Monday, 30 November 2020
As we continue our efforts to manage the devastating coronavirus pandemic, we cannot ignore the other public health challenges that our country faces.
For more than three decades, our country has been engaged in an ongoing struggle against HIV and AIDS, which has cost many lives and caused great hardship and suffering.
Tomorrow, we will join people across the globe in marking World AIDS Day. As the Chair of the South African National AIDS Council, Deputy President David Mabuza will lead the national commemoration with an address on progress in the country’s response.
This year, World AIDS Day is taking place under difficult conditions.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, with the nation-wide lockdown and the pressure on our health facilities, many HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis services have suffered. This has posed a challenge for people testing and starting antiretroviral treatment. Many people found it difficult to collect their medicines and fewer people accessed other services, such as voluntary male medical circumcision.
At the same time, there are many lessons that have been learnt from our public health response to the coronavirus pandemic that can strengthen our fight against HIV and TB.
South Africa continues to have the largest number of people living with HIV in the world. It is encouraging, however, that over the last decade we made progress in reducing the number of new HIV infections in the population by nearly 60%.
It is also encouraging that HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women have significantly declined in the last decade. This is a crucial group because they are much more likely to be at risk of getting HIV.
Our treatment programme has contributed to a reduction in the number of deaths due to AIDS by 60%. There has been a greater reduction in HIV-related deaths among young people.
It was possible to reduce the number of deaths because we, together with our partners, have rolled out an extensive antiretroviral programme reaching millions of people living with the disease.
At the beginning of the decade, our programme to prevent mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV had very low coverage. Now we have one of the highest rates of coverage of PMTCT in Southern Africa, which has substantially reduced rates of infection among children.
While we have reduced deaths and new infections, we still are far from reaching the goal we committed ourselves in 2016 of achieving a 75% reduction in HIV infections by 2020. If we succeed in doing so, we are likely to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Unfortunately, we are not there yet. We have to do far more to ensure that young people are empowered to prevent infections, including through changing behaviour, accessing condoms and testing regularly. We need to make sure that everyone who is infected has access to treatment and care.
We need to work harder on HIV prevention among key populations, including sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs. We must end the stigma and discrimination towards these populations. We cannot hope to end HIV if we ignore the needs, concerns and rights of any part of our population.
South Africa needs to increase efforts to medically circumcise young men to reduce their risk of acquiring HIV. Unsafe circumcision should not leave young men with lifelong health problems, and no one should die from circumcision. We must make sure that young men have safe circumcision.
We are encouraged by findings of a recent study on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Unlike antiretroviral treatment that is given to people who are HIV positive, PrEP involves the regular use of antiretroviral drugs by HIV negative people to prevention infection. The study, conducted by scientists from the HIV Prevention Trials Network, found that long-acting injections once every eight weeks was better than the daily tablet used for HIV prevention. These findings have the potential to significantly strengthen our response to the epidemic.
If we are to succeed in ending AIDS as a public health threat within the next decade, we need to combine these medical breakthroughs with fundamental changes in behaviour. We also need to tackle the economic and social conditions that contribute to high rates of infection.
One of our central tasks is to empower adolescent girls and young women, educationally, economically and socially. They need to be able to make their own decisions about every aspect of their lives, including their sexuality and sexual behaviour.
As the country marks 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, we need to work even harder to address the unequal relations between men and women – which contribute both to gender-based violence and to the spread of HIV.
Ultimately, we will achieve the end of AIDS through the empowerment of young people, women and other people at risk. This includes empowerment through access to information, advice and support. It includes access to education and economic opportunities, especially for young women. Empowerment also means that every person must have access to testing, treatment and other health services.
The people of South Africa have come so far, endured so much and made such great progress in the fight against HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis.
On this World AIDS Day, which is taking place in the shadow of another devastating pandemic, let us intensify both our resolve and our actions to confront and overcome AIDS once and for all.
With best regards,
This week, we will be hosting the third South Africa Investment Conference.
Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s conference will be held in a vastly different and immensely more challenging environment than last year.
In April 2018, I announced an ambitious drive to secure R1.2 trillion in additional investments over the next five years. I said that not only is new investment essential to growing our economy, but that it is fundamental to reducing unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Beyond its contribution to national GDP, investment stimulates and supports the growth of local economies, with direct material benefits for our people. It creates work opportunities and full-time jobs, providing people with an income to feed their families and pay for basic amenities. This income gives them purchasing power and enables them to access credit for buying a home or starting a business.
The income they spend on goods and services supports local businesses, including small enterprises. As opportunities are spread and economies grow at a local level, overall economic activity is stimulated, creating a ‘trickle-up’ effect.
Together with infrastructure development and other employment stimulus measures, investment is a key to boosting our country’s productivity and that of its citizens.
In previous years, more than 1,500 delegates attended the SA Investment Conferences. But this year, to allow for social distancing, we expect about 175 delegates to attend in person from listed companies, emerging firms and entrepreneurs, business associations, labour and government. An additional 1,000 online delegates from different parts of the world have registered to date.
