Monday, 05 July 2021
Dear Fellow South African,
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic early last year, we have been waging a struggle on many fronts. We have been working to save lives, restore human health and protect livelihoods, and all the while revive an economy that was deeply damaged by the pandemic.
As we intensify these efforts in the face of a third wave of infections, we are greatly encouraged by the latest evidence of economic recovery.
Last week, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) announced that we recorded yet another record trade surplus in May, to the value of R54.6 billion. The surplus is due to a 1.5% increase in exports between April and May. Our trade balance surplus has been increasing year on year.
The trade surplus is primarily driven by mineral and precious metal exports as well as exports of vehicle and transport equipment, chemical products and agricultural products. High commodity prices and rising global demand is good for our economy, particularly the mining sector.
Rising global metals prices will play a significant role in accelerating our recovery from the pandemic downturn. In addition, they open up a host of new opportunities in the mining value chain, boosting the fortunes of the mines themselves and with them the suppliers of capital goods and the options for beneficiation.
Mining has always had a dual role in our economy and society.
On the one hand, mining contributes over half of our goods exports, around 10% of GDP and 5% of employment. It is a pillar of our capital goods industry. It is not a coincidence that when global metals prices peak, our economy and job creation also surge.
On the other hand, mining has historically been central to South Africa’s deep inequalities. Ownership is concentrated in a few huge companies, while workplaces, pay-scales and communities around the mines are still largely shaped by discriminatory relationships established under apartheid.
The challenge is to benefit from the mining boom while laying the groundwork for more diversified, inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth.
We need to ensure that the returns from mining are used to promote more employment-friendly activities, and that they empower mineworkers and mining communities. We have to direct investments in infrastructure and a more efficient regulatory framework to both take advantage of new opportunities in mining and to support overall growth once the upward cycle in commodity prices ends.
In constant dollar terms, prices for most of our metals exports – led by platinum, gold and iron ore – are now as high as they were at the peak of the last commodity boom in 2011. These prices have helped sustain the economy despite the sharp decline in the hospitality and tourism industries. As a result, our growth has recovered far better than we thought possible in the bleak days of last April, although employment creation is still far behind.
Now is the time to facilitate investment along the mining value chain to promote broader job creation, small business development and growth in dynamic new industries.
Investment in infrastructure is a crucial part of government’s contribution to growth in mining. We have seen that with the rapid growth in the platinum belt over the past 20 years. Kumba Iron Ore would not exist without Transnet’s bulk ore lines from the Karoo to the coast. The new mining developments in the Waterberg in Limpopo depend on the state for efficient and low-cost transport and energy.
But government also faces a host of other worthy demands for infrastructure support. They range from providing basic services for communities hit by the COVID-19 crisis, to upgrading industrial sites for manufacturing, to fixing the national electricity system.
The challenge in these circumstances is to use investment in infrastructure for the mining value chain to improve conditions for all of our producers and our communities. Our new investments in mining must mobilise resources from outside of the government and contribute to broader economic development.
Our recent decision to facilitate private generation of electricity up to 100 MW demonstrates the kind of smart measure that we need. It crowds in investment from the mines and refineries for renewable generation, helps to stabilise the electricity supply for producers across the economy and gives Eskom space to improve maintenance on its own plants.
Similarly, mining projects can help pay for bulk water developments, which also serve our communities, for the transport corridor from eThekwini through Zimbabwe and beyond and for better broadband access in rural areas. We need to design these projects so that they support new economic activities in agriculture, manufacturing and services and also empower smaller businesses. In short, these projects must leverage our mineral riches to support broad-based industrialisation.
In 1965, independent Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah exhorted parliamentarians to use the country’s natural resources as a catalyst for development. He said: “We have the blessing of the wealth of our vast resources, the power of our talents and the potentialities of our people. Let us grasp now the opportunities before us and meet the challenge to our survival.”
As South Africa we too now face a challenge to our economic survival. Mining is vital to our economy, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Let us grasp the opportunities that exist in this sector so that mining can help guide our path to a more inclusive and equitable economy.
With best regards,
President Cyril Ramaphosa
STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA ON PROGRESS IN THE NATIONAL EFFORT TO CONTAIN THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
27 June 2021
Our former President Nelson Mandela once wrote:
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way.
“But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”.
As a country, we have faced two devastating waves of coronavirus infections.
