Monday, 19 April 2021
Dear Fellow South African,
Last week, I visited the Port of Durban to see for myself the work being done to make the port more efficient and competitive.
After a briefing with the senior management of Transnet, I toured the harbour in a pilot boat, which is usually used to guide large ships through the entrance channel to the pier.
Seeing the workings of the port from the water, one is reminded of its vast scale and complexity. As we left the pier, we watched the African Finch, an enormous vessel laden with over 30,000 tonnes of timber, depart from the terminal. A vessel of this size carries immense economic value, and many such vessels pass through the port every day.
If the port does not function efficiently, the entire economy suffers, from importers and exporters to consumers.
On the other hand, if the port works well it can drive economic growth and position our country as a gateway to the region and the continent.
When I visited Durban in October 2019, many local businesses and port users raised concerns with me about the performance of the Durban Port. Shipping companies in particular expressed concern about truck congestion and waiting times, ship berthing delays and anchorage times, poor maintenance of equipment and generally low productivity in the port.
My visit to the port last week was to check whether the commitments made in response to these concerns had been implemented.
There has indeed been great progress over the past year in turning around the performance of the port, despite the impact of COVID-19.
These efforts are already showing results in improved maintenance of equipment, reduced congestion, quicker turnaround times and increased use of rail instead of road transport.
While this is important progress, there is still much work to be done to position Durban as a world-class port and as a hub port for the Southern Hemisphere.
In recent years, the port has slipped from its position as first in Africa to third, behind Tangier in Morocco and Port Said in Egypt.
Truck turnaround times have greatly improved. Similarly, the reliability of cargo handling equipment has improved to 80%, and is heading towards at least 95% to meet international benchmarks. Ship waiting times have reduced to impressive levels.
These statistics may seem technical and obscure, but they have a direct impact on the growth of our economy and on the prices we pay as consumers.
We have made improving the efficiency of our ports a priority of Operation Vulindlela, and have focused on rebuilding Transnet, which is one of our valued state owned enterprises. The new management of Transnet and its operating divisions are resolutely focused on turning the performance of the port around.
The management has ambitious and exciting expansion plans for all five of the port’s precincts. These include the deepening of the Maydon Wharf channel to allow larger, modern vessels to enter the port, the infill of Pier 1 and Pier 2 to create additional capacity for containers, and the development of a new container terminal in the Point Precinct.
Altogether, the expansion of infrastructure at the port will require R100 billion in new investment over the next decade and more. This will completely transform the port, expanding its capacity for container handling from 2.9 million units to more than 11 million units.
These ambitious plans will require greater private sector participation and investment. Transnet, including the Durban Port, is an important national asset belonging to the people of South Africa.
Partnerships with the private sector are crucial to bring new investment, technology and expertise to port operations and to modernise equipment and infrastructure. Transnet is planning, for example, to advertise a concession later this year to build and operate the new Point Terminal. This will bring in private investment and improve the efficiency of container handling.
Through our reform process we are steadily improving the efficiency of our ports and railways and unlocking massive investment in infrastructure. This will not only lower costs and improve the competitiveness of our exports, but will create thousands of new jobs in the process.
Through both operational improvements and structural reforms, Durban Port will reclaim its place as the best-performing port in Africa.
As part of our Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, we will continue to work tirelessly to expand infrastructure investment and transform our network industries.
If my visit to Durban left one thing in my mind, it is that we South Africans are capable of succeeding in projects of vast importance and scale.
Our ambitions should match the size of our challenges.
With the progress we are making at the Durban port, with the reinvigorated skills and capabilities that we have in Transnet, we now have the wind in our sails. And we are moving at a rate of knots towards our destination.
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Monday, 12 April 2021
Dear Fellow South African,
I have often said that our economic recovery plan is not about a return to what was, but about transformation to what is next.
We have to both recover the ground that we have lost due to the coronavirus pandemic, and to gain new ground by placing our economy on a fundamentally different growth trajectory.
In short, we have to use this moment to forge a new economy in a new global reality.
One of the concrete ways that we can do this is by harnessing the job creating potential of the digital economy, whose growth has only been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, South Africa was ranked first in the world as a destination for global business services – often called business process outsourcing – in a survey of over 600 executives from eight key sourcing markets, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the USA.
This sector includes call centres, technical support and back and front office services for major multinationals and South African firms.
