offences for which minimum sentences must be imposed.

People are angry that many perpetrators of such serious crimes are exploiting legal loopholes to avoid imprisonment and are frustrated that sentencing is often not proportionate to the crimes. The amendments impose new obligations on law-enforcement officials and on our courts.

When a prosecutor does not oppose bail in cases of gender-based violence, they have to place their reasons on record. Unless a person accused of gender-based violence can provide exceptional circumstances why they should be released on bail, the court must order their detention until the criminal proceedings are concluded.

In reaching a decision on a bail application, the courts are compelled to take a number of considerations into account. They include pre-trial reports on the desirability of releasing an accused on bail, threats of violence made against a survivor, and the view of the survivor regarding his or her safety.

When it comes to parole, a complainant or a relative of a deceased victim must be able to make representation to the parole board.

Given the unacceptably high levels of intimate partner violence in our country, we have tightened the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act.

Domestic violence is now defined to cover those in engagements, dating, in customary relationships, and actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationships of any duration. The Bill also extends the definition of ‘domestic violence’ to include the protection of older persons against abuse by family members.

Complainants will be able to apply for a protection order online. To prevent a scenario where perpetrators can hide past histories of domestic violence, an integrated repository of protection orders will be established.

The proposed amendments also oblige the departments of Social Development, Basic Education, Higher Education and Health to provide certain services to survivors where needed and to refer them for sheltering and medical care.

The circumstances under which a prosecutor can refuse to institute a prosecution when offences have been committed under the amended Act or to withdraw charges when it involves the infliction of bodily harm or where a weapon was used to threaten a complainant have been limited.

In perhaps the most groundbreaking proposed amendment to the Act, if someone has knowledge, reasonable belief or suspicion that an act of domestic violence has been committed against a child, a person with disability or an older person and fails to report it to a social worker or police officer they can be fined and even imprisoned.

Similarly, failure by a member of the SAPS to comply with their obligations under the Act will be regarded as misconduct and must be reported to the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service.

The law is the one sure protector of all of society, but especially its most vulnerable. When diligently and fairly applied, it is the most powerful guarantor of justice.

The women of South Africa have had enough of lukewarm actions that do not address one of the most fundamental rights of all – to live in freedom from fear.

These proposed amendments are an appropriate response to a groundswell of dissatisfaction at the way survivors of gender-based violence have been treated by the criminal justice system in the past.

This government and its partners will make good by the women of South Africa. We will not let them down.

That we have reached this point is thanks to committed and principled activism.

The task before us now is to bring our collective efforts to bear by taking an active part in the public participation process towards finalising the Bills.

Let us now work together to see this process through, for the protection of the women and children of today and of tomorrow.

Best regards,

Cyril Ramaphosa

News: From the Desk of the President

Dear Fellow South African,

There are few callings more important for a person than the call to public service.

It is an opportunity to improve people’s lives and change society for the better. It carries great responsibility and often demands much of individuals and their families.

Tomorrow is the start of Public Service Month, which is held in September each year to promote a culture of pride and ethics in the public service and improvement in all facets of service provision.

A streamlined, efficient and well-integrated civil service is the hallmark of a capable state. Likewise, an unproductive, inefficient and cumbersome civil service can frustrate the implementation of even the best policies.

Public servants are the first interface between government and citizens. Their encounters, whether positive or negative, are crucial in how the state is perceived by the wider population.

Our key priority is to build a capable state. If we are to build a more capable state we have to seriously and urgently address the shortcomings in the organisation and the capacity of the public service.

The view that the public service is bloated is misplaced. Public servants include officials and administrators, but they also include doctors, nurses, police men and women and teachers who play an invaluable role in keeping the wheels of our country turning.

The real issue is whether – given its size, cost and needs of our country – the public service is performing as it should. The experience of our people is that in several areas, the state is falling short of expectations.

There are some fundamental problems that we are working to fix.

One of the areas to which we’re giving attention is known as the ‘political-administrative’ interface, where lines of accountability at the most senior levels of the state have become blurred. Political office bearers such as Ministers, MECs and Mayors often veer towards getting involved in administrative matters that should be the responsibility of professional public servants.

While the public service is required to implement the electoral mandate of the governing party and to account to the Executive, they need to be able to do this work without undue political interference.

Public service managers must be given the space, the means and the resources to manage.

Senior appointments are sometimes made on political considerations rather than expertise. This severely limits the capacity and effective functioning of the state.

As much as the ranks of our civil service comprise individuals committed to driving government’s programme of action, it has also over the years been associated with patronage. This is manifested through the appointment of people into senior positions based on considerations other than their capability to execute the tasks of the office they are appointed to.

