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Ministers weigh in on SONA 2020

Practical and focused on execution -- this is how President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) has been described by a number of Ministers in his Cabinet.

“It sets out clearly the action plan for the year. Last year, President Ramaphosa indicated the broad vision. This SONA was about the practical steps, how to get [the job] done and also what still needs to be done.

“It pointed to the importance of attracting more investment to the economy, the successes we have made and the additional steps that we are taking,” said Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.

Underpinned on inclusive growth, the President set out the country’s roadmap for the year ahead on Thursday during a joint sitting of Parliament. He emphasised the need for government to ramp up the country’s ailing economy by fixing the fundamentals, and zeroed in on execution.

“This State of the Nation Address is about inclusive growth. This year, we fix the fundamentals. We pursue critical areas of growth, and we ensure excellence in planning and execution in government,” said the President.

With the SONA taking place just days after South Africa assumed chairship of the African Union, President Ramaphosa used the occasion to highlight the positive spin-offs that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will offer.

Through the AfCFTA, which comes into effect this year, the continent will finalise the rules that define what is a ‘Made in Africa’ product, the tariff lines that will be reduced to zero over the next five years, and the services sectors that will be opened up across the continent.

With energy as the driver of the economy, the President expanded on Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe’s recent announcement that government is gazetting a revised schedule of the Electricity Regulation Act, which will allow mining companies to generate their own energy for self-use.

“Over the next few months, as Eskom works to restore its operational capabilities, we will be implementing measures that will fundamentally change the trajectory of energy generation in our country.

“The National Energy Regulator will continue to register small-scale distributed generation for own use of under 1 MW, for which no licence is required,” said the President.

In reaction to the President’s speech, Mantashe said changes in the energy sector will come to fruition in a few weeks.

“We are going to see a Section 34 Ministerial Determination within the next few weeks and once it is out, we will get concurrence with National Energy Regulator, then we are [ready to take off],” he said.

In addition to matters of the economy, the President emphasised the need to address the scourge of youth unemployment by prioritising education and the skills deficit that exists.

To bridge the gap between youth unemployment and skills, President Ramaphosa announced government’s plan to build new Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college campuses this year.

The colleges will be located in Sterkspruit, Aliwal North, Graaff Reinet and Ngungqushe in the Eastern Cape, and in Umzimkhulu, Greytown, Msinga, Nongoma and Kwagqikazi in KwaZulu-Natal.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said this announcement demonstrates government’s commitment to tackling youth unemployment in the long-term.

“If we really want to address issues of youth unemployment and provision of skills, the strengthening and building of more TVET colleges is very important,” said Nzimande. – SAnews.gov.za