This is truly a remarkable achievement. In a short space of time, our country has propelled itself from a relatively unknown destination for offshore customer service delivery, in the shadow of large competitors such as India and the Philippines, to the very forefront of the global industry.
The story of how this was achieved holds important lessons for what we can do if we work relentlessly as government and social partners towards a common goal.
South Africa has several advantages that make it an attractive destination for business services.
First, we have sophisticated digital infrastructure, including mobile networks and high-speed broadband. Second, we have a young, dynamic and skilled workforce that delivers a world-renowned quality of service, along with deep knowledge in technology and financial services. Third, we have a high level of English proficiency. And finally, we are positioned in a similar time zone to our key export markets.
These unique attributes have provided us with a strong foundation to work from. However, last week’s achievement would not have been possible without the proactive efforts of government and the sector over several years.
Led by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, government has worked closely with Business Process Enabling South Africa, the industry association, to market our country as a destination for investment, embarking on roadshows and campaigns around the world to demonstrate our strengths and capabilities.
Government introduced the Global Business Services Incentive just over two years ago to encourage investment and support job creation in the sector. The incentive has been successful in reducing costs and attracting new investors to South Africa.
The Presidential Employment Stimulus, which we launched in October last year in response to the economic impact of the pandemic, supported the expansion of this incentive. The stimulus has enabled the creation of 8,000 new jobs in the industry during the last two quarters, most of which have gone to previously unemployed youth.
When the pandemic first arrived on our shores, government worked closely with the sector to ensure continuity. South African global business service providers were able to shift quickly to remote operations, with clear and sensible guidelines to ensure that call centres could continue to provide essential services.
This is a testament to what can be achieved through the pursuit of a deliberate, proactive strategy to support the growth of new sectors. It is also an example of how we can ensure that this growth is inclusive and sustainable.
One condition for accessing the incentive is that a proportion of new jobs must be sourced through inclusive hiring and must go to marginalised youth. The industry has committed to use SAYouth.mobi, a platform for young people to access a range of opportunities, as a tool to recruit young people into these jobs. The platform forms part of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention.
The result of all these efforts is that the sector in South Africa has grown at twice the global growth rate for the sector since 2014 and three times faster than key competitors. It has added 40,000 jobs to the economy since 2018, with young people making up 82% of these new jobs and women comprising 65% of the workforce.
The sector generates R1.9 billion a year in export revenues and attracts significant capital investment. With global demand on the rise, and with a compelling and competitive proposition to global buyers and investors, the sector in South Africa is on track to achieve its target of 100,000 new jobs by the end of 2023 and 500,000 new jobs by the end of 2030.
As we forge ahead with our economic reconstruction and recovery, we must recognise and nurture green shoots such as this.
Our country has boundless economic potential, both in established sectors such as mining, manufacturing and agriculture as well as in new frontiers such as the digital and green economies.
We have proven that by actively searching for areas of opportunity, setting clear national goals, working collaboratively with industry associations and social partners, and putting the right conditions in place for growth, we can unlock new potential and create jobs for young people in particular.
Through the various initiatives that we are undertaking – including Operation Vulindlela, the Presidential Employment Stimulus, the investment drive and the finalisation of sector master plans – we will remove constraints on investment and stimulate employment creation at an accelerated pace.
Too often, we get caught up in our immediate challenges and lose sight of our true potential. Our country has all of the ingredients that we need for economic success. We only need to recognise these, and put them to use.
With best regards,
President Cyril Ramaphosa
21 March 2021
Fellow South Africans,
We are commemorating Human Rights Day almost exactly a year since the coronavirus pandemic was declared a national disaster in our country and we prepared for a nationwide lockdown to contain its spread.
Over the course of the past year, our nation, like many others across the world, has endured great hardships.
We have lost mothers, fathers, siblings, colleagues and friends to this deadly disease. It has taken a heavy toll on our economy and on our people’s livelihoods.
It has affected every aspect of our lives as South Africans.
We have had to give up basic human interactions that we once took for granted, like greeting each other with a handshake or a warm hug.
We have had to sacrifice things that are important to us, like meeting and socialising, travelling freely, attending funerals of our loved ones and being at cultural gatherings and attending religious services.
But throughout, there has been an understanding that these restrictions were, and remain, necessary for the health and safety of us all.
