Government is committed to putting people first, and has given itself 100 days to finalise a plan to involve all sectors of society in growing South Africa’s economy, creating jobs and combating hunger.
This was emphasised by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his 2022 State of the Nation Address.
“This work will build on the foundation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, which remains our common programme to rebuild the economy,” he said.
The President said government’s priorities are overcoming the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic, building infrastructure, increasing local production, creating jobs and addressing the energy crisis.
“If there is one thing we all agree on, it is that the present situation – of deep poverty, unemployment and inequality – is unacceptable and unsustainable.”
Last year, the unemployment rate reached its highest recorded level of 34.9% in the third quarter, following the financial devastation caused by COVID-19.
“We all know that government does not create jobs. Business creates jobs. The key task of government is to create the conditions that will enable the private sector – both big and small – to emerge, to grow, to access new markets, to create new products, and to hire more employees,” he said.
Around 80% of employed people work in the private sector.
The President said government will introduce a new loan guarantee scheme to help small businesses recover.
The Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme, which has already supported over 850 000 employment opportunities, will be stepped up. Most of the beneficiaries were young people; over 60% were women.
The employment stimulus will enable the Department of Home Affairs to recruit
10 000 unemployed youth for the digitisation of paper records, and the Social Employment Fund will create another 50 000 work opportunities. The Department of Higher Education and Training will place 10 000 unemployed technical and vocational education and training graduates in workplaces from April 2022.
The SAYouth.mobi platform, which helps young work seekers to access opportunities and support, now has over 2.3 million youth registered. Of these, over 600 000 have been placed into employment opportunities.
“A revitalised National Youth Service will recruit its first cohort of 50 000 young people during the next year , creating opportunities for young people to contribute to their communities, develop their skills and grow their employability.”
SRD Grant continues
The COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant, which has helped over
10 million unemployed people, has been extended for another year – to the end of March 2023.
In addition, government and its partners will look at ways to continue to support people in financial distress in a manner that is affordable to the country over the long term.
Access to land
Government is moving ahead with land reform and anticipates the approval of the Expropriation Bill this year. The establishment of the Agriculture and Land Reform Development Agency will also be finalised this year.
“The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure will finalise the transfer of 14 000 hectares of state land to the Housing Development Agency,” the President said.
He added that there is enough arable land to support millions of thriving small-scale farmers in poultry, livestock, fruit and vegetables.
Already, over 100 000 farmers have received input vouchers to expand their production and the programme will be expanded to reach more farmers.
Corruption and crime
From instituting the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, to investigating COVID-19-related procurement contracts, President Ramaphosa is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to ending corruption.
“None of our efforts to revive our economy will succeed if we do not tackle the scourge of corruption once and for all,” the President said.
By no later than 30 June 2022, he will present a plan of action in response to the Commission’s recommendations.
He explained that various government agencies were working together to identify wrongdoers, punish them, and to get looted State money refunded.
Safety and security will be strengthened through the recruitment of 12 000 police personnel and the re-establishment of community policing forums.
Government will also continue to intensify the fight against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) this year, through the implementation of the National Strategic Plan on GBVF.
Three new laws are already working to strengthen the criminal justice system and support survivors. “The implementation of this legislation will go a long way to ensuring that cases are successfully prosecuted, that survivors are protected and that there are more effective deterrents in place.”
One of the new laws that President Ramaphosa was referring to is the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act which protects the vulnerable from secondary victimisation. This Act allows the courts to appoint intermediaries through which a minor, a disabled person or an elderly person can be examined in proceedings.
The President was also referring to the new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act which outlaws sexual exploitation and grooming of persons with mental disabilities. This Act also states that sexual offences against persons who are mentally disabled must be recorded in the National Register of Sex Offenders.
The Domestic Violence Amendment Act takes account of some of the complexities in violent domestic relationships. The Act allows for the process of obtaining protection orders, and broadened the circumstances under which a protection order can be applied for.
President Ramaphosa said this Act also protects the elderly from all forms of domestic violence, and also permits complainants to apply for protection orders online, saving them time and travel costs.