The building of a capable, ethical and developmental state is among our foremost priorities. We want the public service to be oriented towards efficiency, performance and developmental outcomes.

The civil service should attract high-calibre and qualified candidates. As one of the ways of achieving this, the National Development Plan (NDP) proposes a formal graduate recruitment scheme for the public service. Our people want the best and the brightest in society to serve them.

The civil service must be seen as a career destination of choice by those who want to make a difference in the life of their country, and not merely as a comfortable 9-to-5 desk job or a place to earn a salary with minimal effort.

Should some still harbour this view they should take advantage of opportunities to exit the public service to make way for those who are up to the task.

Training and upskilling is critical to professionalising the civil service.

The National School of Government is playing an important role in building a culture of lifelong learning for those already in the ranks. As an example, the school offers a certificate programme for anyone who wants to be appointed into senior management. Many of the school’s programmes – from advanced project management to financial management and budgeting to change leadership – are offered online.

The school is also engaged in collaboration with international training institutes to offer courses on wider governance issues.

Being a public servant is an honour and a privilege. It demands dedication, selflessness, professionalism, commitment and the utmost faithfulness to the principles of Batho Pele, of putting the people first.

Public servants are entrusted with managing state resources for the benefit of the public and in guarding against them being misused and abused. They are representatives of a government derived of the people and for the people, and are guardians of our Constitution.

At a time when we have been confronted with a series of scandals that point to clear complicity by certain public servants in acts of corruption, this Public Service Month should be an opportunity for the men and women tasked with this weighty responsibility to set themselves apart – to rededicate themselves to their calling and to fully comprehend what it truly means to be a servant of the people.

As the NDP reminds us, a capable developmental state cannot be created by decree: “It has to be built, brick by brick, institution by institution, and sustained and rejuvenated over time.”

Our ability to steadily acquire a high level of capability as envisaged by the NDP is a defining characteristic of what a capable developmental state should have to become an economically prosperous, socially inclusive and a well-governed state that is able to meet the needs of our people.

With best wishes,
Cyril Ramaphosa

News: From the Desk of the President

Dear Fellow South African,

The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the social, economic, business and industrial landscape of our country and countries around the world.

As we work with our social partners to develop an urgent economic recovery programme, we are determined that we should not merely return to where we were before the pandemic struck. We are instead looking at actions that will build a new, inclusive economy that creates employment and fosters sustainable growth.

An important aspect of this new economy is that it must be able to withstand the effects of climate change. A climate-resilient economy is necessary to protect jobs, ensure the sustainability of our industries, preserve our natural resources and ensure food security.

While the dramatic scaling down of human and industrial activity during COVID-19 lockdowns has been good for the environment and natural ecosystems, these activities are now resuming. The coronavirus pandemic is devastating, but unless we act now, the impact of climate change on humanity will be catastrophic.

Unless we act swiftly to significantly reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change, we will be facing one state of disaster after another for many years to come.

Climate change has long been a measurable reality for South Africa. We have felt its effects in adverse weather conditions, droughts, flooding and rising temperatures.

But climate change is about much more than changing weather patterns. It impacts on water resources, food security, public health, public infrastructure, ecosystems and biodiversity. It affects the most vulnerable in society, who suffer the effects of extreme weather events and the degradation of ecosystems.

As we work to reduce our carbon emissions, we have to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability of communities to climate change. It has to be factored into every aspect of government planning: from water use management to the construction of human settlements, from public transport to infrastructure, from disaster management to energy.

Similarly, nearly every key sector of our economy – from mining to construction, from agriculture to automotive manufacturing – needs to adapt to the effects of climate change.

It is to respond to this massive challenge, that Cabinet last week approved the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.

This strategy will guide one important aspect of our climate change response. In line with our commitments under the Paris Agreement to Combat Climate Change, we are moving ahead with both mitigation strategies – to reduce our carbon emissions – and adaptation strategies – to prepare our society for the effects of climate change.

As the Paris Agreement comes fully into force this year, we are committed to meeting our international responsibilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of the key instruments for this, the Climate Change Bill, is currently under consideration in NEDLAC. We will also be establishing the Presidential Climate Change Commission to coordinate our national response and implementing the carbon tax to encourage companies to reduce their emissions.

While these mitigation measures are implemented, the adaptation strategy calls for a multisectoral response to climate change that brings together government, the private sector, civil society organisations and communities.

Work is already underway in government and in the private sector to respond to climate change, with tangible projects being implemented at both national and provincial government level.

In provinces such as Gauteng and the Western Cape, new low-carbon technologies are being used to power public transport. Thousands of solar water heaters have been installed in public housing. The renewable energy power producer programme plays an important role in increasing the contribution of renewable energy to our electricity supply.