It has almost become difficult to remember how life was in our country just a year ago.
It was a life without masks, a life without social distancing and without restrictions on our daily lives.
And yet over the passage of time, we have shown our resilience as a people.
We have shown our determination to defeat a pandemic that is still very much with us.
We have done so with great courage and resolve.
Our unity as a nation has been our greatest strength.
This unity is born of an understanding that the pandemic is a threat to us all.
The virus has struck down rich and poor, young and old, male and female, black and white, city dweller and those who live in our rural areas.
Sixty-one years ago our brave forebears took up the defence of the rights of our people, in the face of a harsh, cruel and unjust system that was exploitive and oppressive.
The heroes who protested at Sharpeville on the 21st of March 1960 took up the cause of liberty, freedom and human rights.
They did so not for themselves alone, but for us all. That's why they're our heroes and heroines.
In the same way, the struggles we wage today are not for our cause alone.
They are also for the men, women and children of tomorrow, so that they too may live in security, comfort, peace and freedom.
In reflecting on the events at Sharpeville, we appreciate how far we have come from being a society that cares only for a few at the expense of the majority.
Over the past year, government, working in partnership with social partners and civil society, has given effect to the principle that human rights are not negotiable.
We have strived to meet our many obligations under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that is the cornerstone of our democracy.
Through the provision of care to the sick and social support to the vulnerable, we have worked together to give effect to the most important rights of our people – the right to life, to health and to dignity.
The protestors at Sharpeville wanted to see an end to the pass system that deprived them of their basic human right to work, to earn a living and to provide for their families.
It was a struggle for social and economic rights.
In recognition of the severe impact of the pandemic on people’s livelihoods, we have implemented social and income support measures to support struggling households, workers and businesses.
And in this, the next phase of our response to the pandemic, we are working to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine is available to every person in our country.
We have been able to weather the coronavirus storm in large part because of the strong culture of human rights in our country.
Human rights that were hard-won by the heroes and heroines of Sharpeville and the countless heroes and heroines of our struggle for liberation broadly.
They were firm in their conviction that freedom for some is freedom for none; and that nobody must be left behind.
It was at Sharpeville that President Nelson Mandela signed our democratic Constitution into law 25 years ago.
The Constitution is a shade and a shelter for all.
As we said at the time, the constitution is one law for one nation.
It commits not just government but every one of us to the values that were disregarded in the past – of human rights, of fair and decent treatment, of tolerance of difference, and of appreciation of our common basic humanity.
We are now in the phase of reconstruction and recovery.
We are working to build a new economy that promises equal opportunity for all.
In doing so, let us remember that this is a struggle for all of us far greater than ourselves.
It is not a fight not for our own piece of bread, for our own job to be saved, or for our own health and safety.
It is a fight to preserve our common humanity.
And it means that we must all work together, whether as government, labour, business or communities.
We must rebuild a society that is far better than the one that came before it.
We must become a society that is free from poverty, hunger and deprivation.
We must become a society where women and children are free from violence, and where their rights are protected.
We must become a society where young people are able to realise their full potential – where they are not doomed to lives of despair and poverty because they cannot afford an education or because there are no jobs for them.
We must be a society of equal opportunity for all, regardless of one’s race, sex, sexual orientation or whether one is able bodied or a person with disabilities.
We must be a society where quality health care, education and basic services are provided to our people regardless of whether they live in a village in a town or a city.
We must be a society where the land is owned not by a few, but where all have access to land for development, for progress and for self-upliftment.
Above all, we must be a society that recognises the dignity of every individual, and the role of every man, woman and child in building a better future.
This is the promise of our Constitution.
And as we work to rebuild our economy and our society, we must strive to make this promise a reality in the lives of our people.
Advancing human rights is the responsibility of us all.
Though we may have our differences on a number of issues, we have far more in common.
We share a common goal: to defeat the pandemic.
We have a common vision: of a better, more inclusive society.
Above all, we have a common cause: that of a South Africa of equality, prosperity, freedom and human rights for all.
To all South Africans, to all those who call this great beautiful country their home, I wish you a healthy, happy and peaceful Human Rights Day.
I thank you.
President Cyril RAMAPHOSA
Monday, 29 March 2021
Dear Fellow South African,
Over the course of the next few days and weeks, many South Africans of faith will join others across the world in important religious observances. Members of the Jewish faith are celebrating Pesach, Christians will observe Easter and Muslims will soon start the holy month of Ramadan.