We have overcome these by responding swiftly and decisively, and by acting together to contain the spread of the virus and protect ourselves, our families and our communities.
We now face another great challenge, another hill to climb.
Twelve days ago, I addressed you to warn that a new and deadly third wave of infections had begun in a number of our provinces, and was spreading.
The average number of daily new infections was more than doubling, hospital admissions were rising, and deaths from COVID-19 were increasing by nearly 50 per cent.
As I address you this evening, the situation has gotten worse.
Along with many other countries in Africa, South Africa is seeing a massive resurgence of infections.
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a third wave of the disease is underway on the continent.
To date, African Union Member States have reported over 5.2 million cases and over 138,000 deaths from COVID-19.
The COVID-19 virus that descended on our country in March last year has been continuing to mutate, creating new variants.
Our scientists tell us that COVID-19 virus has many variants. Last year, we experienced the Beta variant.
In addition, we now have the Delta variant.
This variant was first detected in India at the end of March this year, and is now found in 85 countries.
The Delta variant spread like wildfire in India in an alarming manner.
The Delta variant has now been detected in five of our provinces, namely the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.
The evidence we have is that the Delta variant is rapidly displacing the Beta variant, which has been dominant in our country until now.
We are concerned about the rapid spread of this variant.
Firstly, because it is more transmissible than previously circulating viruses, meaning it is easier to catch through person-to-person contact.
It is thought to be twice as contagious as the Beta variant.
Secondly, because it is more contagious, it can infect far more people.
As with the previous variants, you can pass it on without even knowing you have it. Thirdly, there is now emerging scientific evidence that people previously infected with the Beta variant do not have full protection against the Delta variant, and may get re- infected.
Fourthly, because it is much more contagious, the measures we have so far adopted to contain the spread of the virus may no longer be sufficient to reduce transmission.
There is also much we do not know about this variant.
For example, it is not clear that it causes more severe symptoms. Preliminary data from other countries suggests that it is not more severe.
Reports from some countries, including on our continent, also suggest that infections and clinical illness in children may be more common with the delta variant, even as the overall rate of infection remains substantially lower than in adults.
The rapid spread of this variant is extremely serious.
Even if it is not more severe, the rate at which people are infected could lead to many more people becoming ill and requiring treatment at the same time.
We need to take extra precautions.
As of today, the 7-day average of new daily cases nationally has overtaken the peak of the first wave in July last year, and will soon overtake the peak of the second wave we experienced in January this year.
Gauteng now accounts for more than 60 per cent of new cases in the country.
With the exceptions of the Northern Cape and Free State, infections are rising rapidly in all other provinces.
We also must remain vigilant in the Northern Cape and Free State, which may experience a second spike of cases if the new variant spreads there as well.
We must all be worried about what we are seeing unfold before our very eyes.
Every one of us has a friend, a family member or a colleague who has been infected. There are few in our country who have not had to bury a family member, a friend or a loved one who lost their lives to this disease.
We are in the grip of a devastating wave that by all indications seems like it will be worse than those that preceded it.
The peak of this third wave looks set to be higher than the previous two. The 1st wave lasted 15 weeks. The 2nd wave lasted 9 weeks.
We don’t know how long this one will last, but indications are that it could last longer. I know that is the last thing many of you want to hear.
We have all had to endure great hardship over the past year and a half.
We may have thought that with life slowly returning to normal, we could take a more casual approach to the public health regulations.
Perhaps we are fed up with wearing a mask on public transport and decide to keep it off one day. When we see nobody objects or complains, we stop wearing it.
We go to social gatherings with a mask on, but take it off once we are inside.
When we meet our friends and loved ones we hug, kiss and shake hands, believing ourselves and them to be safe.
We continue to accept invitations to social gatherings and parties, and host our own. The difficult truth is that complacency comes at a high price.
We must maintain our guard and continue to be careful at all times.
We must follow the public health regulations that are there for our own safety and the safety of others.
Safeguarding the capacity of our health facilities to cope with rising infections is a priority.
In several provinces, our public health facilities are stretched to their limits, and private facilities are also buckling under the strain.
Even as our hospitals have made extraordinary efforts to accommodate patients, ICU beds are in short supply.
What we are seeing is that the existing containment measures in place are not enough to cope with the speed and scale of new infections.
In considering what new measures we have to take we have drawn on international best practice and scientific data from studies across the world.
