Stop being pessimistic, Ramaphosa urges as first vaccinations rolled out

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President Cyril Ramaphosa at SONA 2020. (Twitter, @PresidencyZA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa at SONA 2020. (Twitter, @PresidencyZA)
  • Ramaphosa said first Covid-19 vaccine has been administered in the country and the vaccination programme has begun.
  • He said data suggested that as the vaccination program gathered momentum, employment figures would improve gradually.
  • He repeated commitments to key reforms in energy, localisation and the ongoing drive to draw skills and investment.

President Cyril Ramaphosa told Parliament on Thursday that South Africans needed to be single-minded about their strengths and opportunities as the nation prepared to roll out its vaccine programme in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that plagued the world last year.

Ramaphosa was responding to the debate on his State of the Nation Address (SONA), which he tabled last week Thursday. The SONA debate took place over Tuesday and Wednesday over two hybrid sittings in the National Assembly.

Ramaphosa's SONA focused on programmes that government implemented in response to the pandemic as well as long term interventions to improve the state of the economy, which has consistently underperformed for over a decade.

Ramaphosa called for South Africans to not allow pessimism to get the better of them as the country prepared to vaccinate its population against the coronavirus the prompted a national lockdown that ground growth to a halt and drove unemployment numbers up.

"The first Covid-19 vaccine has been administered in the country and the vaccination programme has begun. This has not happened, not in a month, not in two months, but now, as we said that it would," said Ramaphosa.

Don't lose sight of opportunities

Ramaphosa said the country could not allow pessimism to make citizens lose sight of the opportunities they had to expedite the country's recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We forget about what we have on the asset end of our balance sheet and the endowments we have as a nation. We spend a lot of time and energy on the negatives. If we step back and look at our many strengths, we should find time to capitalise on and develop rather than break down those strengths and end up with nothing," Ramaphosa said.

He said data suggested that - as the vaccination programme gathered momentum - employment figures would improve gradually, harkening back to his SONA prediction that employment would pick back up towards the end of the year.

"These data show that by October last year, total employment had recovered to almost reach the level seen in February, just before the pandemic. While we await the release of new data from Stats SA, these findings are a remarkable early signal of a robust and resilient labour market recovery," he said.

He said South Africa was proactive in giving local firms an opportunity to assist in South Africa's Covid-19 recovery as Biovac uses vaccine storage capabilities to distribute the vaccine to vaccination centres around the country.

"PPE producers were able to start selling on a platform with the African Union and sold to a number of countries in our continent. This speaks to the inventiveness that we have and the innovation in this country. These are things we need to be proud of on the asset side of our balance sheet," Ramaphosa said.

He also repeated commitments to key reforms in energy, localisation and the ongoing drive to draw skills and investment.

"That is why our Integrated Resource Plan 2019 envisages a substantial increase in the contribution that renewable energy makes to our country’s energy supply. It is why Eskom is expanding and strengthening the transmission grid to facilitate the connection of renewable energy, and by participating itself in the building of renewable energy generation capacity," he said.

"During [SONA], I said that we would publish the revised critical skills list for public comment within one week, and I am pleased to announce that the list was gazetted this morning," he said.
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