As we build a new economy, we cannot afford to be out of step with international moves towards green growth and green development. Our major trading partners have signalled a move towards ‘carbon border taxes’ to exclude products from those countries that they consider to be violating their climate change commitments.

Our country’s research and development activity has long engaged with the green economy.

We have already made significant advances in the waste and recycling economies. Looking ahead, the Hydrogen SA initiative has built local expertise for the hydrogen economy over a decade, with projects under way to support local manufacturing of fuel cell components. This supports the beneficiation of platinum group metals. The hydrogen economy, when linked to renewable energy, can also position South Africa as a global player in the many applications of green hydrogen.

Climate adaptation can also support infrastructure development and local production. The country can develop its own expertise in areas such as smart grids, e-mobility, smart water and sanitation solutions, ecological infrastructure and broadband connectivity.

The additional benefit of positioning our country as a significant global player in this space is that we will be able to draw on green funding sources and instruments. We already have a National Green Fund, the ‘Working for Water’ and ‘Working on Fire’ public employment programmes and the National Treasury’s Cities Support Programme. All of these support the development of new green industries and the greening of existing initiatives.

As we count the devastating cost the coronavirus pandemic has had on our economy, we must resist the temptation to relegate the critical issue of climate change to the back-burner.

Far from being an ‘added liability’ focused solely on issues of compliance, climate change adaptation is an opportunity to quicken the pace towards a sustainable economy that is just and inclusive.

We need to act now, guided by a common strategy, to combat climate change and build a new, resilient economy.

With best wishes,

Cyril Ramaphosa

 

News: From the Desk of the President

Dear Fellow South African,

 At midnight tonight, our country will move to alert level 2 in our response to the coronavirus pandemic. This will come as a relief to all South Africans who have had to live under stringent restrictions for the last five months.

 It is a sign of the progress we are making in reducing new infections and demand on our health facilities. It is also a very important development as we strive to restart our economy.

 But it is too soon to celebrate.

 We are still very much in the middle of a deadly pandemic that has taken over 11,000 lives in South Africa alone. At more than half a million confirmed cases, we still have the fifth highest number of infections in the world. And there is always a chance of a resurgence of the disease.

 If we ever need a stark reminder of the need for vigilance, we should look to recent events thousands of kilometres away in New Zealand. Three months since the country was declared coronavirus-free, New Zealand is once again under lockdown. Although the latest outbreak was of relatively few cases, the government swiftly re-imposed lockdown restrictions.

 Similar restrictions have had to be reimposed in several parts of Europe as they experience a ‘second wave’ of infections. These experiences show just how swiftly things can change when it comes to COVID-19.

 It is a wake-up call to any among us who may harbour illusions that we are even close to seeing the end of this grave public health emergency.

Certainly, there are signs of hope. The number of new confirmed cases in South Africa continues to decline. At the peak of the disease just one month ago, we were recording around 12,000 new cases a day. This has dropped to an average of around 5,000 a day over the past week. Our recovery rate stands at 80%.

 As the country moves to alert level 2, many restrictions on social and economic activity have been lifted. With this comes increased risk of transmission.

 We now need to manage this risk and ensure the gains we have made thus far in containing the pandemic’s spread are not reversed. The greatest threat to the health of nation right now is complacency. It may be that we are now permitted to meet friends and family, to visit entertainment venues, to travel for leisure and to consume alcohol in restaurants, bars and taverns.

 But as the old adage goes, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

 Many people who have the coronavirus do not have symptoms and may not even know they are infected. This is a sobering reality because it means that any of us could be infected right now and could unwittingly infect others.

 This is particular the case when visiting relatives, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions that render them vulnerable to infection. It is also true for attending religious services or cultural activities.

 The ‘second wave’ of infections that several other countries have experienced is an ever-present possibility for us too. Although many restrictions have been lifted, it does not mean they will not return should we experience a significant rise in infections. This pandemic is a matter of life and death. We need to adapt and we need to be vigilant.

 In the days, weeks and months that lie ahead, we must urgently focus our efforts on recovery. Our economy and our society has suffered a great deal. As we return to economic activity across almost all industries – and work to repair the damage done – we have a responsibility to not let our guard down as individuals, employers, communities, families, professionals, workers and citizens.

 None of us wants a return to the early days of extreme lockdown restrictions. We want to move on with our lives. We want our friends and loved ones to remain healthy and safe.

 As a nation, let us continue to work together to ensure that we progress. The move to alert level 2 of the lockdown is not a ‘free for all.’ The rules on social distancing, mask wearing, social gatherings and international travel remain.

 Our success rests on our ability to abide by these regulations and to ensure that we each behave carefully and responsibly.

Every time we are considering any form of non-essential activity, we should ask: what is the risk of infection to ourselves and to others? Where there is a risk, even a slight one, it is better not to do it.

