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Sona2021: More vaccines, speeding up economic recovery, fighting corruption

The president's announcement on the imminent arrival of more than 40 million doses of vaccine will be welcomed after problems emerged with the efficacy of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address in Parliament on 11 February 2021. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG - Instead of presenting a long laundry list of promises, Cyril Ramaphosa focused on four key areas during his fifth State of the Nation Address: defeating the pandemic, speeding up economic recovery, fighting corruption and strengthening the capacity of the state.

His announcement on the imminent arrival of more than 40 million doses of vaccine will be welcomed after problems emerged with the efficacy of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

Ramaphosa was at pains not to make promises but to report on progress to restore growth and create jobs.

He spoke to four key areas; massive infrastructure rollout, increase in local production, employment stimulus to create jobs and steps to expand electricity capacity.

That infrastructure rollout is already under way but he also talked of the need to rebuild lost skills in government to manage it. The infrastructure investment programme has about R340 billion in the pipeline for industries such as electricity water and telecommunications.

He has also commended South Africans for standing together to fight the coronavirus, saying South Africa was like the fynbos in the Western Cape: tough and resilient.

Referring to the variant of the virus in the country, the president said the news about the AstraZeneca vaccine being ineffective was a setback, but there was a plan.

“While it should not delay the start of the vaccination programme by much, it will affect the choice of vaccines and the manner of their deployment.”

He said more vaccines were on the way: “The first phase of our vaccination programme, which is targeted at health and other frontline workers, will now use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has been shown to be effective against the 501Y.V2 variant.”

And the is a plan to get more: “Pfizer has committed 20 million vaccine doses commencing with deliveries at the end of the first quarter.

FULL SPEECH: President Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address

Turning to unemployment, the president said the country had seen a sharp decline in growth, with unemployment now standing at over 30.8%. He said jobs would be created with the rollout of several infrastructure projects on water, roads and housing.

“Since the announcement of the Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, we have launched two major human settlements projects that will provide homes to almost 68,000 households in the Gauteng province.”

And work is under way to build South Africa's first smart city in Lanseria.

“The Lanseria Smart City, the first new city to be built in a democratic South Africa, is now a reality in the making. The draft masterplan for this smart city – which will become home to between 350,000 to 500,000 people within the next decade – was completed in November 2020 and is now out for public comment.”

The president also called on South Africans to buy local to create jobs and supporting small business. He referred to his suit which was made locally.

He said the aim was to reduce reliance on imports by 20% over the next five years and this included chicken and sugar.

But the president also welcomed foreign investment, especially by Ford.

"Last week, the Ford Motor Company announced a R16 billion investment to expand their manufacturing facility in Tshwane for the next-generation Ford Ranger bakkie. This investment will support the growth of around 12 small and medium enterprises in automotive component manufacturing.”

And he said financial investment pledges had increased: “We have now received R773 billion in investment commitments towards our 5-year target of R1.2 trillion.”

Turning to Eskom, that has battled to keep up with electricity demand, the president said Eskom was expanding its network including the use of natural resources.

“Government will soon be initiating the procurement of an additional 11,800 megawatts of power from renewable energy, natural gas, battery storage and coal in line with the Integrated Resource Plan 2019.”

He said there would be multiple bid windows to increase capacity as Eskom was worried that there may be a deficit as power stations reached the end of their lives.

“Eskom estimates that, without additional capacity, there will be an electricity supply shortfall of between 4,000 and 6,000 megawatts over the next 5 years, as old coal-fired power stations reach their end of life.”

Turning to land redistribution, the president said there had been notable progress.

“To date, government has redistributed over 5 million hectares of land, totalling around 5,500 farms, to more than 300,000 beneficiaries.”

And corruption was receiving attention with a new advisory task team.

“We will shortly be appointing the members of the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council, which is a multi-sectoral body that will oversee the initial implementation of the strategy and the establishment of an independent statutory anti-corruption body that reports to Parliament.”

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