President Cyril Ramaphosa will this evening, 16 May 2021, depart for Paris, France, to participate in the Summit on the Financing of African Economies.
At the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron of the French Republic, the President will join several African Heads of State and Government as well as leaders of global financing institutions at the Grand Palais Ephémère on Tuesday, 18 May 2021.
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, and the Acting Minister in the Presidency, Ms Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, will accompany President Ramaphosa.
The purpose of the Summit is to support the economic recovery of African countries that have been affected by the health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also aims to foster investments in Africa and avert the risk of excessive debt.
Delegates will deliberate on debt relief and support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through special drawing rights (SDRs).
Leaders will also look at how to provide capital to the private sector on the African continent to support investments that will catalyse inclusive economic activity, create employment and accelerate the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals.
The Summit on the Financing of African Economies follows a series of global stimulus packages initiatives, including the World Bank’s $14 billion fast-tracking of COVID-19 financing, the African Development Bank’s $10 billion COVID-19 Response Facility and the International Monetary Fund’s concessional financing and debt relief to assist countries and companies in their response to the pandemic.
Ahead of the Summit on the evening of Monday, 17 May 2021, President Ramaphosa will attend the Welcome Dinner in Honour of African Heads of State and Government hosted by President Macron.
President Ramaphosa will hold bilateral meetings with participating leaders to enhance South Africa’s diplomatic relations.
European leaders, representatives of G7 and G20 countries and of international institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are among Summit delegates.
Issued by : The Presidency
Monday, 17 May 2021
Our experience with the democratic transition is a lesson about the power of empathy, negotiation and compromise.
The escalating situation in Israel and Palestine affirms once more what we South Africans know too well, that intractable conflicts can only be solved through peaceful negotiation.
It also demonstrates that unless the root causes of a conflict are addressed, in this case the illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian land and the denial of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, there will never be peace.
The latest violence was sparked by an Israeli court decision to evict a group of families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem to make way for Israeli settlements.
The sight of men, women and children being evicted from the homes their families have lived in for generations brings back painful collective and personal memories for the majority of South Africans – of forced removals and land dispossession.
It was a pain and humiliation faced by my own family, and by many South African families. My family was forcibly moved to different parts of the country on two occasions.
Being forced from one’s home at gunpoint is a trauma not easily forgotten, and is carried across generations. As a country we are still living with the residual effects of the callous acts carried out in the name of apartheid spatial planning.
For all who believe in equality, justice and human rights, we cannot but be moved and indeed angered, at the pain and humiliation being inflicted on the Palestinian people; for it echoes our own.
Israel’s actions are a violation of international law. They show a total disregard for successive United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions that call for an end to the occupation of Palestinian land and for the fulfillment of the rights of the Palestinian people.
Since Israeli security forces launched assaults on worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem last week, the violence has now engulfed the Gaza Strip, large parts of the West Bank and a number of Israeli cities. It has claimed the lives of dozens of people, including children.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) at least 40 children have been killed in Gaza since 10 May. Over half of them were under 10 years old.
It is also deeply troubling that Israeli forces last week destroyed a multi-storey building that housed a number of media organisations, sending a chilling message to media reporting on the violence.
The senseless and continued Israeli bombardment of Gaza will have devastating consequences for more than two million people who have been suffering under an illegal Israeli blockade for 14 years. As is always the case, it is civilians who will bear the brunt, with their homes and livelihoods destroyed.
Every effort must be made to dissuade both sides from further escalation, and to end the violence that is causing fear, death and misery on both sides.
We call on all parties involved to show restraint, to respect human life, and to cease the current hostilities.
Far too many lives have been lost to this intractable conflict. The continued occupation of Palestinian land and the suffering of the Palestinian people is a blight on the conscience of humanity.
As South Africa we are committed to being part of international efforts aimed at reviving a political process that will lead to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace with Israel, and within internationally recognised borders.
The two-state solution remains the most viable option for the peoples of Israel and Palestine, and must continue to be supported.
