In this wide-ranging piece written exclusively for City Press, President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a number of issues which the country is faced with, particularly his drive against corruption and his take on transparency and accountability, this amid the so-called Farmgate scandal.
Fourteen is the number of times I have appeared in Parliament since 2018 to answer oral questions put by members of the House. As deputy president, between 2014 and 2017, I appeared 22 times.
Eighty-four is the number of oral questions I have replied to in Parliament between 2018 and June 1 this year, out of 84 submitted to the presidency. As deputy president the number was 114, out of 114 questions submitted.
One hundred and fifty-nine is the number of questions for written reply I have answered since 2018, out of a total of 160 questions submitted.
Three full days is the number of times I, as the sitting head of state, have testified at two major commissions of inquiry since 2018, the first being in August 2021 at the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture and the second in April at the SA Human Rights Commission hearings into the July 2021 unrest.
This is the record of this presidency in meeting its obligation to be accountable. This is the evidence of this presidency’s and my commitment to account to Parliament and to the South African people – because we are a government elected by the people, for the people, and we are accountable to the South African people for all that we do.
Four years ago I was sworn in as South Africa’s fifth democratically elected president.
Addressing Parliament on February 15 2018, after being elected, I said that as we worked together to overcome the myriad of challenges our country faced, it is the South African people that must come first in all that we do.
In the intervening four years, we have had to contend with a deadly global pandemic that has deepened poverty and inequality, and a struggling economy that has exacerbated already elevated levels of unemployment.
The state capture era saw key institutions weakened or hollowed out, and severely diminished the ability of the state to perform its functions and deliver basic services to our people.
This week the presidency budget vote was presented in Parliament.It outlined the progress the presidency has made in coordinating the functions of state departments towards meeting our national priorities.
The budget was presented in the same week that Stats SA announced that in the first quarter of 2022 the South African economy grew by 1.9%, returning the economy to pre-pandemic levels much sooner than analysts expected.
Last week the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey showed that the number of unemployed people in the country dropped in the first three months of the year. This translates to 370 000 jobs created between the last quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.
We are seeing consistent recovery across major economic sectors such as manufacturing, trade, utilities, finance and agriculture, and last year we posted the largest trade surplus on record at R448 billion.
The positive signs of economic recovery, renewed business and investor confidence in our economy, and the momentum of the reform process are signs of a government and a presidency hard at work.
Given the urgency of the task at hand of reconstruction and driving an inclusive recovery that leaves no one behind, I said in Parliament this week that becoming sidetracked by political squabbles, plots and intrigue would be the greatest disservice to the South African people.
The presidency is driving the process of reconstruction and recovery from the centre, in line with its coordinating role.
This year’s state of the nation address outlined the sixth administration’s key priorities, namely growing the economy and creating jobs; fighting corruption; making communities safer and building better lives for our people; and making government work for the people.
READ: FULL SPEECH | President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers 2022 Sona
These are being enabled by a far-reaching economic reform agenda driven by the respective departments and supported by Operation Vulindlela, an initiative of the presidency and National Treasury.
This is because we have a keen appreciation that policy which is both coherent and catalytic is an important foundation for our country’s economic recovery.
In the past, policy and regulatory uncertainty were cited as a major obstacle and deterrent to domestic and foreign investment.
The collaborative work of Operation Vulindlela in the presidency, supported by a project management office, has resulted in the passage of key economic reform measures in energy, telecommunications, water infrastructure and electricity.
READ: Ramaphosa hails structural reforms
The recently established Red Tape Reduction Unit in the presidency will further abet the reform process by helping to overcome bureaucratic hurdles and obstacles that constrain the business operating environment.
I said in this week’s presidency budget vote that we have positioned ourselves as a transformative presidency, and that although transformation takes time, when the right decisions are made at the right time, progress ensues.
No more is this evident than in our drive to fundamentally transform the energy landscape. Security of energy supply has a direct impact on business and investor confidence, and this has been the foremost priority of the reform drive.
We are addressing immediate challenges by bringing more renewable energy sources online, concluding power purchase agreements for risk mitigation projects, and developing plans to close the electricity gap.
In this regard, the just transition partnership concluded last year with the governments of France, Germany, the UK, US and the EU promises to be a notable change.
The presidency has also been the driving force behind transformative measures to expand the labour market, with the introduction of the largest mass public employment programme in the country’s history.
The presidential employment stimulus has to date provided work opportunities to close to 1 million beneficiaries, with the majority being young people and women. In its next phase, the stimulus will support a new presidential youth employment intervention and a Social Employment Fund.
The drive to rebuild the capacity of the state is ongoing, and is another priority the presidency is coordinating from the centre.
The presidency continues to lend its support to efforts by the department of public service and administration (DPSA) as well as the National School of Government to professionalise the public service and to promote ethical conduct in the ranks.
A revised national framework towards the implementation of professionalisation of the public sector proposes reforms such as a stronger emphasis on merit-based recruitment and appointments, integrity testing before any individual joins the public sector and revising the tenure of heads of departments.
We expect this framework to be fully implemented across departments and state entities within the next year.
The District Development Model (DDM), an initiative of the presidency, is working to coordinate and integrate the planning and budgeting of government programmes on a district-based level. Despite the pandemic having set back efforts to roll out the DDM in all the country’s districts and municipalities, the initiative is now gaining momentum.
The presidency remains committed to leading the fight against corruption and to undoing the deleterious effects of the state capture years.
We are supporting the work of the National Prosecuting Authority’s Investigating Directorate, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and its Special Tribunal, the Fusion Centre and all state entities involved in the fight against corruption.
In the presidency budget vote speech, I committed to ensuring that all SIU reports are sent to the respective entities timeously to process, and to monitor their implementation.
The presidency will soon be receiving the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture and will, four months after receipt, deliver an implementation plan for its recommendations to Parliament.
As I told Parliament this week, implementing these recommendations requires not only the highest political will, but also courage. Those who stand to lose from the fight against corruption have increasingly resorted to dirty tricks and diversions to shift the focus of government and the nation.
But we will not be deterred. We will restore the values of integrity and credibility to our government. We will take back our country from criminals.
The national security council is currently receiving periodic reports from the relevant law enforcement entities on progress in implementing these recommendations.
Despite our challenges, South Africa is on the sure but steady road to recovery, evidenced by the green shoots of economic recovery and the progress we are making in the fight against corruption, as shown by a recent series of high-profile arrests.
These are the fruits of reform, driven by a reformist, transformative presidency and supported by the whole of the sixth administration.
Our singular objective is to improve the lives of the people of South Africa, and we are firmly on course.
It is our belief that business, labour, political parties and indeed all of society share the aspiration of a recovery that leaves no one behind, and we once again call on all South Africans to be part of this effort.
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