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President Cyril Ramaphosa Oral Replies in the National Assembly, Parliament, Cape Town

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QUESTION:


With reference to the poor performance of the South African economy, the continuing job losses driving unemployment to an 11-year high, the serious challenges facing critical state-owned enterprises, and in light of the fact that the most recent government interventions such as the removal of barriers to entry-level Government positions, the stimulus package and Presidential Jobs Summit do not seem to have an impact, what are the Government’s plans to

(a) effectively address the challenge of slow economic growth and
(b) deal with rising unemployment rate?

REPLY:

Honourable Members,

Economic growth and job creation is the apex priority of this administration.

It is nearly one year since I announced the Economic Stimulus and Recovery package to get the wheels turning again, so now would be an opportune time to provide a brief report back on what we have achieved in terms of meeting its key objectives.

We said we would implement growth-enhancing reforms in pursuit of igniting economic activity.

One of these is that we will relook at our visa regime to attract more tourists, and more highly skilled professionals.

The Department of Home Affairs recently issued a list of countries that will receive visa waivers, among them countries with high tourism potential like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

An e-visa system will soon be piloted as part of modernising our current system.

The Department of Home Affairs is working with the Department of Higher Education and Training towards refining a list of critical skills that will inform future regulations.

We have introduced trade measures to safeguard key agricultural sectors like the poultry industry, and in the process protect local jobs.

The policy directive for the release of high demand spectrum gazetted on 26 July 2019 will help to draw fresh investment into the digital and telecoms sectors.

Towards our goal of making it easier to do business in South Africa through reducing port and rail tariffs, the Ports regulator in November announced a tariff decrease of 6% and also decreased container and automotive cargo dues.

We said we would move forward with agrarian reform.

Funding to the tune of R3.9bn has been released to support black commercial farmers through the Land Bank.

To promote greater certainty in the use of land for productive activities we have finalised over 1,400 30-year leases.

We said we would revitalise industrial parks and three new parks have been launched in the 2019 financial year in Ekandustria, Garankuwa and Nkowankowa.

We said we would reprioritise public spending to support more social infrastructure.

We have already exceeded the target of filling over 2,000 critical medical posts to address challenges in the health care system.

Between September 2018 and July 2019, the IDC approved upwards of R14 billion in infrastructure funding for roads, human settlements, water infrastructure, schools, student accomodation and public transport.

To support job creation an amount of R600 million has been provisionally allocated to support rural and township entrepreneurs.

The Employee Tax Incentive has been extended to 2029 to enable more employers to take advantage of its provisions to hire more young people.

I recently met the leaders of business, labour and communities at Nedlac to review progress in implementation of the Jobs Summit commitments.

While there has been progress in several areas, all constituencies agree that the depth of the unemployment crisis means we have to do more, and we have to do it faster.

We have therefore agreed that I, together with Deputy President Mabuza, will convene a regular meeting with all Nedlac constituencies to review progress and, where necessary, take action to resolve problems.

As we outlined in SONA in June, we are responding to the dire employment situation by addressing the structural weaknesses in the economy, developing skills that match the needs of the economy, boosting investment and fixing state owned enterprises, among a number of actions.

Further measures to reduce our fiscal deficit and debt ratios will be announced in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in October.

This administration is pursuing a purposeful industrial strategy in which we work closely with social partners to develop Master Plans for sectors with high potential for growth.

Government has already begun work with sectors such as clothing, textiles and footwear, poultry, the sugar industry and steel and downstream metal fabrication.

Funding to the tune of R600m has been allocated over the MTEF to support the clothing and textile sectors.

In June, a number of Chinese companies signed agreements with their South African counterparts to buy more than R25 billion of South African goods.

These will help to boost production, growth and jobs in the local economy.

The African Continental Free Trade Area, which is planned to come into effect on 1 July next year, is expected to fundamentally reshape the South African economy.

Already, exports to other African countries support about 250,000 South African jobs.

To improve the levels of investment in the economy, we will host the Second South Africa Investment Conference from 5 to 7 November this year.