Our priority is to break the chain of transmission by reducing person-to-person contact and thereby help to flatten the curve.
Based on scientific advice we received from the Ministerial Advisory Committee and further consultation with our provinces and metros and traditional leaders, and on the recommendation of the National Coronavirus Command Council, Cabinet has decided that the country should move to Adjusted Alert Level 4.
Cabinet decided that to ensure that our response is appropriate and proportionate to the current situation, the additional restrictions we are announcing this evening will be in place for the next 14 days.
We will assess the impact of these interventions after 14 days to determine whether they need to be maintained or adjusted.
Therefore, the following measures are to be in place across the country from tomorrow, Monday, the 28th of June 2021 to Sunday, the 11th of July 2021:
• All gatherings – whether indoors or outdoors – are prohibited. These include religious, political, cultural and social gatherings.
• Funerals and cremations are permitted, but attendance may not exceed 50 people and all social distancing and health protocols must be observed.
• Night vigils, after-funeral gatherings and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are not allowed.
• Public spaces, such as beaches and parks, will remain open. However, no gatherings will be permitted.
• A curfew will be in place from 9pm to 4am, and all non-essential establishments will need to close by 8pm.
• The sale of alcohol both for on-site and off-site consumption is prohibited.
Our Ministerial Advisory Committee has advised that the limited restrictions previously imposed were not that effective and that a prohibition will ease the pressure that is placed on hospital services by alcohol-related emergency incidents.
• Because of the burden of infections in Gauteng, travel in and out of the province for leisure purposes will be prohibited. This does not include work, business or commercial travel, transit through airports or for the transport of goods.
If you are currently not in your place of residence, you will be allowed to return home to or from Gauteng.
• Visits to old age homes, care facilities and other ‘congregant settings’ will be restricted.
• Restaurants and other eateries will only be permitted to sell food for take-away or delivery. This is because it is not possible for patrons to wear masks while eating or drinking in these establishments.
The closure of schools and other educational institutions for the winter holidays will be brought forward.
Schools will start closing from this Wednesday, the 30th of June, and all schools will be expected to be closed by the end of the week, on Friday.
Contact classes at tertiary institutions will end by Wednesday, the 30th of June, with limited access to the institutions.
Residences will however remain open.
The Ministers of Basic Education and Higher Education, Science and Innovation will provide further details on these arrangements.
The measures that we are putting in place now are designed to allow as much economic activity to continue as possible, while containing the spread of the virus.
Most businesses will continue to operate at full capacity and should not be affected. Our focus is on limiting social contacts while preserving the economy.
I want to emphasise that it remains mandatory for every person to wear a face mask that always covers their nose and mouth when in public spaces.
It is a criminal offence not to do so.
The owners and managers of public buildings, centres, shops, restaurants, taxis and buses all have a responsibility to ensure that people on their premises or in their vehicles wear masks.
All employers must allow their staff to work from home wherever possible, and should postpone all non-essential travel and workplace gatherings.
Government will also be putting in place measures to reduce physical attendance of its employees at workplaces while limiting the disruption of government activities and services.
As we implement these restrictions, we are continuing to work to strengthen the capacity of our health system.
In Gauteng, the loss of significant capacity due to the ongoing closure of the
Charlotte Maxeke Hospital is adding strain to other hospitals.
We are doing everything we can to provide additional bed capacity and speed up the re-opening of Charlotte Maxeke hospital.
At present, Gauteng has made available 830 additional beds by postponing elective surgery and another 400 beds constructed with alternative building technology that are now being activated.
We have been engaging with the producers of medical oxygen to increase their production to accommodate the anticipated increase in cases.
We are constantly monitoring PPE stocks and medicine stock availability so that we can intervene where we see declines in stock levels.
The Gauteng Department of Health is recruiting additional human resources to support increased workload.
The Solidarity Fund has provided R16 million to support the recruitment and placement of additional nurses in Gauteng hospitals to complement the military health team that has been deployed.
To ensure there is sufficient hospital bed space we have to reprioritise service provision to ensure there is capacity to treat those with severe cases of COVID-19.
We are forging ahead with our rapidly expanding national vaccination programme.
The programme has picked up significant momentum with key milestones being achieved as we move forward.
As of midnight yesterday, nearly 2.7 million people in South Africa had received a vaccine dose.
In the last week, the daily vaccination rate surpassed 100,000.