Let us proceed, as ever, with caution. Let us keep each other safe.

With best wishes

Cyril Ramaphosa

Government News: From the Desk of the President

Dear Fellow South African,

Corruption during a national disaster is a particularly heinous type of crime, and perpetrators are going to be dealt with decisively and harshly.

It is difficult to understand the utter lack of conscience that leads a businessperson who has heeded the call to provide lifesaving supplies during a devastating pandemic to inflate the price of a surgical mask by as much as 900%.

Nor can one explain why a councillor would stockpile emergency food parcels meant for the poor for their own family, or why another councillor would divert water tankers en route to a needy community to their own home.

It is impossible to discern what drives an entire family whose member stole funds meant for unemployed workers to go on a spending spree, buying cars, paying for renovations and beauty treatments, and even tombstones.

Attempting to profit from a disaster that is claiming the lives of our people every day is the action of scavengers. It is like a pack of hyenas circling wounded prey.

As we find ourselves in the grip of the greatest health emergency our country has faced in over a century, we are witnessing theft by individuals and companies with no conscience.

We hear stories of alleged corruption in the procurement and deployment of personal protective equipment to fight COVID-19, of companies hiking the prices of essential items during the lockdown and of the illegal diversion of state resources meant for the vulnerable and destitute.

This insidious behavior is not the preserve of smaller companies. There are large companies, including a JSE-listed company, that have been caught, investigated, found guilty and fined for excessive pricing.

These stories have caused outrage among South Africans. They have opened up the wounds of the state capture era, where senior figures in society seemed to get away with corruption on a grand scale.

As a country, we have done much to turn our back on that era by disrupting and dismantling the networks that had infiltrated government, state companies and even our law enforcement agencies to loot public resources.

We have rebuilt vital institutions like the National Prosecuting Authority, SA Revenue Service and the Hawks. Through the establishment of bodies like the Investigating Directorate in the NPA, we have strengthened the hand of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute these crimes. And through the establishment of the SIU Special Tribunal, we have increased our capacity to get back funds stolen from the state.

But it is clear that we need to do more. And that we need to act more decisively.

As we set out to mobilise resources on an unprecedented scale to confront coronavirus and its effects on businesses, jobs and livelihoods, we put in place several measures to safeguard these funds.

These included regulations to ensure that emergency procurement of supplies and services was fair, transparent, competitive and cost effective. The Competition Commission has made effective use of regulations that prohibit unjustified price hikes to prosecute several companies for excessive pricing. The Auditor-General initiated special audits to detect and prevent the misuse of these funds.

While these measures have no doubt limited the potential for abuse to some extent, the evidence at hand now shows that they have not completely prevented it. And so, we need to take action.

Just over a week ago, I signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate any unlawful or improper conduct in the procurement of goods and services during the national state of disaster.

This is a broad remit that extends across all spheres of the state and, importantly, provides for civil proceedings to recover misappropriated funds. It enables the SIU to probe each credible allegation that is made about the theft of COVID-19 funds.

I will be receiving interim reports every six weeks on the cases at various stages of investigation and prosecution. When investigations yield evidence of criminality, they will be speedily referred for prosecution.

Experience here and in many other countries shows that a multidisciplinary approach to tackling the commission of alleged criminality is needed for the fight against corruption to be successful. A broad range of investigative and prosecutorial capabilities need to be brought together under one roof.

‘Fusion centres’ that draw together different agencies for better information and intelligence sharing, to pool resources and to streamline operations are common practice in a number of countries.

We have taken this approach to detect, investigate and prosecute COVID-related corruption. A special centre has been established that brings together the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks, Crime Intelligence and the SAPS Detective Service, South African Revenue Service, Special Investigating Unit and the State Security Agency.

This strengthens our response immensely. These bodies are now working together not just to investigate individual allegations, but also establish linkages between patronage networks that are trying to hide their activities. Because of this cooperation, prosecutions should proceed more quickly and stand a better chance of success.

But corruption is a far broader problem in our society. We must take steps right now that not only safeguard COVID funds, but that also protect all public funds and all institutions from corruption now and into the future.

We must look, for example, to extend the responsibility of our multi-disciplinary team of investigators and prosecutors beyond COVID-related crimes. We should use the current approaches and methods to dramatically strengthen the fight against corruption.

Ultimately, the success of these efforts does not rely on law enforcement alone. It depends on the actions of all individuals and all formations within society – from public servants to politicians, from businesses to political parties, from Parliament to government departments. It depends on the vigilance of citizens, religious bodies, traditional leaders, professional associations, the media and many others. I therefore encourage people to “blow the whistle” should they have information about acts of malfeasance in relation to the abuse of public funds or resources.

