Ramaphosa – Questions and Oral replies

Here follows a “speech” by Cyril Ramaphosa about the Oral Replies to Questions in the National Assembly, Parliament – 2019

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QUESTION: With reference to his address at the 25 Years of Democracy Conference on 23 July 2019, wherein he stated that nation building has economic, political, cultural and social dimensions that are interrelated and dynamic, what steps is the Government taking to remove race, gender and class as determinants of economic and social advancement in order to advance nation building over the next 25 years; what are the relevant details of the Government’s plans to reduce inequality and thereby create a fairer and more just society?
REPLY

The unemployment figures announced earlier this week underline the extent and the urgency of the challenge we must confront.

As the Minister of Finance outlined in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement yesterday, the economy is estimated to grow at 0.5% this year.

Public finances are severely constrained and require far-reaching measures to curb expenditure.

As a country faced with this grave situation, we can lament, or we can act.

We have chosen to act, to confront these challenges, and to undertake the painstaking work required to rebuild our economy and restore it to a path of growth.

The measures that we have embarked upon are in support of the vision of  the National Development Plan, which guides the measures that government is taking to remove race, gender and class as determinants of economic and social advancement.

The Medium Term Strategic Framework provides a 5-year programme to advance the towards the 2030 vision of the NDP.

At the centre of this framework is the achievement of greater economic inclusion through growth, job creation, skills development and the reduction of poverty.

This is necessary to achieve a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it and where the wealth of the country is shared among all its people.

This means that we need to grow the economy and ensure that it benefits all South Africans.

One of the ways of generating growth in the economy is to increase the level of investment.

Our drive to significantly increase investment in the economy is gathering momentum.

Next week, we will hold the second South Africa Investment Conference, where around 1,500 investors and business people will gather in Johannesburg to consider the wide range of investment opportunities in our country.

Vital in the effort to drive investment is our infrastructure build programme.

We have said in the past that infrastructure is one of the key drivers of economic growth.

Infrastructure build decreased significantly over the past few years.

It was with a view to addressing this problem that we decided to set upInfrastructure Fund, through which we aim to to mobilise funds from various sources – both public and private – to invest in priority projects that will expand the capacity of our economy and create jobs and improve service delivery.

This is taking place alongside, and in support of, the implementation of an enhanced industrial strategy.

As part of this strategy, we are working with industries that have a high potential for growth on masterplans to expand their production and contribution to job creation.

To address, in particular, the spatial distortion within our economy – which has both racial and gender dimensions – we are developing special economic zones, reviving local industrial parks and establishing new business centres and digital hubs.

By supporting small medium enterprises in our cities, townships and rural areas, we are enabling the entrance of more black South Africans and women into productive and sustainable economic activity.

We have a single-minded focus on the creation of employment on a massive scale.

While the economy is creating net new jobs, these are not nearly enough to match the number of people entering the job market.

This is because the working age population is growing faster than jobs are being created and the number of people who have now started looking for work again has increased.

While economic growth is absolutely necessary for job creation, we have embarked on specific measures to direct young unemployed people into employment and other economic activity.

This programme aims to ensure that every young person has a place to go, whether in further education and training, skills development, employment, work experience, entrepreneurship or youth service.

We are currently working with our social partners on implementation of the Jobs Summit agreements, focusing on challenges and opportunities in specific industries.

Our economic programmes are, fundamentally, directed towards the reduction of poverty.

We have said that within the next decade no person in South Africa will go hungry, and that we will eradicate poverty within a generation.

This, more than anything else, will remove race, gender and class as determinants of economic and social advancement.

We are working on programmes to reduce the cost of living – through, for example, improved public transport – and expanding the asset base of the poor – through accelerated land reform and the provision of well-located housing.

We are working to improve the quality and accessibility of health care for the poor, and – through the introduction of the National Health Insurance – to reduce the massive inequalities between the public and private health sectors.

The national minimum wage, which came into operation in January this year, aims to raise the income of the lowest paid workers and reduce income inequality.

Ultimately, the most effective measure to reduce inequality is education and the development of the skills.

Since the advent of democracy, we have made great strides in making education accessible to black South Africans, women and the working class.