The conference will demonstrate that South Africa remains an attractive investment destination, and will show the progress we are making to improve the business climate. It will build on the positive momentum in investment in the years before the onset of the COVID pandemic. Foreign direct investment flows into South Africa, for example, rose sharply from R26.8 billion in 2017 to R70.6 billion in 2018.
Over the last 10 months, the pandemic forced many promising investments pledged at previous conferences to be scaled back or put on hold. But these investments only amount to about one-tenth of the total investment commitment of R664 billion.
Most of the investments are going ahead. Of the 102 projects that were announced at the last two investment conferences, 12 are in the early stages of implementation, 19 have been launched, and 44 are currently under construction or being rolled out.
This year’s conference is about implementation, and on turning commitments into brick and mortar projects in our cities and towns. It will highlight our progress in driving the economic reforms that are needed to unlock investment and growth.
Investor confidence has been boosted by, among other things, the establishment of the Infrastructure Fund. Confidence is also being improved by our continuing implementation of the structural reforms and the finalisation of industry masterplans in sectors such as clothing and textiles, sugar and the automotive industry.
We will be showcasing our strengths as a country and how these can be leveraged to attract new investment.
For example, South Africa has been voted the second most attractive location for business process outsourcing for the third year in a row. With business continuity having been disrupted by the pandemic, we are perfectly placed to capitalise on the growing need of businesses for remote contact centres.
We are positioning ourselves as a hub for digital services. Following the commitment that Amazon Web Services made at last year’s investment conference, the company opened its first cloud data centre in Africa, in Cape Town, earlier this year.
We are already a preferred energy investment destination. Many of the projects implemented through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme have been successful and set an example for many countries around the world.
With the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) commencing in January, we want to attract more continental investors into our country and at the same time expand our own investments and the market for our own goods and services elsewhere on the continent. Already, more than a quarter of South Africa’s exports are to other countries in Africa. We expect this to increase as the AfCFTA establishes a continental market of some 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of around $2.3 trillion.
We are not the only country trying to attract investment as part of its economic recovery efforts in the aftermath of COVID-19. This makes our task much harder.
To achieve our goal, we have to work together as government, business, labour and all of society to ensure that the seeds of local and international investment land on fertile soil.
Our national objective is that the investments we secure at the third South Africa Investment Conference must lead to more jobs and improved living standards, and ultimately build the highway that leads to a better, more inclusive future for all.
Monday, 09 November 2020
When the National State of Disaster was declared in March, our immediate priority was to contain the spread of the virus and provide emergency relief to citizens, communities, workers and businesses.
Over the course of eight months and with the support of our social partners, we rolled out a comprehensive set of measures to limit the social and economic impact of the pandemic.
We massively expanded social protection on a scale that has never been attempted before in this country. We are one of the few countries in the world where the right of access to social security is enshrined in the Constitution, and we can be proud that during this grave crisis we gave practical expression to this right in many ways.
In addition to our existing social grants, which reach more than 17 million people every month, we topped-up the Old Age, Disability and Child Support Grants. We rolled out a Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant, which has reached some 6 million people to date. This was done within weeks of the National State of Disaster being declared.
The scale of such an undertaking cannot be understated. To bring this system online there was extensive collaboration between the South African Social Security Agency, the South African Revenue Service, Home Affairs and many others.
We set up a fully automated application and disbursement process, and integrated multiple databases, including the National Population Register and the Unemployment Insurance Fund database. We set up new application channels like WhatsApp and USSD, and created systems with the commercial banks to enable banking detail verification. This is a remarkable achievement in a very short space of time.
Alongside the measures we took to protect and sustain livelihoods, we also supported ailing businesses. We provided relief to small businesses in the form of debt relief, finance, tax payment deferrals and other instruments.
We implemented a COVID-19 Loan Guarantee Scheme to enable businesses to meet their operational expenses during the lockdown, and are currently looking at how this scheme can reach more companies in need.
We provided income protection to workers and relief to business owners through the Temporary Employer Relief Scheme administered by the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
These were all in direct response to an emergency and were by nature temporary. Some are now coming to an end, while others have been extended as the labour market recovers.
The measures we implemented went a long way towards protecting our society from the harsh winds of COVID-19. The additional grants helped to prevent millions of people from falling below the food poverty line.
Had we not intervened to secure livelihoods and save businesses, the living conditions of our people and the circumstances of thousands of businesses would have been considerably worse.
Now we are in a transition from relief to recovery.
The emergency measures we put in place have laid a firm foundation on which to rebuild our economy. As our focus now shifts to the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, our priority will be to stimulate growth and create jobs.
There has already been progress in a number of areas.
We are seeing new funding commitments for infrastructure development following an infrastructure project roundtable last week. A number of employment programmes under the Presidential Employment Stimulus have started. We are pushing ahead with economic reforms in areas such as energy and telecommunications.
Plans are being converted to action and commitments are being reflected in jobs and opportunities.
It is all the more critical at this time, more so with the festive season approaching, that we do not become the architects of our own undoing.
The greatest vigilance is required from us all to keep the virus at bay.
A resurgence at any scale will not just dramatically reverse our health gains. It will choke the green shoots of economic recovery that have emerged, and take us back from spring to winter.