It requires a new consciousness and new sense of accountability.

If, as public servants and political office-bearers, we claim to be serious about restoring public trust that has been severely eroded by corruption, we must avoid even the perception of conflicts of interest.

If as public servants and political office-bearers we truly care about the public whose interests we claim to represent, we must allow ordinary members of the public who have interest in doing business with government a fair chance to bid for such business opportunities, instead of passing on inside information about opportunities to our families and friends.

We already have regulations, such as annual financial disclosure, in place to discourage public servants doing business with the state. Anyone bidding for state work has to make a declaration of interest, including whether anyone connected to the bid is employed by the state.

This is clearly not enough. While everyone in South Africa has a right to engage in business activities, we are faced with the real problem of families and friends of political office-bearers or public servants receiving contracts from the state. Not all conduct of this sort is necessarily criminal, but it does contribute to a perception and a culture of nepotism, favouritism and abuse. And it undermines public confidence in the integrity of our institutions and processes.

We are determined to finally deal with the entrenched patronage networks that enable government employees to bid for state contracts through their friends and relatives.

This requires not only better laws and stronger enforcement, but also political will and social mobilisation.

We are going to change the culture in the public service, encouraging more openness and transparency, making it easier to report misuse of public funds and working more closely with civil society to combat corruption. A good example of this, is the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum, which brings together civil society, health sector regulators, law enforcement agencies and government departments to fight fraud and corruption in the area of health – and which has already made much progress in investigating alleged offences.

We will overcome the coronavirus and restore the health of our country and its people. But it will never be that our triumph over this pandemic is won at the expense of our integrity.

We will not allow public funds hard-earned by loyal taxpayers or donations by patriotic companies and individuals and the international community to vanish down a black hole of corruption.

Those found to have broken the law to enrich themselves through this crisis will not get to enjoy their spoils, regardless of who they are or with whom they may be connected.

I have said that COVID-19 presents us with opportunities to change the way live, do business and govern. This moment is definitely a turning point in the fight against corruption.

We are going to act boldly and must act together.

With best wishes,

Cyril Ramaphosa

Government News: From the Desk of the President

Dear Fellow South African,

As several parts of our country experience a surge in coronavirus infections, we are also confronted with the economic damage of this pandemic.

The most recent economic indicators show a drastic decline in economic activity and in confidence. Despite the support measures we have put in place, businesses are being forced to close and jobs are being lost.

The path to recovery will be long and difficult. And so, it needs to start now.

Despite the economic challenges we face, we must continue to work towards the achievement of economic dignity for all South Africans. This is not the time to despair but to act. It is untenable, and unacceptable, to live with an unemployment rate of 30 percent, which will soon increase. It is also impossible to build an economy built on inequality.

It is often said that South Africans do not lack for ideas. We have seen the publication of various economic recovery proposals recently, including by the governing party, organised business, civil society and independent analysts.

I am encouraged by the significant areas of agreement in these proposals. In the State of the Nation Address in February, I said that there were three things we would focus on this year. First, we were going to fix the fundamentals. Second, we would pursue new sources of growth. Third, we would ensure that our actions are underpinned by a capable state.

Many of the plans under discussion raise these fundamentals, such as reliable energy, access to broadband spectrum, competitive ports and efficient transport. Working with our social partners we must speed up the pace of implementation so that we can rebuild the base of our economy.

In all the proposals put forward in recent weeks, there is a substantial emphasis on improving execution. They all say that we should seek out pockets of excellence in the state and support and deepen them. But they also say that we must look outside the state. We need to bring together the best available local skills, whether in business, academia or civil society to support our common programme.

There is a strong commitment to a social compact – and the institutions necessary to support it – so that the reconstruction of our economy can be a shared responsibility and a shared undertaking.

With the advent of the coronavirus, we now need to pursue new sources of growth within a fundamentally different context. Many of the areas we had identified before remain relevant and urgent, such as a growing small and medium enterprise sector and an agricultural sector that delivers food security. Some sectors have taken on a new significance. We should, for example, use this opportunity to build a greener economy, with our entrepreneurs entering new fields such as hybrid cars, fuel cells, battery storage and waste beneficiation. This element has come out quite clearly in the various plans that have been released.

In the year of our chairship of the African Union, we were planning vigorously for the activation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which has been delayed by the pandemic. All social partners see the value of expanding trade in an integrated Africa, with concrete proposals on how to overcome the barriers that impede the ability of Africans to trade with one another. Our strategies to promote local production, which is a common theme across the various recovery plans, should support efforts to create regional value chains on the continent.