This will build on the success of the first conference where commitments of R300 billion were made by local and international companies in support of our R1.2 trillion investment drive.

Of the R300 billion committed at the inaugural Investment Conference, around R250 billion worth of projects are in the implementation phase.

There has been a significant turnaround in flows of foreign direct investment, surging from R26.8 billion in 2017 to R70.7 billion in 2018.

We are working on a set of priority reforms to improve the ease of doing business and reducing the cost of compliance.

Technical Working Groups comprised of officials in the relevant departments have begun work on five of the indicators: starting a business, paying taxes, registering property, trading across borders, and dealing with construction permits.

One of the constraints to growth in our economy is the high level of economic concentration.

Earlier this year, I signed the Competition Amendment Act into law, and major sections of this Act have come into operation last month.

The new laws will give the competition authorities the ability to address abuse of dominance and high concentration that keeps small and emerging companies out of the economy.

The combined efforts of DTI, the IDC and partnerships with the private sector are expected to provide support of over R40 billion to black industrialists over the next five years.

The IDC is expected to provide R11 billion in support to women-empowered enterprises alone, and further funds will be made available for youth-enterprises.

Through spatial interventions like special economic zones, reviving local industrial parks, business centres, digital hubs and township and village enterprises, we are bringing economic development to local areas.

We are working to develop small and medium enterprises in our cities, townships and rural areas and create market places where they trade their products.

If we are to achieve the South Africa we want, we need to forge durable partnerships between government, business, labour, communities and civil society.

Government is hard at work to create an enabling environment, use public resources wisely and invest in developing the country’s human potential.

Business and labour need to act together to promote our country’s national strategic objectives.

Early in the sixth administration, I engaged with the National Planning Commission to tap into the collective wisdom embodied in that esteemed collective of South Africans.

In playing their advisory role, they continue to develop research and insights to support strategies towards inclusive growth.

There are no easy or quick solutions to low growth and unemployment.

It requires hard work, smart policy choices, commitment and, above all, close cooperation among all social partners.

I thank you.  


QUESTION:

Whether he intends to institute a full-scale, independent inquiry, headed by a retired judge to be selected by the Chief Justice, to further investigate all allegations of state capture that involve Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations, following the revelations made in the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector and the findings of the Public Protector in her report titled Report on an Investigation into Allegations of a Violation of the Executive Ethics Code through an Improper Relationship between the President and African Global Operations, formerly known as Bosasa, Report 37 of 2019-20?

REPLY: 

Honourable Members,

In January 2018, then President Jacob Zuma appointed a Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the Public Sector including organs of state.

The Deputy Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, Judge Raymond Zondo, was appointed as the Chairperson of the Commission, having been identified by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

According to its terms of reference, among other things:

“The Commission shall inquire into, make findings, report on and make recommendations concerning the following…

“1.9 the nature and extent of corruption, if any, in the awarding of contracts and tenders to companies, business entities or organizations by Government Departments, agencies and entities. In particular, whether any member of the National Executive (including the President), public official, functionary of any organ of state influenced the awarding of tenders to benefit themselves, their families or entities in which they held a personal interest…”

It should be obvious from these terms of reference that the Commission of Inquiry into state capture has both the mandate and the authority to investigate the matters to which the Hon Maimane refers.

It is a matter of public record that the Commission is indeed investigating various allegations with respect to Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations.

I have already deposed an affidavit to the commission regarding any contact or dealings I may have had with persons who have either appeared before the commission or have been named at the commission in one form or another.

I have also said that I would be willing to appear before the commission at any time that the commission would want to hear me on any matter that may assist them in their work.

There is therefore absolutely no reason to establish a new inquiry to investigate a matter that is already being investigated by a sitting Commission of Inquiry.

As a country, and as leaders, we should direct our efforts towards supporting the Zondo Commission of Inquiry and urging all those with information relevant to its mandate to make themselves available to the Commission.

We need also to support and equip the National Prosecuting Authority to pursue investigations and prosecutions where there is evidence of criminality.