To prevent a second wave of COVID-19 infections, we must observe the public health guidelines that remain in place.
When we fail to wear a mask at a social gathering, when we attend crowded events, we are not only putting ourselves and others at risk. We are also putting our economic recovery in jeopardy.
Let us all continue to play our part.
The positive actions of wearing a mask, of maintaining social distancing and of regular hand washing helped us overcome the worst effects of the pandemic. They are still our best defence.
Let us remember the sacrifices we all had to make to contain the spread of the virus in the early days.
Even as most social and economic activity has resumed, we must still observe all the health measures. This is absolutely necessary if we are to rebuild our economy and put this crisis behind us.
Master KG scoops yet another win with his wildly successful song “Jerusalema”.
South African hitmaker has reached diamond status in France for his "Jerusalema" remix featuring Burna Boy. The sensational house DJ continues to be a trailblazer after the success of original hit song Jerusalema, featuring Nomcebo Zikode. Nigerian superstar Burna Boy jumped onto the track shortly after the viral #JersalemaChallenge. The news of the diamond certification follows the release of the remix in June of this year. Master KG recently shared the news on Twitter.
This is a big win for Master KG as diamond status is admittedly difficult to reach in France. SNEP, (Syndicat national de l’édition phonographique), France's record industry organisation, requires 35 million streams for a single to be certified diamond. Initially, record sales of over 250 000 were the criterion for diamond status but this has changed due to the increasing digitisation of music. SNEP counts 150 streams as equal to 1 sale.
Source: www.okayafrica.com (Ubuntu Flash- 12/11/2020)
Monday, 02 November 2020
In three days’ time the matric class of 2020 will sit for the National Senior Certificate examinations.
It is the culmination of twelve years of schooling and a gruelling final year of preparation. For many this is an exciting moment, but one that is also fraught with anxiety.
This year’s exam will be written under unprecedented conditions. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. The nationwide lockdown we had to impose in March to contain the spread of the coronavirus caused immense disruption to everyday life and cost valuable hours of learning and study.
To accommodate the disruptions the June Senior Certificate exams were postponed and will now be written together with the National Senior Certificate. More than a million candidates will sit for the examinations starting on Thursday.
This makes this combined examination the largest public exam ever administered in South Africa.
The provincial and national Departments of Basic Education are to be congratulated for their sterling preparation to ensure things proceed smoothly. These include the independent and public auditing of examination centres, finding extra venues to accommodate the large number of candidates, and the development of protocols to ensure compliance by candidates and officials with COVID-19 regulations.
The Class of 2020 has had to endure conditions their predecessors never had to confront. They had to adapt in real time not just to finish the curriculum but to catch up with the learning hours lost. Though some had access to online learning platforms and other resources, many had to struggle with access to learning material and teaching.
They had to endure the mental strain of social isolation, and for many months were cut off from friends and their teachers. They were not able to participate in sporting, recreational and leisure activities that are so essential to a well-rounded life and that relieve the stresses of prolonged study.
Yet, despite having the odds stacked against them, our learners are determined to present for this exam that is the pinnacle of their schooling.
It has been equally difficult for our educators. Despite the risk posed by the virus and resource challenges inside our schools, the majority of our teachers heeded the call to return to school to salvage what was left of the academic year.
They presented for work every day to support our matriculants. They put in the extra hours to get our learners over the finish line, making the most of the resources they had to ensure learning continued.
I salute our educators who have been there for their students when they were needed most. They have given so much, personally and professionally. They put our learners first and in doing so affirmed once more that our teachers are among our finest public servants.
This pandemic has brought our nation together in ways not experienced before, and this was demonstrated in the matriculation examination preparations.
Many businesses played a supportive role, assisting with the provision of technology like tablets to schools and assisting to resource school multimedia centres. Mobile network operators established e-school platforms during the lockdown carrying free learning content, including subject content for matriculants.
University graduates set up tutoring platforms online, making much needed supplementary learning support available for free.
The SABC and other TV providers have carried catch-up lessons for matric learners through the Department of Basic Education’s Woza Matrics Programme, enabling learners to prepare for the examinations.
There is the heart-warming story of Dendron Secondary School in Limpopo, where a group of dedicated teachers opened their own homes to their students. During the early days of the lockdown, they provided food and accommodation to small groups of matriculants, and supervised their studies.
There are no doubt many such stories in other parts of our country; of educators convening home-study groups with their students and of parents providing food, learning space and other resources to their children’s friends.
Without the support of parents, families and communities, our young people’s path to the matric exam would have been considerably harder. We thank them for their support.
Despite all the challenges this year has brought, I call on the Class of 2020 to summon their great reserves of courage and strength in this, the final push.
To the Class of 2020, I wish you the very best.
You have overcome difficulties that would test the resolve of even the most experienced and hardened adults.
At your tender age, there are so many demands upon you. There are the pressures of rigorous study, the pressure to excel and to achieve the results you need to study further. And yet you have come this far.
When you enter the exam room in the days ahead, you will be carrying not just your own hopes for success and those of your families. You will also carry the hopes of us, the South African people.
We are immensely proud of you and wish you the very best of luck.