When we launched the economic stimulus and recovery plan nearly two years ago, we announced the establishment of an Infrastructure Fund that could blend different forms of finance to drive infrastructure development. This we identified as the flywheel of economic growth. There is now general consensus that our recovery should be led by infrastructure development and maintenance. At the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium organised by the Presidency a few weeks ago, business and government were of one mind on a new methodology to develop an infrastructure pipeline and deliver on it. Investors from the multilateral development banks, development finance institutions and the private sector all showed a strong appetite to make the necessary investments to meet South Africa’s extensive and diverse infrastructure needs.

In the coming weeks, we will work with our social partners to finalise an economic recovery programme that brings together the best of all the various proposals. The most important part of that programme must be the protection and the creation of jobs.

Analysts have estimated that this pandemic will cost the country millions of jobs. In the supplementary budget presented last month, government made provision for job preservation and job creation efforts. The job preservation efforts, such as those through the UIF and tax measures, aim to prevent job losses in the private sector.

However, if we are going to recover from the worst effects of the pandemic, we also need well-crafted public employment schemes. Creating jobs for people that add value to their communities through maintenance, care work and other services, keeps people engaged in productive activity. It helps them to retain and to develop skills. It gives many young people a chance to climb the first rung in the job market ladder. Such jobs complement employment created by businesses as they start to recover and private investment returns.

As the recovery takes hold and the world gradually adjusts to a global economy marked by COVID-19, we expect economic activity to pick up. By then, our initiatives to reform and improve the business environment will establish a firm platform for industries with high potential to flourish.

Since the onset of the pandemic in South Africa, our strategy has been to provide whatever support we can, within our constrained resources, to protect businesses and preserve jobs. Now we must move quickly towards a robust programme of reconstruction and recovery – and we must do so together.

Building on the vast areas of common ground among the proposals from social partners, we now have to put in place a clear, focused and ambitious set of measures to not only restore our economy, but to set it on a new path of inclusive and sustainable growth.

We are faced with a health, social and economic crisis of massive proportions. But we are not daunted, nor discouraged.

We will do what we must to build an economy that is resilient and dynamic, that creates work and opportunity, and that meets the needs of all our people.

We have all the ingredients for an economic recovery. Now let us work together to make it happen.

With best wishes,

Cyril Ramaphosa

Government: From the Desk of the President

Dear Fellow South African,

The old saying that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ comes to mind when I think about the resilience and ingenuity shown by South Africans during the past three months.

This ingenuity is being demonstrated by young entrepreneurs as our country is battling the spread of the coronavirus that has brought about fundamental changes to our way of life and doing business.

As a number of social partners, including government, business, trade unions, community based organisations, economists and political parties, are involved in crafting a new vision for a post-COVID-19 dispensation, a new breed of young entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunities that are opening up as we seek to deal with a new normal in our lives.

The coronavirus is a dark cloud that is hanging over the lives of South Africans and the economic fortunes of our country. South Africa is not alone. Many countries are experiencing harsh economic challenges. Like many countries, we have responded through an economic and social assistance package, worth R500 billion. But we also know that we need to evolve a clear vision and strategic plan that will help us chart our way beyond the impact of COVID-19.

This vision and strategic plan will of necessity have to be a durable and effective social compact among social partners.

As much as COVID-19 hangs over our country, there is a silver lining to this dark cloud. As much as we have to face enormous difficulties and challenges, such as rising unemployment and poverty, there are a number of opportunities that we need to look out for to undo the harsh consequences of coronavirus.

There are a number of South Africans who are searching for the silver lining.

I am very pleased at the combination of foresight, creativity and business acumen displayed by a number of young South Africans who are coming up with home-grown solutions to the contemporary challenges we face.

Some have started small business ventures because of personal circumstances, like losing their jobs. Others who were previously unemployed have seized the opportunity provided by the pandemic to create their own income.

The story of Cloudy Deliveries in Langa, Cape Town, is testimony to the power of a good idea. A group of youth run a bicycle delivery service ferrying goods from the shops to the homes of residents in the township. During the lockdown, they have focused their operations on doing shopping for the elderly who have been encouraged to remain at home. They earn an income and at the same time provide a much-needed service to the community.

Then there is 28-year-old Election Xitsakiso Baloyi from Mankweng in Limpopo, whose pizza-making hobby turned into a fully-fledged business after his family started posting pictures of his creations on social media. With the lockdown preventing people from eating out, he got an avalanche of queries from community members asking if he was selling his pizzas.

Now his business, Rabbit’s Pizza, started with his savings of just R1,000 and the baking pans in his kitchen, employs nine other young people and delivers not just in Mankweng but also in nearby Nwamitwa and Giyani. He says he plans to open new outlets in other rural communities in the near future, and to employ more young people in his area who are without work.

To meet the increasing demand for personal protective equipment, a number of small businesses have been established to manufacture masks, visors and face-shields to supply to businesses and communities.