Within the next decade, we want to ensure that every 10 year old will be able to read for meaning, and have therefore called for a massive reading campaign.

This is taking place alongside the work being done to improve the quality and the outcomes of basic education, the expansion of free tertiary education to students from poor and middle-class families, greater investment in TVET colleges and the expansion of workplace learning.

As I have said in this House before, nation building requires that we take measures to advance those South Africans who have been disadvantaged by unfair discrimination.

That is why we have directed public resources towards the poor, why we have implemented employment equity and broad-based black economic empowerment policies, and why we have massively expanded access to education.

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QUESTION: What is the current status of his Cabinet’s discussions relating to the proposed economic recovery plan of the Minister of Finance, Mr T T Mboweni and (b) by when will the recovery plan be tabled before Cabinet for a decision?

REPLY:

Since the State of the Nation Address in February 2018, government has undertaken a number of reforms within the economy and several institutions of state to stimulate growth and job creation.

We have built a broad social consensus on the measures we need to fundamentally transform the structure of the economy so that it is more inclusive, more competitive, more labour intensive

These efforts have resulted in initiatives like the Jobs Summit, which has produced practical measures to protect existing jobs and create new ones.

As part of this process, we have established regular monthly meetings with leaders of business, labour and communities to review progress in several areas of reform.

The paper published by the National Treasury in August 2019 on ‘Economic transformation, inclusive growth, and competitiveness’ proposed a range of additional reforms to address constraints to growth.

These proposals have been extensively discussed, not just in government, but across society.

It is significant that National Treasury has received over 800 substantive submissions on the paper, and have this week published a revised version of the paper.

Several of the reforms proposed in the paper have already been acted upon, and we have seen important progress in several areas.

To cite just a few examples, we have embarked on an integrated series of interventions to increase youth employment, which is being coordinated out of the President’s office.

Through the measures outlined in the ‘Roadmap for Eskom’, released earlier this week, we are taking steps to make the energy sector more efficient and competitive.

We are working with the regulator on an accelerated timetable for the release of broadband spectrum.

We have strengthened our competition legislation and reducing red tape as part of our efforts to improve the competitiveness of our economy.

We have undertaken several reforms to the visa regime to promote tourism and make it easier for business people and investors to visit the country.

Through the implementation of these and several other measures contained in the Treasury paper, we are establishing a platform for a return to growth and for the creation of much-needed jobs.

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QUESTION: Whether, in view of his recent emergency action plan announcement that will see R1, 1 billion redirected to the fight against gender-based violence, any determination has been made with regard to how the funds will be distributed and spent and (b) which department(s) will be responsible to account for its expenditure?

When I asked this House to approve the emergency action plan to combat gender-based violence and femicide two months ago, it was in response to a national crisis.

It was also a response to mounting calls from our people to match our condemnation of such violence with the commitment of the necessary human, financial and other resources to tackle this crisis.

Since I announced that government would commit R1.1 billion towards the implementation of the plan, National Treasury has written to key departments and entities asking them to urgently identify funds that can be reprioritised.

Departments must be commended for readily and swiftly responding to this call.

We are now in a position to allocate more than R1.6 billion from the 2019/20 financial year baseline spending allocation.

Accountability for the expenditure on the reprioritised funds lies with the respective departments.

The multisectoral interim steering committee established after last year’s Presidential Summit on Gender-based Violence and Femicide will continue to play a key role in driving implementation of this plan.

It will, among other things, review, monitor and evaluate progress,  and ensure there is adequate budgeting and resourcing to support the five key pillars of the plan.

As an example, an amount of R179 million has been allocated to education, awareness raising and prevention programmes.

We know that gender-based violence often has its roots in social, cultural and other norms that perpetuate patriarchy and chauvinism.

We also know we have to focus on prevention as the first point of intervention.

The Department of Social Development, in collaboration with other departments, will drive the roll-out of programmes that will engage with men’s formations, traditional leaders, student organisations, youth groups, offenders inside prisons, officials working in the criminal justice system, and communities at large.

Work is being done to enhance our current legal and policy framework to make it more responsive to the needs of survivors of gender-based violence.

This includes bail and sentencing reform to ensure that perpetrators face justice and that the law acts as an effective deterrent.