Just as Israeli security forces were attacking worshippers at the Al Aqsa Mosque, we in South Africa were preparing to commemorate the centenary of the Bulhoek Massacre at a religious site in Ntabelanga in the Eastern Cape. On 24 May 1921, colonial security forces armed with machine guns and artillery opened fire on worshippers, killing more than 160 people and wounding nearly 130.
The massacre laid bare the brutality not only of the police force of the Union of South Africa, but also the racist system that it was charged to uphold.
Just like the dispute in the Sheik Jarrah neighbourhood, the atrocity at Bulhoek was not just about a local dispute; it was fundamentally about the forced dispossession of land, about colonial occupation, about racial discrimination and about the violent suppression of dissent.
As we reflect on the crisis in the Middle East and particularly on the suffering of the Palestinian people, we would do well to recall the words of Selby Msimang, a founding member of the African National Congress.
In the aftermath of the Bulhoek massacre he wrote: “History has shown that the human soul naturally revolts against injustice.”
The protests and the revolt of the oppressed people of South Africa against colonialism and apartheid proved the veracity of this prophecy.
As lovers of freedom and of justice, we stand with the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination, but also in their resistance against the deprivation of their human rights and the denial of their dignity.
As citizens of a country that was able to turn its back on race-hatred and bloodshed and build an inclusive society rooted in human rights for all, it is our collective hope that the people of Israel and Palestine will follow a similar path; that they will find each other, and that they will find peace.
With best regards,
We live in a country where not just journalists but any member of the public is able to freely articulate their views, their opinions and indeed their dissatisfaction without fear of retribution.
As we conclude Freedom Month, we recall how far we have come from the days where social protest by artists attracted banning orders, and critical reporting by journalists risked imprisonment or the closure of publications.
Last week, the organisation Reporters without Borders published the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, a barometer of the state of media freedom across the globe.
Overall, it was found that there has been a decline in public access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage in a number of countries.
The report said that journalism is ‘totally blocked or seriously impeded’ in 73 countries and ‘constrained’ in 59 others. What is worrying is that media freedom has deteriorated under the COVID-19 pandemic, with the various restrictions put in place having seemingly been used to curtail media activity in several places.
In this latest report South Africa ranked 32nd out of 180 countries. The index describes the state of media freedom in South Africa as ‘guaranteed but fragile’.
It notes that while the South African Constitution protects freedom and we have an established culture of investigative journalism, a number of impediments still hinder journalists in the performance of their duties. This includes legal injunctions against taking images of National Key Points or reporting on matters involving state security.
The report also notes an increase during 2020 of the intimidation of journalists, especially female journalists on social media. Such intimidation is totally unacceptable, but is particularly harmful when it is directed at female journalists and is occasionally accompanied by threats of sexual violence. This is a matter of great concern and cannot be allowed.
At the same time, we take great comfort in the knowledge that we have a free, robust media that is able to report without fear or favour about those in power, about the most pressing social issues of our time, and to provide accurate, impartial information to the public.
At a time when we are working together to rebuild our economy and our society in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a robust media is more critical than ever.
The South African media has played a pivotal role in uncovering much of what we know today about the true extent of capture of the state by self-serving, corrupt individuals and entities. They sustained their reporting even in the face of intimidation, disinformation and attacks on their person.
Corruption is by no means the only challenge we face as a country. The daily lives of many South Africans are still affected by poverty, inequality and underdevelopment, poor service delivery, and lack of access to opportunities.
If the media is to remain true to its responsibility to support democracy, our journalists must continue to report without fear or favour on the other issues of the day. Their sustained coverage must include gender-based violence, crime in our communities, and social ills like substance abuse. Our media should provide accurate and impartial information, enabling the public to make informed decisions, to access opportunities and to improve their lives. They should continue to produce journalism that goes beyond the headlines and front pages and that contributes to human development. The should report both the good news and the bad news, the progress we make and the challenges we face.
Credibility is key to sustaining trust between journalists and the public. When journalists allow themselves or their platforms to be used to fight political battles or settle scores on behalf of vested interests, their credibility suffers. When media disseminate stories that are inaccurate or that they know to be false, the public loses faith in them.