As for the report of the Public Protector, Honourable Members may know that this matter has been taken on urgent judicial review.

We should allow the courts to make a determination on this matter. Let us give the courts the opportunity to deal with this matter – after which we can have a political discussion.

I am waiting for the courts to make a determination on this matter and I woiuld like this to be done as urgently as possible, so that all of us as South Africans can get on with our lives and we can get on with the task of governance in our country.

I thank you.


QUESTION:

With reference to his reply to question 4 on 20 February 2019, wherein he stated that he was not involved in fundraising for his campaign to become president of his political organisation, known as the CR17 campaign, but only met with potential funders at dinners organised by those leading the campaign, what are the details of

(a) the persons in the Office of the President and the Cabinet who were involved in fundraising for his campaign and
(b) the potential funders whom he met at each specified dinner as per his reply?

REPLY:

Honourable Members,

Following the release of the Public Protector’s report into allegations against the President, there has been much interest in the country about the funding and operations of the CR17 campaign.

As I have already indicated, the Public Protector’s report is being taken on urgent judicial review and the courts will make a determination on the matter.

Some people have used this opportunity – quite correctly in my view – to debate the issue of political funding. This is an important debate that needs to ensue in our country.

I have also initiated discussion within the political party that I lead about the running of internal political leadership contests. I initiated that discussion in the last NEC (of the ANC) where I said this whole matter has brought to the fore a question we need to address as a political party.

But others have a more sinister agenda, using leaked information selectively to undermine the positive changes that have been brought about in this country since the ANC’s 54th National Conference.

The CR17 campaign was a legitimate, forward-looking and necessary effort to promote the renewal of the governing party and broader society, undertaken under difficult conditions.

In its funding and its activities, there was no wrongdoing, no criminality and no abuse of public funds or resources.

Those who contributed to the campaign – whether as organisers, volunteers, as members of the ANC, as service providers or donors, including myself – did so out of a genuine concern for the future of the country.

If there were members of the Executive who were part of the campaign and were involved in fundraising, they did so as individual party members exercising their democratic and Constitutional right. In this regard, they owe no apology for what they did.

What they did is a matter between themselves and their party; just as it is a matter between myself as President of the ANC and my party. It is for that reason that I have initiated that discussion within the ANC.

As things currently stand, therefore, there are no rules or regulations in place for the disclosure of donations for internal party leadership contests.

This matter is now before our courts. It is a matter that is going to be dealt with by our courts. I want our courts to determine the extent to which declarations or disclosures may have been needed for internal party campaigning.

Nor is there a provision for the disclosure of such information in the Executive Ethics Code or in the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests for Assembly and Permanent Council Members.

I am sure that the Honourable Malema would agree that it would be unreasonable and potentially prejudicial to expect the disclosure of such information until such time that all candidates and all parties are held to the same requirements of disclosure and transparency.

The Political Party Funding Act, which I signed into law earlier this year, does regulate public and private funding of political parties and requires disclosure of donations accepted.

While this Act does not extend to the funding of internal party leadership contests, this is perhaps the appropriate time for this House to consider whether it is necessary and desirable for funding of internal party contests to be disclosed and regulated.

Do we want internal party political contests from the governing party to the smallest party to be regulated so that there will be disclosure?

I would therefore like to suggest that this Parliament take responsibility for ensuring that the same standards of accountability and transparency are applied to all parties and leaders.

I thank you.  


QUESTION:

With regard to the signing of the first-ever Presidential Health Compact that binds different stakeholders to overcoming the challenges in the public health care system and to give practical expression to section 27 of the Bill of Rights, which affirms the right of everyone to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care, what

(a) has he found to be the state of readiness of the country to implement the National Health Insurance and
(b) will be the benefits of National Health Insurance as the country develops the national health care system for the future?

REPLY:

Honourable Members,

South Africa has massive inequalities that require policy change.

We are one of the countries with the highest inequality.

The health sector contributes significantly to the country’s inequality status. 

Therefore, one of our greatest priorities as a nation must be the achievement of universal health coverage, where all our people have equal access to quality health care.