Ponani Shikweni, 32, from Alexandra township in Gauteng has repurposed her linen manufacturing business to produce face masks. She now employs 35 people, most of whom are under 25. She produces more than 1,000 masks a day to order. Her business has already distributed over 20,000 cloth masks for free to residents of Alexandra.

To keep the nation’s spirits up during the lockdown, our country’s young artists and musicians have taken their talents online, resulting in new business opportunities. One such artist is 18-year-old Judy Jay, a DJ and rising star from Sekhukhune. Her watch parties during the lockdown have attracted the attention of major local and international radio stations, enabling her to promote and grow her brand.

The creative and enterprising spirit of these and many more young people that has been brought to the fore during the pandemic must be harnessed and supported.

Even in our darkest hour, we must look to these green shoots of renewal. They are the silver lining to the dark COVID-19 cloud

Our economic recovery cannot wait until the coronavirus pandemic is over. It needs to start now.

One of the defining developments during the lockdown was how businesses in the townships and rural areas came into their own as people were not able to travel around much. In more ways than one, small and medium enterprises in the townships and rural areas have been able to keep our people supplied with the daily necessities. This demonstrates the resilience of small and medium enterprises during a period of great distress in our country. The capacity and ability of these SMMEs shot to the fore.

We have seen in this pandemic how dependent urban areas are on informal food systems, and how important the informal sector is to livelihoods across the country. We have seen the grave inequalities in access to health care, to savings and even to information and connectivity.

To enable these businesses to thrive we must tackle the barriers to entrepreneurship.

The concentration of markets and capital in large firms limits the potential of small businesses. Then there is spatial inequality, which concentrates poverty in particular parts of our cities, towns and villages. Entrepreneurs in these areas find it difficult to raise the funds to launch and grow businesses and are often far away from the markets where they can sell their products.

It is not enough simply to urge individuals to take advantage of opportunities or to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit among our youth. We need instead to deliberately build township and rural economies.

As part of our effort to build a new economy out of this pandemic, we must create the conditions that will enable every individual to thrive in a society that supports, nurtures and helps them to succeed.

Small businesses present the greatest growth opportunity for our economy and are a major source of job creation. In such challenging times, when many have lost their jobs and the unemployed have found it even harder to eke out an existence, we must act with renewed urgency to support these businesses.

When it comes to the township and rural economy, this means providing access to finance for entrepreneurs and the self-employed. We have made great progress in extending support to 1,000 youth-owned businesses since the State of the Nation Address in February. We will reach this target by International Youth Day on 12 August, despite the delays caused by the lockdown.

It also means expanding access to affordable and high-speed broadband internet, and supporting new technologies – including successful aggregation platforms like SweepSouth or Kandua – which link small businesses to demand.

It means backing areas of opportunity such as in early childhood development, the food economy and the green economy.

During the lockdown, we have extended support to SMMEs in the form of loans, grants and debt restructuring. The COVID-19 UIF Relief Scheme has now disbursed R26 billion to more than 6 million workers across all types of business. The R200 billion loan guarantee scheme is being adjusted to make it easier for applicants to receive funding quickly.

Through the work of the Department of Small Business Development and its agencies, the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention and other initiatives, we are placing the township and rural economy at the centre of our reconstruction effort.

Whether it is a vendor selling their wares at a taxi rank, a small internet cafe providing vital services like connectivity and printing, or home industries and mobile wagons selling food, these businesses are a lifeline to both urban and rural communities. They are a means of livelihood for their owners and more often than not employ others from the same community.

Through the Township Entrepreneurship Fund we aim to support township businesses with skills development and access to markets and infrastructure. Although its launch has been delayed by the lockdown, we will put it front and centre as we now begin the arduous task of rebuilding our economy.

International experience has shown that a country that invests in and supports small businesses stimulates economic activity and increases opportunities for self-employment. This is our path to growth.

The many innovative businesses that have been started during this pandemic have showcased the potential of our people and our young people in particular.

It is our duty as government, business and society as a whole to lend our full support to them on their journey towards self-sufficiency and financial sustainability – both to protect the jobs we have and to replace those we have lost.

At the same time, this is a rallying cry to other young people out there to take the great leap of faith into self-employment. The best businesses come from good ideas that respond to a community need.

The experiences of these young people show the importance of not letting a good opportunity go to waste; more so when there is a need for what you have to offer.

I call on young people, especially in townships, to take advantage of the opportunities on offer to guide them along the path towards entrepreneurship.

The conditions may not be ideal. The circumstances may not be perfect. But now is as good a time as ever to start. And you can be assured of our full support.