In the last three days, we have received an additional 1.2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine through the COVAX facility.
With these additional supplies, we will be able to rapidly increase the rate of vaccination this week and in the weeks that follow.
In line with our national roll-out plan, over 950,000 health care workers have now been vaccinated across the country and the registration and vaccination of this cohort continues.
The second phase of our roll out has also gone well with the drive for the registration and vaccination of the over 60 year old group continuing to yield good results.
Whilst we have yet to reach all of the estimated 5 million citizens in this group, each province has now embarked on social mobilisation drives to assist our elderly to register and receive their vaccination.
To date 3.8 million people have been registered on the electronic vaccination database.
The national vaccination programme will continue along three defined streams. The first stream is the general population according to age groups.
The next cohort of 50 to 59 year olds can begin registration on the 1st of July and vaccination of this group will begin on the 15th of July.
The second stream has already commenced with people working in the basic education sector, with 184,000 vaccinations recorded to date.
The third stream is focusing on police and other security personnel. We will start to vaccinate this group on the 5th of July.
The fourth stream is through workplace programmes in key economic sectors such as mining, manufacturing and the taxi industry.
I want to call on all who are eligible to register for a vaccine whether it is online, via SMS, by phone, or in person.
We will continue to work with our social partners and communities to reach as many people as possible as quickly as we can.
Fellow South Africans,
There is still a lot of misinformation being circulated about the COVID-19 vaccine. False stories are being spread on WhatsApp groups, on social media, and by word of mouth about the COVID-19 vaccine, claiming that the vaccine is not safe, that it can make you sick, or that it doesn’t work.
I have said it before, and I wish to say it again: please think long and hard before you press share or send.
Please consider the harm you may be causing.
You are spreading panic, fear and confusion at a time when we can ill-afford it.
The scientific evidence before us shows that vaccines work. They are safe. They are effective, and they save lives.
If you have any questions about the vaccine, if you are unsure in any way, please consult the information being provided by the Department of Health and from doctors.
You may also have questions as to whether the vaccines currently being used are effective in preventing severe illness or hospitalisation from the new variant.
There is evidence that the vaccines we are using in South Africa are effective against the delta variant.
The Vaccine Ministerial Advisory Committee will continue to consider all data at its disposal and will adapt its advice as and when new evidence emerges.
We must also remember that some vaccinated people may still become infected, regardless of variant, because no vaccine is 100% effective.
Where vaccinated people do get infected, the symptoms tend to be mild.
The most important thing is that any of the vaccines we are rolling out will protect you against severe disease, hospitalisation and, most importantly, death.
I also want to remind the South African people that we must continue to follow the public health guidelines even if we are vaccinated.
Throughout this pandemic, our national response has been led by dedicated medical professionals, healthcare workers and scientists.
We owe them all a debt of gratitude for their professionalism and their dedication.
It is therefore extremely distressing when political leaders launch personal attacks against such people for doing the job they have been assigned to do.
We must remember that SAHPRA is an independent regulator that focuses only on scientific evidence to ensure safety, quality and efficacy in the interest of public health.
SAHPRA must be allowed to do its job without intimidation or political influence so that when vaccines are approved the public can be confident that the vaccines are safe, of good quality and will work.
Fellow South Africans,
Since our country reported its first case of this deadly virus, we have understood that we are all in this together.
As much as we had hoped this pandemic would pass quickly, we know the reality to be vastly different.
There may be uncertainty over the trajectory of the pandemic, but there is one thing that is certain.
We can and we must continue to protect ourselves in the best way we know how.
The tried and tested public health measures that have been in place remain our best chance at fighting this pandemic.
They are not complicated, difficult or expensive.
Whatever inconvenience they may be to us, they are certainly better than becoming seriously ill and needing hospitalisation.
We must always wear a mask in public.
We must regularly wash or sanitise our hands.
We must always keep a safe distance from others. Unless it is necessary, please remain at home.
If you are sick and have even mild COVID-19 symptoms, you must isolate yourself, including from your immediate household.
If you have been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 you have to quarantine for ten days.
If you test positive, notify the people you have come into contact with so they can protect themselves and others.
We are all responsible not just for our own health, but for the health of those around us.
While this pandemic may seem overwhelming, we can do something about it. Through the choices we make, we can help to contain it.
We have come so far. We have weathered this storm for nearly a year and a half. We have overcome many hurdles and setbacks.