This is essential for the achievement of a better quality of life, for social justice, for equity and for a more productive economy.

We have also signed as a country the Sustainable development agenda which calls for the introduction of Universal Health Coverage.

We are heading out to New York at the United Nations to join other countries who are moving towards the implementation of their verson of Universal Health Coverage.

As part of our global commitment, we attended and contributed our input to the G20 Summit in Osaka in June this year.

At the summit, we, together with the low and medium income countries were urged to move towards universal health coverage.

We are on track to do this in our country through the National Health Insurance.

We have global support in moving towards Universal Health Coverage.

The Elders Group, established by the Former President Nelson Mandela, has issued a statement in support of our efforts towards NHI.

Furthermore, the World Health Organisation is greatly supportive of our efforts to introduce universal health coverage, which has been a fundamental demand of the Freedom Charter for over 50 years.

It is for this reason that we are pursuing an ambitious programme to address the problems in our health system alongside the introduction of National Health Insurance.

Last month, we signed a Presidential Health Compact, which provides a comprehensive and detailed programme to improve our public health care system.

This historic Compact was developed together with all key stakeholders, including health professionals, labour, business, statutory councils, civil society, users of the health system and academia.

Each stakeholder is committed to practical measures to strengthen the health system.

This is essential if we are to ensure that each clinic, community health centre and hospital in the public and private sector is NHI-ready.

The NHI Fund will contract with only those hospitals and clinics that meet international quality standards.

This approach implies that we will be undertaking measures to strengthen the health system as we implement the NHI.

We are focusing on improvements in human resources, access to medicines and vaccines, building and maintenance of infrastructure, and the quality, safety and quantity of health services.

We are working together with stakeholders to improve financial management and strengthen governance, oversight and accountability.

A vital component of this plan is to ensure that the national health information system guides the way policies, strategies and investments are made.

Once passed into law, the NHI Bill will go a long way towards achieving universal quality health coverage.

We will join a community of nations that are moving towards ending inequality in access to quality health care.

In South Africa, we are confronting severe inequality, where around R250 billion is spent on the 16% of the population who have access to private health care, while only R220 billion goes towards health care for the rest of the population.

There are those who say we must leave things as they are.

We are called upon to retain an unjust system that deprives the majority of South Africans access to the doctors, specialists, allied health professionals that are supposed to serve only a few to the exclusion of the rest. 

To this we say ‘No’.

This is unfair, inefficient and unsustainable.

We have enough resources in this country to give every man, woman and child health care, but we refuse because we want to promote interests of a few to the detriment of the rest.

We shall change this.

Implementing NHI while improving the health system has several benefits.

The NHI will increase the resources available to hire more health workers, thus reducing waiting times at clinics and hospitals.

Contracting health professionals from the private sector into NHI will increase access to the services of doctors, specialists, dentists, physiotherapists, psychologists and others.

Through the more efficient allocation of health resources, NHI will improve access to medicines and equipment, reduce drug stock-outs and improve maintenance of facilities.

The NHI Fund will separate the purchase of health services from the delivery of services, thereby increasing value for money.

It will help to ensure that funds, staff, medicine and equipment are more fairly distributed.

It will further enhance the quality of services delivered because all those who receive contracts must be able to provide services of a specified quality.

It will help improve efficiency, transparency and accountability.

As we have done before with all major policy interventions since 1994, we will ensure effective consultation and engagement across society at all stages of this process.

The quest for universal health coverage is probably one of the most significant public-private partnerships that we will undertake, and it is essential that all social partners are involved in its design and implementation.

It will be implemented incrementally and within available resources.

The NHI provides an opportunity to fundamentally transform health care in this country to ensure greater fairness, improved health outcomes and a more productive workforce.

Through the NHI, we will be closer to achieving the demand of the Freedom Charter that: “Free medical care and hospitalisation shall be provided for all.”

Working together, we are determined to achieve this goal.