With best wishes,

Cyril Ramaphosa

From The Desk of the President – Monday, 22 June 2020

Dear Fellow South African,

More than 100 days after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa and after two months of a nation-wide lockdown, our economy is in the throes of the anticipated fallout from this global crisis. The predictions of businesses shutting down and jobs being lost are materialising.

Last week a number of companies announced plans to retrench staff. From aviation to construction, from entertainment and leisure to hospitality, companies have indicated their intention to retrench staff because of heavy losses incurred over the past three months. In other cases, businesses are closing permanently. Small businesses whose turnover has been wiped out will be even harder hit.

As a country, we have all been keenly aware of the consequences of shutting down economic activity during the lockdown that was absolutely critical to save the lives of our people.

South Africa is not alone. In Italy, the UK, the US, Germany, India, China and nearly every country that had imposed some form of lockdown, jobs have been lost or hours of workers reduced. It is being spoken of as a ‘job loss tsunami’.

In April the International Labour Organisation forecast there would be around 305 million job losses worldwide. The situation of workers in the informal economy is even worse, with an estimated 1.6 billion workers in danger of losing their livelihoods.

For a country such as ours, which was already facing an unemployment crisis and weak economic growth, difficult decisions and difficult days lie ahead. We would urge that the difficult decisions to be taken are taken with care and with due regard to balancing the sustainability of companies and the livelihoods of workers. It is important that whatever is done is underpinned by ensuring a just transition to all concerned.

The measures we put in place to protect local businesses during the lockdown in the form of loans, tax relief, debt restructuring, extended credit lines and retail rental exemptions are continuing to provide vital support. Temporary social assistance to poor households is gathering pace and providing vital relief. However, these measures can only go so far.

This week the Minister of Finance will table a revised national budget in Parliament. Revenue has plummeted and difficult decisions will be made in the coming weeks and months as we seek to reprioritise our programmes, manage public spending and scale back on projects where necessary.

The economic hardship that has been forced on a number of companies in the private sector will be forced on a number of entities in the public sector as well. The government, business, labour and civil society will have to deepen their collaboration as never before in driving the national recovery effort.

As more economic activity resumes, struggling businesses will be ‘playing catch-up’ to recoup lost productivity and revenue for some time to come. As much as we seek to protect current jobs, we also need to create new ones, and attract new, greater levels of investment. It is imperative that we open avenues for self-employment and entrepreneurship, especially for young people.

In the past two years the business community has made commitments to invest in various businesses in our country. It is our hope that our business community and international investors will honour the investment commitments made in a number of forums such as the South Africa Investment Conference.

Coronavirus has resulted in companies around the world re-evaluating their investment and expansion plans, and we must anticipate that some of these commitments may be scaled back and even cancelled. South Africa still has great investment opportunities and assets to invest in.

We remain optimistic that as we gradually return to normalcy, and as we forge ahead with the economic reform measures embarked upon earlier this year, that the growing investment levels we were seeing before coronavirus hit will slowly but surely return.

The announcement last week by Amazon that it is on a drive to hire up to 3,000 South Africans for a variety of positions is a welcome signal, as is the announcement that a local energy storage company Metair has secured a number of contracts from the Ford Motor Company, and that the pan-African cloud and data solutions entity Africa Data Centres has acquired a hi-tech data centre in Johannesburg.

Tomorrow the inaugural Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium of South Africa will take place. A number of catalytic infrastructure projects in water, transportation, energy, digital infrastructure, human settlements and agriculture will be showcased. Project sponsorship has been sought from the private sector, multilateral development banks, development finance institutions, asset managers and commercial banks.

Through the delivery of sustainable and fit-for-purpose infrastructure we are able to meet our developmental aspirations and revive economic activity, while also creating jobs at scale at a time when they are needed most.

This infrastructure investment forms an integral part of our recovery effort. This will be bolstered by the reduction of interest rates by the South African Reserve Bank, support extended to businesses during the pandemic and regulatory relief for the financial sector, among others.

The job creation efforts we began in early 2020, such as the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, and the existing ones such as the Expanded Public Works Programme and Community Works Programme, will be scaled up. The job-creation initiatives and programmes the private sector began before coronavirus must resume, and new ones should be designed and implemented.

There are tough times ahead. There are no quick-fixes and we have to be realistic about our prospects, especially about the time it will take for our economy to recover. Even the advanced economies will contract substantially because of COVID-19 and it will take a long time for economic output to return to pre-pandemic levels.

At the same time we remain optimistic.

We will keep trying, because we understand that despite the hardship it has caused, the lockdown was necessary and has saved lives. No price can be put on human life.

Let us put shoulder to the wheel and turn this adversity into opportunity. Let us reimagine and repurpose our economy and put it firmly on a solid and sustainable path.

With best wishes,

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