We are still standing, because we are a resilient people that has overcome the worst many times in our history.
Now a third wave is gathering in strength and force.
Once again, we find ourselves at a defining moment in our fight against this disease. Let us call on every bit of strength we have, let us summon our reserves of courage,
and hold firm until this wave, too, passes over us. We will recover.
We have climbed many hills before, and we will climb this one too. We will do so by working together, as we have always done.
I say so because I believe in you, the South African people.
I know that you will continue to do what is right and what needs to be done.
And I know that no matter how difficult things become, we never, never give up. May God bless South Africa and protect her people.
I thank you.
We are now in the midst of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We may be tired of this persistent enemy, but it is not yet tired of us. The threat to health and lives is evident as people become ill and some die. So we must do what we can, as individuals, as families and communities, as unions and employers, and as government, to limit the toll.
When the virus surges to this extent, the economy also faces challenges. Workers have to isolate or quarantine, people stop going out for recreation or shopping, tourism comes to a standstill, and workplaces have to spend more money to prevent infections.
It is incorrect to speak about a trade-off between lives and livelihoods. Rather, we need to invest our time, effort and resources to control the pandemic to see a payoff, in terms of both falling case numbers, reduced deaths and economic recovery.
The climb in new cases has been extraordinarily rapid and steep over the past few weeks. The number of daily new cases jumped from below 800 in early April to over 13,000 in the past week. In other words, it increased more than fifteen-fold from the last low point.
By now, we all know what we have to do to bring the rate of infection down, and we must act with great discipline to protect our people and our livelihoods.
Once again, we have to avoid social gatherings of all kinds, whether for family, friends, business or recreation. We must work from home if we can. We must wear masks when other people are around and stay one and half metre from other people whenever possible. Although we find ourselves in the middle of winter, we need to ensure good ventilation when indoors or in public transport, for instance by opening windows.
As South Africans, we have experienced pandemics before, most notably HIV/AIDS. We have managed to reduce new HIV infections by more than half since 2010. Our people know that we can control contagions, but it requires all of us to act together over time. It is not a task only for the vulnerable or the healthcare system. It requires every South African to do their part, to accept that we cannot go back to pre-pandemic days but must rather build a new normal that is safe for us all.
We can win this battle, but it will take persistence and discipline.
As always with COVID-19, there are huge differences between different parts of the country. Right now, Gauteng is by far the hardest hit. This week the number of new cases exceeded the peak in both previous waves, and it has not started to decline yet. As a result, hospitals are reaching capacity, and healthcare workers are exhausted.
Gauteng looks small on the map. But it is home to one in five South Africans and two-fifths of our economy. As an economic hub many people travel to and from this province. We need to turn this around urgently, or lives and livelihoods will be seriously under threat.
We plan to provide vaccinations for the vast majority of adults in South Africa by the end of the year. It is crucial that, when you become eligible, you get the jab as soon as possible. Our priority in this phase is to vaccinate all five million people over the age of 60. This week, we also plan to start vaccinating half a million educators and others in the sector since their work requires social contact and is vital for our children, our economy and our future.
All of us need to work to ensure a fast and smooth rollout of the vaccine campaign. If our family members, friends, neighbours or employees need help, we should support them in registering and getting to vaccine sites. We will only be able to effectively contain this disease when we succeed in rolling out vaccinations on a large scale.
Our country has experienced many hardships in the past. However, we overcame them by understanding the challenges we faced, developing appropriate strategies, and implementing them together. As we have done before, we need to work as one to prevent infections and reduce the effects of this virus on us.
With best regards,
For some years now, South Africa’s state-owned enterprises have mostly been associated in the public eye with state capture, financial mismanagement and inefficiency. In addition to needing regular bailouts from government, some of the country’s biggest and most important state-owned companies have been struggling to meet their mandates.
These state-owned enterprises (SOEs) should be at the forefront of economic and social transformation. They are responsible for providing the infrastructure and the services on which the economy depends, whether it be in the generation of electricity, commuter transport, water provision, freight logistics or telecommunications.
It is important to remember that the state does not own these companies simply for the sake of it, or because this is what the democratic government inherited from the apartheid state. Rather, our approach to state ownership is informed by the need for the effective functioning of key network industries, such as energy and ports, and by the need to ensure that the basic needs of all South Africans, particularly the poor, can be met.