It is in the best interests of all who love this country and wish for it to succeed that our media is supported, and not hindered in its work.
As a society, let us continue to work together to jealously safeguard our country’s media freedom. It was hard won, and without it, we cannot hope to flourish.
With best regards,
Monday, 10 May 2021
Twenty years ago, South Africa was the site of victory in a lawsuit that pitted public good against private profit.
At the time, we were in the grip of the HIV/Aids pandemic, and sought to enforce a law allowing us to import and manufacture affordable generic antiretroviral medication to treat people with HIV and save lives.
In response, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry sued our government, arguing that such a move violated the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This is a comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property.
The case, dubbed ‘Big Pharma vs Mandela’, drew widespread international attention. The lawsuit was dropped in 2001 after massive opposition by government and civil society.
As a country, we stood on principle, arguing that access to life-saving medication was fundamentally a matter of human rights. The case affirmed the power of transnational social solidarity. Several developing countries soon followed our lead. This included implementing an interpretation of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that allowed them to import and manufacture generic antiretrovirals.
Years later, the world is in the grip of another deadly pandemic in the form of COVID-19. And once again, South Africa is waging a struggle that puts global solidarity to the test.
Alongside India, we have submitted a proposal to the WTO for a temporary waiver of certain aspects of TRIPS to facilitate wider access to technologies needed to produce vaccines and medicines. The idea is to rapidly scale up local production to ensure wider access to affordable and effective vaccines.
The waiver proposal currently enjoys the support of more than 100 countries. Last week the US government announced its support for the proposal, which will give the current negotiations added momentum.
The enforcement of intellectual property rights is critical to research and development and innovation in the quest for human progress.
But our position as South Africa is that such a waiver is necessary at this time. It is temporary and is in direct response to an emergency.
This is an unprecedented situation. It requires that all intellectual property, knowledge, technology and data related to COVID-19 health technologies be put at the disposal of all.
If we as the international community are truly committed to human rights and the values of equality and non-discrimination, vaccines should be viewed as a global public good.
They should be made available to all, not just to the highest bidders.
A situation in which the populations of advanced, rich countries are safely inoculated while millions in poorer countries die in the queue would be tantamount to vaccine apartheid.
It will set a devastating precedent in our quest to realise a more egalitarian world and our ability to handle future pandemics.
Social responsibility for health is a recognised principle in the Universal Declaration of Bioethics and Human Rights adopted by the international community in 2005.
It affirms that progress in science and technology must contribute to justice, equity and the interests of broader humanity. It notes that the benefits of scientific research should be shared with society as a whole and within the international community, in particular with developing countries that face resource constraints.
Earlier this year, the UN’s education, science and culture body UNESCO called for vaccine equity, noting that it was not just the right thing to do, but also the best way to control the pandemic, restore confidence and to reboot the global economy.
Currently, 55% of the existing vaccine manufacturing capacity is located in East Asia, 40% in Europe and North America, and less than 5% in Africa and South America. In the case of developing countries, much of this capacity is under-utilised.
South Africa is one of only five countries on the continent with vaccine production capacity. Although we have secured enough vaccine doses to reach ‘population immunity’, there will continue to be a need for vaccines. We are therefore preparing to bolster global vaccine manufacturing for COVID-19 and other major diseases. Existing facilities need to be repurposed and new capacity built.
I call on all South Africans to support this effort, and in particular civil society organisations that played a leading role during the HIV/Aids pandemic.
Civil society has a critical role in mobilising international support for this cause, particularly through international cooperation with like-minded organisations in developed countries. This is an issue that calls for greater public advocacy and awareness-raising.
As a nation, we must stand united in our effort to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines to save lives and proceed with the national recovery.
Our commitment to putting human lives first does not diminish our commitment to honour international trade agreements.
It is about the promotion of health as a public and social good.
It is about affirming our commitment to the advancement of equality and human rights, not just in our own country but around the world.
