Just a few weeks ago, I was deeply humbled and heartened by the well wishes of many South Africans who very kindly made a point of congratulating me on the milestone of my 75th birthday.
12 April 2017 was indeed a special personal milestone which also made me reflect on the many decades of my life during which I committed myself to serving the people of South Africa during our liberation Struggle and in our democratic dispensation.
Taking stock of success
Coming as it does early in April, my birthday always coincides with the annual stocktaking exercise undertaken by the Public Service where political office-bearers and administrators provide reports on the performance of government during the financial year ending on 31 March each year.
Since we are a government of the people, elected by the people, it means that when government has performed well, all of South Africa has in fact performed well.
The financial year which ended on 31 March 2017 was yet another 12-month period during which South Africa moved forward in so many ways across so many sectors.
In the area of economic transformation and reigniting growth and jobs, we made progress in programmes that included energy, manufacturing, transport, telecommunications, water, tourism, the ocean economy, mining, agriculture, telecommunications and reducing workplace conflict.
Government created a One Stop Shop, or InvestSA initiative, to remove obstacles to doing business in South Africa. This project helps potential investors to fast-track company registrations, water or energy licensing, environmental impact assessments, visa requirements and other services.
For thousands of South Africans, this means that the faster businesses get the green light to operate, the faster South Africans get to work in those businesses and have money to care for their families, and to spend in our economy which, again, generates new jobs.
Government support for growth
During the 2015/16 financial year the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti), through its range of incentives, supported 1 770 companies resulting in a total of R57 billion in new investment made by the private sector and more than 80 000 jobs were supported. In the first six months of the current financial year, the dti, through its incentives, leveraged more than R27 billion in private sector investment and supported just over 7 000 new jobs to be created.
The Industrial Development Corporation last year approved roughly R1 billion for youth-owned enterprises, showing that we are serious about implementing the Youth Employment Accord.
The Black Industrialists Programme was established to enable black industrialists to enter strategic and targeted industrial sectors and value chains. This project seeks to enable black empowerment beyond share ownership schemes, to create a footprint of industries owned by black people.
New solutions for old industries
With regard to mining and the revitalisation of mining towns, the partnerships formed in 2012 with mining companies following the Marikana Tragedy continues to yield results.
Various government departments implement various projects in the mining towns currently. There are 351 informal settlements in the mining towns that are receiving support from the Government’s National Upgrade Support Programme.
The Department of Health has established one stop-service centres to bring health and compensation services to former and current mine workers in the mining towns and in labour sending areas. One-stop service centres have been established in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape and Carletonville in Gauteng.
The Mthatha centre is fully funded by government and more than 3 000 former mine workers have already made use of the centre’s services. Also, to date over 3 000 current and former miners have already made use of the Carletonville centre’s services.
Power for the People
Across South Africa, the extension of electricity supply to communities continues apace. In the 2016/17 financial year a total grant of R5,6 billion was made available to the Department of Energy for the electrification of 235 000 households with grid power and 20 000 with non-grid power.
Through the Expanded Public Works Programme, environmental programmes have created work opportunities for over 97 000 previously unemployed people. The Working for Water programme employed 33 000 participants to clear invasive plants. The 5 000 fire-fighters of the Working on Fire programme continue to save billions of Rands for the country.
In the area of education, government completed the building or refurbishment of 170 schools through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, (ASIDI). Government has also provided water to 615 schools, decent sanitation to 425 schools and electricity to 307 schools.
These and many other achievements tell me that the year ending 31 March 2017 was indeed a year of progress for our country, and being able to celebrate our country’s progress was the thing that made my 75th.