Cyril Ramaphosa | South Africans are demanding action. It is time for government to deliver

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The fundamental problem is the same – poverty, inequality and unemployment – but the extent and depth of the problem are now far greater and the impediments to progress far more complex. We, therefore, cannot proceed as we would do at any other time, writes President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The upcoming 2023 State of the Nation (SONA) address will take place at a time of crisis in our nation. 

It is just over a year before the end of the term of the sixth democratic administration. It is, therefore, appropriate that we reflect on the progress we have made in implementing the mandate of this administration, as expressed in the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF).

We need to consider areas where there has been progress, where we have experienced challenges and where there have been clear shortcomings. It is important that we reflect on the devastating and lasting impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, events like the July 2021 public unrest and, most recently, sustained load shedding. This is a process that requires a critical and sober assessment of the capabilities and weaknesses of the state and the kind of leadership provided by all of us in government.

READ | Cyril Ramaphosa: While we all desperately want to, we cannot end load shedding overnight

But this analysis will be of little value if it does not impel us to do better and achieve more in the remaining time of this administration. The SONA must proceed with a clear understanding of the challenges that confront the country now and the critical actions that are required. We must appreciate that the circumstances in which the MTSF was developed are different to the circumstances in which we find ourselves today.

The fundamental problem is the same – poverty, inequality and unemployment – but the extent and depth of the problem are now far greater and the impediments to progress far more complex. We, therefore, cannot proceed as we would do at any other time.

Massive damage to our economy 

Government and all its entities must focus on those actions that will make a difference now, and that will lay a foundation for a sustained economic and social recovery. We must be resolute in the work that must be done to achieve a visible, meaningful and qualitative shift in our country's direction.

The inability of Eskom to provide the country with the electricity that it needs continues to cause massive damage to our economy and each day further undermines the health, well-being and livelihoods of the South African people. Load shedding is more than an inconvenience. It is more than a disruption. It is a threat to the progress of our country and the development of its people.

READ | Adriaan Basson: Wanted: A president with unquestionable integrity to turn around SA

Therefore, we must resolve the energy crisis with urgency, otherwise all our efforts to rebuild the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic will come to nothing. Principally, we must significantly reduce the frequency and severity of load shedding, with a view to ending it altogether within the shortest possible time.

While this is our foremost priority at this time, we must proceed at the same time to address those challenges that affect South Africans most directly. Our second priority is to accelerate our efforts aimed at reducing unemployment through inclusive growth and transformation. Thirdly, we must sustain our fight against poverty and hunger by providing support and protection to poor households and creating opportunities for greater participation in the economy. Fourthly, we must improve the provision of services and the maintenance of infrastructure, specifically in water and sanitation, energy and roads. Fifthly, we must remain undeterred in our war against crime and corruption.

Finally, in order to achieve all of the other priorities, we must ensure an efficient, effective and capable state, paying close attention to the state of municipalities.

As we focus on these areas of work, we must be sure that this is not the extent of the work of government. There are many programmes undertaken by departments, public agencies and different spheres of government that are important for improving the lives of South Africans. These must continue.

Reflect on progress

But the act of identifying priorities requires that we concentrate on those actions that will have the greatest impact. It is on the actions that will have the most significant impact that we will dedicate the bulk of our efforts and resources, and around which we must mobilise all South Africans. In identifying such actions, we need to sharpen the means by which we measure their value and impact. We must move the needle. 

The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) has to achieve what it is supposed to achieve since it was adopted in October 2020. Since its adoption, the economy has recovered from the severe contraction experienced in 2020. The focus on impact needs to extend beyond the way we select interventions. It also needs to determine how we assess implementation.

The State of the Nation Address, among other things, needs to reflect on progress in implementing the commitments made a year ago in SONA 2022. Broadly, we do not need new plans. We must continue focusing our actions in the ERRP, the Energy Action Plan and the MTSF on elements that will deliver the changes South Africans need, want and deserve. And we need to focus our energy and resources on implementing them without delay.

South Africa is facing several crises, from electricity to unemployment to service provision. The country is also facing a crisis of confidence. Under these circumstances, we cannot do our business as we normally would. We need to do things differently. We need to prioritise. We need to focus. And we need to marshal our every resource and capability to resolve these crises.

- Cyril Ramaphosa is the president of South Africa

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