With best regards,
Monday, 26 April 2021
Last week I joined more than 40 world leaders at a climate summit convened by US President Joe Biden to discuss the global climate change effort in the run-up to the next international climate conference, taking place in Glasgow, Scotland in November.
There was a common appreciation that, as the international community, we need to dramatically scale-up our efforts, raise our level of ambition, and support developing countries with the means to implement climate actions.
Even as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling climate change is a national priority for South Africa.
To fully appreciate the devastating impact of climate change on lives and livelihoods in South Africa one need only look at the prolonged drought in parts of the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape.
The coming of the rains last year broke a seven-year drought, the longest in over a century. It wreaked havoc on communities across these provinces. It caused water shortages, widespread crop failure and negatively affected both commercial and subsistence farming.
This in turn had a national impact.
It drove up food prices, particularly of basic staples such as maize meal, contributing to food insecurity in poor households. It affected the broader economy, as the yield of key agricultural exports declined.
Drought is widely recognised as one of the extreme weather conditions caused by climate change. Since South Africa is already a water scarce country, we are particularly vulnerable.
Understanding this cascading effect is vital. Climate change doesn’t just affect weather patterns. It affects nearly every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat, to the water we drink, to where we live. It affects human health, economic activity, human settlement and migration.
Climate change does not respect borders. It is a global problem, which requires global solutions.
The first part of the global response to climate change is mitigation – slowing the rate of global warming by significantly reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.
The second part is adaptation – taking steps to respond to the effects of global warming. This could range from building infrastructure to protect communities from rising sea levels or regular flooding to planting drought-resistant crops.
The third part is financing – mobilising resources to support the efforts of developing countries in particular to adapt to climate change and move towards cleaner forms of energy. This is important because developing countries are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, despite historically being the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases.
Unless we act with urgency, we could find our developmental gains being reversed and our ability to overcome poverty, joblessness and inequality severely constrained.
An important part of our response is our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which outlines our targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Each country submits these targets to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change every five years.
Last month we published our updated NDC for public comment ahead of submission to the Glasgow Summit in November.
Our new NDC proposes a significant reduction in emissions target ranges. By implementing our mitigation strategy, we aim to see our carbon emissions progressively declining from 2025. This is a decade earlier than previously expected.
As a country we are committed to contributing our fair share to the global climate effort. One of the tasks of the newly-established Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission is advise government on an ambitious and just transition to a low-carbon economy.
The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan that we launched in October last year has several measures to drive business and job creation in green industries, and our Integrated Resource Plan 2019 envisages the building of renewable energy capacity that can produce over 17 gigawatts of electricity by 2030.
These goals will only be achieved through collaboration across society, with government, labour, business, civil society and communities all working together towards a just transition.
A just transition is one in which the country reduces its reliance on fossil fuels and its emission of greenhouse gases while sustaining economic growth, creating jobs and protecting those most affected by these changes.
Business has a particularly important role. A number of South African companies are already addressing sustainability and climate change issues as part of their financial reporting. Business can also play a role in providing adaptation support to communities.
We need greater investment in climate resilient systems and processes, from smart agriculture, to clean energy, to green infrastructure to public transport.
The financial sector must continue to play a role by scaling up project financing for renewable energy and other green initiatives.
As a developing country, our economy is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels. That is why we continue to push on the world stage for the space to develop our economy and improve the lives of our people. This is why we need a just transition where the uptake of sustainable systems and technologies proceeds at a realistic pace.
At the same time, we know the clock is ticking, and the impacts of climate change are worsening. According to the World Meteorological Association, 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record.
In the face of this reality, we can and must do more.
The time for greater climate action is now. We have to reduce our emissions. We have to adapt and build resilience for our communities and for our economy.
It is only by working together to find solutions and by raising the level of our ambition, that we can reduce the impact of climate change on our country.
As we prepare our country to withstand the impact of the next devastating drought, we must also take the ambitious actions needed to reduce the possibility of even worse droughts and even worse climate disasters into the future.
With best regards,