Eskom, NHI and land expropriation: How Ramaphosa responded to MPs' SONA concerns

2020-02-21 05:21
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Adrian de Kock)

President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Adrian de Kock)

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Between the points of order, the accusations, bluster and grandstanding of the debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address, members of the opposition raised some criticism on policy issues, with recommendations on how Ramaphosa can rectify them.

Some of the most hotly debate topics were the flailing power provider Eskom, expropriation without compensation, and the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.

Here are some of the points raised on these topics by opposition MPs, with the response Ramaphosa delivered on Thursday.

Eskom

DA MP and spokesperson on energy and mineral resources Kevin Mileham said: "We had hoped that in this critical hour, President Ramaphosa would seize the opportunity last week to take ownership of the problem, deal decisively with Eskom, and provide South Africa with a path to a powered future. But the incapable state and its incapable president never take bold action."

He called on Ramaphosa to split and privatise Eskom, open the energy generation market and to not use pensions to bail out Eskom.

Ramaphosa responded: "We will not, as some honourable members have suggested, simply switch off Eskom's life support, for to do so would be to plunge our economy and our country into chaos.

"We have a clear road map to restore Eskom's financial and operational position and to place our entire energy sector on a new trajectory of sustainability."

Expropriation without compensation

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen advised Ramaphosa to walk away from expropriation without compensation.

DA MP Annelie Lotriet said amending Section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation would cause South Africa irreparable harm, it would undermine property rights and that it was just used to paper over the ANC's failures regarding land reform.

"The initial motivation for the amendment to Section 25 was to make explicit that which is implicit. This is a false argument. The Constitution is explicit enough about specifically land reform and restitution."

Lotriet called on Ramaphosa to provide policy certainty, not to amend the Constitution in such a way that the executive has the power to decide when to expropriate without compensation and to condemn land grabs.

Ramaphosa's response: "As some honourable members have noted, land reform is an essential part of inclusive growth.

"Unless we change the patterns of land ownership in this country - unless we give all South Africans access to land for agriculture, for commerce, for housing - we will not only be perpetuating a grave injustice but we will also be constraining the economic potential of our land and our people.

"The lack of land is - alongside the lack of skills - one of the greatest impediments to growth and prosperity.

"It is for this reason that we are undertaking a programme of accelerated land reform that focuses not only on redistribution, restitution and tenure reform, but also on the support that beneficiaries need - in the form of training, finance, extension services and implements - to be successful farmers.

"We support the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution and are drafting a new Expropriation Bill to clarify the circumstances in which land may be expropriated without compensation.

"This is just one of the mechanisms available to the government to effect redistribution.

"Far from undermining property rights, these changes will broaden the property rights of all South Africans."

NHI

DA MP and spokesperson on health Siviwe Gwarube said: "It became evident that many have been sold a dream that the failures of the ANC government will be immediately rectified by the NHI Bill.

"Yet we know that this is not true.

"What is most tragic though is how the governing party is using the NHI Bill to mask its governance failures, promising an overnight transformation of the health system when they know this is false.

"This government knows that as the bill stands, it will not improve the quality of health care for all South Africans."

She said to place 58 million South Africans on a single NHI system without the investment needed would only lead to the complete collapse of health care.

Ramaphosa's response: "A prosperous nation depends on all citizens having access to quality health care.

"The NHI is a vital and necessary step towards that goal.

"It is about ensuring that the funds we spend annually on comprehensive health care results in better levels of care, in standardised services and in better health for all.

"It is about ensuring that our parents and grandparents, our children and ourselves receive proper treatment in well-run facilities run by professionals regardless of where we live, and of how much or how little we have.

"For every South African to receive an equal standard of quality health care is good for social cohesion, for all of us, and, ultimately, with a healthier population, good for our economy.

"We are clear that the pace and the scale at which we implement the NHI will be determined by the means at our disposal."

Read more on:    eskom  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  nhi  |  politics  |  health
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