For the second year, they will mark these occasions in the midst of a devastating global pandemic that has cost the lives of more than 2.5 million people across the world.
At this moment, it is worth recalling the writings of the eminent reformer and clergyman Martin Luther nearly 500 years ago, when the bubonic plague was cutting a devastating swathe across much of Europe.
In a letter dated 1527, Luther writes about the responsibilities of members of the clergy and of all people of faith during a deadly plague.
Much of the letter is about religious duty towards the sick and the dying. But he also offers practical advice similar to the public health advice we have today on social distancing, sanitising and quarantining.
“All of us have the responsibility of warding off this poison to the best of our ability,” Luther writes.
“Use medicines, take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbour does not need your presence or has recovered; and act like one who wants to help put out the burning city.”
While upholding the view that people of faith should not neglect their duty to care for the sick, he cautions against endangering the lives of others.
In many ways, the views expressed by Martin Luther five centuries ago echo the position of religious leaders in South Africa in the midst of the current epidemic.
Faith-based organisations have been vital to our national response to the disease, not only providing spiritual comfort and guidance, but also by caring for those most vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic, including through the provision of food, shelter and other social services.
Religion plays an important role in the lives of millions of South Africans, and congregational worship forms a vital part of their religious practice.
Being able to gather for religious services is also a welcome respite from a period of great hardship for individuals, families and communities.
It is understandable that after more than a year of labouring under restrictions on religious gatherings that the faith community are keen for a return to a semblance of normality.
In recognition of the importance of congregational worship to the lives of our people, government has been engaging with the faith community.
I recently had an extremely constructive virtual meeting with leaders of the faith community. These leaders understand and appreciate the very real danger of a new wave of COVID-19 infections. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, religious organisations have taken proactive and positive measures to limit the spread of the disease among worshippers.
In the light of these precautionary measures, a number of religious organisations have asked that some of the existing restrictions on the size of congregations be eased, especially as we prepare for Easter and Ramadan observances. Government is currently deliberating on these and other issues, and will make an announcement in the coming days.
Another important factor is that during the various alert levels, religious organisations have incurred substantial financial losses that threaten their sustainability. As government we remain committed to working with the faith community to find workable solutions.
At the same time, public health and safety must be our paramount consideration.
The religious community has shown innovation and initiative in the holding of worship at a time when there was a great deal of uncertainty over the trajectory of the pandemic.
Congregational services were held online and worshippers were encouraged to pray in their homes instead of attending services. This greatly aided the national effort to contain the spread of the disease.
Religious leaders played a pivotal role in encouraging public adherence to health measures around important customary and cultural rituals like burials.
By equal measure, our people have demonstrated their commitment to adhering to public health protocols and to social distancing. And they correctly appreciate that they must continue to avoid large gatherings .
We are now at a time where precaution is needed above all. The coronavirus pandemic has not been eliminated, either in our own country or around the world. The threat of a third wave is real and ever-present.
International experience has taught us that we should not tempt fate. Many countries have eased restrictions, only for there to be resurgences, necessitating the imposition of even harsher restrictions.
Faced with this reality, faith communities are encouraged to innovate in the holding of congregational worship over the upcoming Easter, Passover and Ramadan as they did last year.
Large gatherings, whether religious or otherwise, have the potential to spread the virus, despite the application of measures around social distancing and sanitising.
Over this coming weekend, millions of South Africans will be observing an important tenet of their faith. In a country that enshrines the right to religious freedom, all effort must be made to support our people in the exercise of this right. And in exercising this right, we need to make sure that we do not place the rights or the lives of others at risk.
This is a principle that the religious leaders I met with fully support and appreciate. Like Martin Luther, they understand the responsibility of all people of faith – indeed of all South Africans – to observe the practical measures put in place to protect people’s health and save lives.
For more than a year, we have worked together as a society to contain this pandemic. Now as we work to overcome it, we need to reaffirm our shared determination to act responsibly and cautiously.
In doing so, we will be giving practical effect to the universal messages of hope, salvation, freedom and solidarity that will be spoken of in the churches, synagogues, mosques and homes of our land in the days and weeks ahead.
With best regards,
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Monday, 22 March 2021
Dear Fellow South African,