This funding will ensure that legislation that has been pending is finalised, and, where necessary, that capacity is made available for new laws to be drafted.

An amount of R517 million will go to care and support for survivors of gender-based violence.

Two hundred social workers will be appointed to provide targeted services to survivors at various social services centres, including at the national network of Thuthuzela Care Centres.

It will also be used to support social services for survivors at local and district municipality level.

The plan furthermore calls for the creation of more economic opportunities for women who are vulnerable to abuse because of poverty.

The budget for this intervention is still to be finalised through the ongoing reprioritisation process; as is the approximately R20 million still needed to strengthen accountability measures.

To ensure that the reallocation of resources has the necessary impact, government is working with civil society and other partners to ensure that all of these measures are implemented with urgency.

Given the breadth of interventions, this is a challenging undertaking, but we are confident that – working together – we will succeed.

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QUESTION: Whether the recommendations of the final report of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture that was delivered in July 2019 will be implemented so as to restore the human dignity of the majority of South Africans who are landless; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the relevant details?

REPLY:

As I indicated in this House on 22 August, the report of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture has been presented to Cabinet and has been made available to the public.

Cabinet still needs to finalise its deliberations on the findings and recommendations of the Advisory Panel.

The Advisory Panel has produced several far-reaching recommendations to ensure that we correct the skewed distribution of land in the country, a necessary precondition to our objective of reducing inequality in our country.

This report recommends legal mechanisms to recognise, register, record and enforce a continuum of land rights, so that all our people become rights holders.

The Panel has called on government to immediately identify well-located and unused or under-utilised land and buildings for the purposes of urban settlement and to prioritise poor tenants for upgrading their rights.

In line with this recommendation, Cabinet has already taken decisions on the release of land for human settlements.

The Advisory Panel found that the mechanism of land expropriation without compensation is one of a range of methods that could be used to acquire land for the purposes of land reform.

It further proposed circumstances in which such expropriation could be considered.

The Panel’s recommendations complement and reinforce the work being done by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform and Agriculture.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee, which is chaired by the Deputy President, is tasked with coordinating and providing political leadership to accelerate land reform.

The report of the Advisory Panel has provided the country with a comprehensive, just and sustainable approach to land reform.

Cabinet is therefore determined to shortly finalise its consideration of the recommendations so that the land reform process can proceed at a faster rate and have a greater impact.

This is necessary not only to address the plight of the landless, but to boost the economy, create jobs and reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas.

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QUESTION: (a) What were the resolutions that were agreed upon by each local and international economic summit that impacted the economy of the Republic directly, which he attended as the President of the Republic since 1 May 2019 and (b) what number of jobs have been created since the resolutions were implemented?

REPLY:

Since the start of the 6th democratic administration in May 2019, I have attended six international summits, covering both political and economic issues.

These were the:

– G20 Summit in Japan
– African Union Extraordinary Summit in Niger
– SADC Summit in Tanzania
– Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development in Japan
– Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia

These gatherings provided an opportunity for South Africa to advance its foreign policy and promote its economic interests.

At the G20 Summit in June, for example, leaders reaffirmed their support for the necessary reform of the World Trade Organisation to improve its functioning.

They agreed that action is necessary regarding the functioning of the dispute settlement system consistent with the rules as negotiated by WTO members.

On the margins of the G20 Summit, we participated in a Japan-South Africa business roundtable with business people from each country.

Among other things, this roundtable generated leads for possible investment projects in sectors such as minerals processing, automotives,and battery production.

Through this engagement, we were able to strengthen relationships with the Japanese business community.

This is important as Japan is South Africa’s fifth largest trading partner and one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment into South Africa.

The African Union Summit in Niger in July launched the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area, and directed that the outstanding work on tariff schedules, rules of origin and commitments on trade in services be submitted to their next Session in February 2020 for adoption.

The decisions of the Summit are significant for the South African economy since the African Continental Free Trade Area promises great opportunities for trade with other countries on the continent, broadening our manufacturing based and boosting employment.

The SADC Summit in August 2019 in Tanzania gave impetus to the implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap andadopted the Regional Mining Vision and Action Plan.