Successive democratic administrations have supported the idea of a mixed economy, comprising public, private and forms of collective ownership. The balance between these different forms of ownership should be determined by the developmental needs of the country.
We firmly believe that public ownership is necessary in critical sectors of the economy and that the country needs robust SOEs that are able to drive economic growth and transformation.
This is particularly the case in the delivery of public goods such as electricity and water, where SOEs are able to pursue a developmental mandate in the public interest as opposed to a purely commercial one.
That is why we have made it a priority of this government to turn these companies around, to root out corruption, to improve their governance and to enable them to play the role they should in driving economic growth and employment creation.
To this end, we have embarked upon a number of reforms to strengthen these SOEs so that they can produce the results that the country needs and expects. These reforms are not intended to weaken the public sector or to reduce its role, but to make it a more dynamic and effective part of our economy.
Given the number of SOEs and the differences between them, we are not applying a blanket policy to these reforms. An intervention that works for one SOE may not be appropriate for another, requiring a case-by-case approach.
One of the most important reforms is in the energy sector. We have begun the process of restructuring Eskom into three different state-owned entities, responsible for generation, transmission and distribution respectively. This is because the previous structure of Eskom was ill-suited for a changing energy landscape. It had become inefficient and costly and was not sufficiently transparent.
The establishment of a transmission entity in particular will mean that Eskom will be able to purchase power from a broader range of providers, both private and public. This will improve transparency, increase competitiveness and promote the purchase of lowest-cost electricity. The result of the changes currently underway will mean that households and businesses should be able to buy electricity at a lower cost and be sure of a reliable supply.
Through the renewable energy independent power producers programme, there has been significant private investment in energy generation. With the proposal to raise the licencing exemption for embedded generation – where companies produce electricity for themselves and other commercial users – from 1 MW to 100 MW, we can expect even more private investment. This is vital at a time when the country is suffering from severe and sustained electricity shortages and where neither Eskom nor the state is able to invest in new generation capacity.
Importantly, these reforms will give Eskom the space to address its financial and operational challenges. They provide a clear path towards a more efficient, financially sustainable state-owned utility that is able to provide cheaper, cleaner energy to all South Africans.
Another critical reform, which we announced last week on a visit to Cape Town port, is the establishment of the National Ports Authority as an independent subsidiary of Transnet. This is not a sudden development; it has been in the pipeline for more than 15 years since the promulgation of the National Ports Act in 2005.
This a crucial part of Transnet’s broader strategy to revitalise our logistics infrastructure. Transnet plans to invest R100 billion over the next five years in upgrading its infrastructure across the ports system. This will make our ports more efficient and our exports more competitive, and benefit the entire economy.
For the ordinary consumer, it will mean reduced prices in the long term for many of our goods. For our exporters, it will mean greater competitiveness in global markets.
As our exports grow, our economy will expand and create more jobs. More efficient ports will make the entire economy work better – and as port volumes increase, jobs will be created at the ports themselves.
Establishing the National Ports Authority as a Transnet subsidiary with its own board will, among other things, mean that revenues generated by the ports can be used to replace old equipment and upgrade and expand our ports, work which has been delayed for more than a decade. It will also encourage the ports authority to treat all terminal operators fairly and equally in the interests of port users.
Among other things, these reforms will encourage greater private investment in the country’s economic infrastructure. Some people have expressed concerns that this will diminish the importance or reduce the value of SOEs. In fact, the contrary is true.
These reforms will ensure that while strategic infrastructure remains firmly in state hands, our SOEs will become more efficient and the industries they support will become more competitive. Equally, these reforms are important to ensure that SOEs implement their broader developmental mandates to support all citizens and the economy.
As we undertake this process of transformation, we are committed to deepening our engagement with labour to ensure that the voices of workers are heard in determining the future of these entities.
Our policy remains that SOEs must play a crucial developmental role in supporting the growth of our economy. Our task is to place them on a sound footing, so that they can serve their ultimate shareholders – the South African people.
This will enable these companies to fulfil the task for which they exist – to foster inclusive economic growth, to promote the creation of jobs across the economy and to ensure all South Africans receive affordable, quality services.
With best regards,
Monday, 14 June 2021
In two days’ time we commemorate the fateful events of June 16th 1976, when brave young men and women in Soweto and other parts of the country rose up against the iniquity of Bantu Education.
On that day and in the days that followed, many lost their lives. They were killed by a callous regime that had little regard for black lives and thought nothing of opening fire on unarmed, uniformed schoolchildren.
These events hardened international opinion against the apartheid regime and gave further impetus to the liberation struggle.
Young people have always been at the forefront of social protest, from the anti-authoritarian protests in Latin America in the late 1950s to the May 68 movement in France, to the protests across many parts of Africa in the late 1960s.
History faithfully records the contribution of the generation of 1976 to the international student movement and its stance against oppression and injustice in all its forms.
Since the early 1980s the All Africa Students Union has observed June 16th as African Students Day in tribute to the Soweto students. In 1991 the Organisation of African Unity adopted June 16th as the International Day of the African Child.
As such, this historic event that took place 45 years ago continues to be commemorated across our continent and many other parts of the world.
It is therefore disturbing that knowledge and awareness of the events of June 16th is diminishing among young South Africans. This is particularly so among the so-called Generation Z, or young people born between 1997 and 2015.
The 2019/2020 South African Social Attitudes Survey published by the Human Sciences Research Council found that close to 40% of Generation Z has not heard of the historical events of June 16th. A similar percentage has heard about it but knows very little or nothing about it.
Importantly, the survey also found that young people of this generation are nevertheless open to learning about key historical events and believe in their continued importance.
As the celebrated author Ngugi wa Thiong’o writes, memory is the site of consciousness. And consciousness is the driving force of change.
We need to do more as a country to ensure that the message of this event, of young people taking charge of their destiny and standing up against apartheid rule, is transmitted faithfully.
This is a collective responsibility of government, schools, tertiary institutions, parents, families, musicians, artists, and indeed all of society.
The generation that was born after apartheid ended inherited a country with a democratic Constitution and where fundamental freedoms are protected.
Due to the sacrifices of the 1976 generation, the opportunities young black men and women have today are both vastly different and greatly improved.
Keeping the story of June 16th alive is a reminder to today’s generation of the great sacrifices made to secure their freedom. But it is much more than that.
Youth Day is also a reminder of the immense power and agency that young people have to create a better future for themselves.
The struggles of young people in South Africa today are many. Young people have remained at the forefront of activism, whether in pursuit of free education or against social ills like gender-based violence.
Today the greatest struggle young people wage is against unemployment, something that has worsened under the COVID-19 pandemic.
Creating more opportunities for young people, and supporting young people to access these opportunities, is government’s foremost priority.
Everything that we do as a government contributes towards improving the lives of young people. Tackling youth unemployment requires accelerating economic growth, particularly in labour-intensive sectors, and building the capability of the state to fulfil its developmental role.
We are also driving this agenda through a series of targeted interventions. These include the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has provided work opportunities and livelihoods support for many young people.
This week, on Youth Day, we will be launching a range of additional measures to create opportunities, enhance skills development, support young entrepreneurs and enable the full participation of young people in the economy.
This includes the establishment of a National Pathway Management Network, SA Youth, to make it easier for young people to view and access opportunities and receive active support to find pathways into the labour market.
These are among the priority actions of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, which was launched just weeks before we entered a national lockdown last year and which is now entering full implementation.
The Presidential Youth Employment Intervention was built on the understanding that to address the youth unemployment crisis requires innovative thinking and strong partnerships across society.
Its ultimate objective is to find models that work, whether in skills development or active labour market policies, and to scale these models rapidly to reach as many young people as possible.
Most importantly, it recognises that young people must be at the centre of any effort to boost youth employment. Young people are our greatest asset, and our greatest weapon in this fight.
As we pay tribute to the youth whose courageous activism won us our freedom, we also salute the resilience of every young person who is playing their part to build and develop this country.
They are the young people volunteering in our communities, building our country through the Presidential Employment Stimulus, running their own businesses and studying to better themselves.
They are the young people who are forging their own path and bringing their families along with them.
We also salute the young men and women who have not given up hope, who keep working to improve their lives.
Young people are doing their part; they need government, and indeed all of society, to do ours.
Our country is going through the most difficult of times, but we are working daily to expand the frontiers of hope.
We are seeing the green shoots of growth in our economy, and are confident this will translate to better opportunities for all. Our task now is to ensure that young people are ready and able to access these opportunities, and to create their own.
This Youth Day, let us continue to work together as a nation to nourish these shoots of growth in pursuit of our common, brighter future.
With best regards,