Together, these programmes aim to increase cooperation among countries in Southern Africa on building regional value chains and enable countries to expand their manufacturing base and diversify their exports.

The Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development – or TICAD – which was held in Japan in August resulted in a commitment from Japan to contribute to economic transformation in Africa and improve the business environment through innovation and private sector engagement.

The Government of Japan undertook to bolster diversification and industrialisation, support Japanese investment in Africa, and offer support to the development of regional agricultural capability.

The first Russia-Africa Summit, which was held in Sochi last week, focused on forging economic ties between Russia and African countries, developing joint projects, and collaborating in the humanitarian and social sectors.

In addition to the discussion between government leaders, there were also productive engagements between Russian and South African businesses, which discussed cooperation in areas such as mining, information and communications technology and oil extraction.

While these international summits do not directly create jobs, they can contribute to an improved environment for investment, trade and cooperation.

They provide a platform for the South African government and business to promote the investment opportunities in the country, to explore new markets and to forge strategic partnerships.

They also provide an opportunity to advance South Africa’s position on a range of issues like the reform of multilateral institutions to international support for African development.

The agreements reached and the partnerships forged at these Summits make an important contribution to economic growth, development and job creation here in South Africa.

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QUESTION: What progress is the Government making to create employment and other economic opportunities, which are fundamental to achieving the Global Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2 and 10 of no poverty, zero hunger and reduced inequalities?

REPLY:

Three months ago, South Africa submitted its first Voluntary National Review on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals to the United Nations.

The aspirations of the SDGs complement those of the National Development Plan, especially the overarching objective of eradicating poverty and inequality.

The report highlights progress in a number of fields from literacy and child mortality to access to basic services and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The report also notes that South Africa is one of the most unequal societies on earth.

As the unemployment statistics released this week show, we will continue to bear the brunt of the historical distortions of our labour market and our economy for a long time to come.

Our task is to implement measures that stimulate and grow the economy and create jobs, but at the same time address and overcome the root causes of inequality.

Attracting domestic and international private capital into our economy leads to more job opportunities.

Over the past 18 months we have been on a concerted drive to implement policy and regulatory reform to make it easier and cheaper to do business, and undertake other measures to stimulate growth.

Next week we will host the second South Africa Investment Conference as part of our drive to attract R1.2 trillion over five years.

We will be showcasing investment opportunities in a diverse range of sectors, including infrastructure, mining, oceans economy and renewable energy.

The commitments made at last year’s conference have already translated into projects that have created jobs.

Through the Jobs Summit framework agreement, we have committed resources to support rural and township economies, to stimulate entrepreneurship and encourage innovation.

Funding has been set aside for the establishment of a township and rural entrepreneurship fund that will enable small businesses to get easier access to markets, financing, business support and other services.

We are revitalising industrial parks around the country and expanding the Special Economic Zone programme.

Among the industrial parks that have been prioritised include Botshabelo, Phuthaditjhaba, Garankuwa, Isithebe, Komani and Seshego.

Land and agrarian reform are key to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Access to land enables our people to farm for themselves and commercially, to have a place to live, and to have an asset that can be used as collateral for business and other loans.

We are implementing a range of measures to support commercial, small scale and subsistence farmers.

This is essential to fighting poverty in rural households.

If we are to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality, we must address youth unemployment.

We have set up a project management office in the Presidency to develop an integrated and comprehensive youth employment strategy.

This office will coordinate the many initiatives that exist to address youth unemployment both within and beyond government, and to make them work together in an integrated manner.

The Expanded Public Works Programme has been a major source of economic opportunities for young people and women: in the process imparting on the job skills and training.

We also have to reform our education system to make it more responsive to the requirements of our economy.

This includes the work to introduce technical subjects in more of our schools and the conversion of traditional high schools into technical high schools.

To overcome the unemployment crisis, to end poverty and reduce inequality requires a concerted effort by all social partners, including government, labour, business, civil society and this Parliament.

http://www.thepresidency.gov.za/parliamentary-qa/president-cyril-ramaphosa%27s-oral-replies-questions-national-assembly%2C-parliament

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President Ramaphosa makes oral replies in Parliament, 31 October 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa makes oral replies to questions from MPs in the National Assembly.

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