[President relates personal account by the late Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme of an earlier Prime Minister who had shared a hospital ward with, among other persons, a steel worker. The Prime Minister told the steel worker that the Swedish government had worked to achieve a national health system where a Prime Minister and a steel worker could share a ward and receive exactly the same care.]

We want to improve and revolutionise health care. This is something we hope to achieve and it is for this reason that National Health Insurance is being piloted and directed from the Private Office of the President.

We are going to make sure that NHI does get implemented. The NHI Bill will be coming to Parliament and we hope this House will revolutionise health care delivery in our country – and in our lifetime.

I thank you. 


QUESTION:

Whether he intends to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?

REPLY:

Honourable Members,

The acceleration of land reform is essential for the transformation of society, for tackling poverty and growing the economy.

The Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture – which was established in September 2018 to provide expert advice on the critical task of land reform – had produced several far-reaching recommendations to ensure that we correct the skewed distribution of land in the country.

This is necessary to reduce inequality.

Through providing poor South Africans with land on which to farm, to live and to run businesses, we will be able to break the cycle of poverty in which many people are trapped.

The report of the Advisory Panel has been presented to Cabinet and has been made available to the public.

The report provides a detailed and critical assessment on progress since 1994 and outlines some of the weaknesses in our policies and programmes.

This report recommends legal mechanisms to recognise, register, record and enforce a continuum of land rights, so that all our people become rights holders.

The Panel has called on government to immediately identify well-located and unused or under-utilised land and buildings for the purposes of urban settlement and to prioritise poor tenants for upgrading their rights.

The Panel argues that expropriation without compensation is not, by itself, a solution to land reform, but is just one of the means of acquiring land.

The report goes much further to address questions of who should benefit, and promotes a participatory and democratic, area-based approach to identifying land needs.

The Panel’s recommendations complement and reinforce the work being done by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform chaired by the Deputy President.

The IMC is making progress in the development of the National Spatial Development Framework, which will guide our efforts to ensure land use and planning is developmental and transforms people’s lives.

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has released 100 parcels of land for land restitution purposes.

For the remaining parcels of land, land use studies are being finalised, which include land identified for human settlements.

Progress is being made in the development of an integrated model for farmer support.

The model entails the provision of financial and non-financial support through the value chain.

It is intended that, together with the work already underway, the Panel’s recommendations will inform the finalisation of a comprehensive, far-reaching and transformative land reform programme.

Cabinet still needs to consider the findings and recommendations of the panel, after which it will be able to pronounce on the implementation of this report.

We hope this will dovetail with the work being done by the National Assembly on the land question.

I thank you.


QUESTION:

With reference to section 83(c) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, which requires that he promotes the unity of the nation and that which will advance the Republic, how does he envisage (a) fulfilling this constitutional obligation as Head of State and (b) stopping the current alienation of minorities in the Republic?

REPLY:

Honourable Members,

While the Constitution enjoins the President to promote the unity of the nation, it is the role and the responsibility of all South Africans to build a country that belongs to all who live in it.

In undertaking my responsibility as President of the Republic, I am guided in the main by the Preamble to our Constitution.

Among other things, it calls on all of us to heal the divisions of the past, establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights, ensure every citizen is equally protected by the law and free the potential of each person.

The achievement of national unity depends on the advancement of equality in all spheres of public and private life.

All South Africans must have the same rights and opportunities regardless of race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

Since 1994, we have put in place policies and programmes to safeguard these rights and advance these opportunities.

We have sought to advance the constitutional principle that everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice.

Given the huge inequality in our society, which is mainly defined along lines of race and gender, the promotion of national unity requires that we take measures to advance those South Africans who have been disadvantaged by unfair discrimination.

That is why we have directed public resources towards the poor, why we have implemented employment equity and broad-based black economic empowerment, why we have massively expanded access to education, and why we have introduced a National Minimum Wage.

The divisions in our society are not only material.

They are also social, cultural and psychological.

We must therefore deepen dialogue to ensure that South Africans across the racial and other contours of difference establish common ground and that there is solidarity and mutual trust.

These dialogues must address what it means to be an active and responsible citizen. 

If it is true that there are ‘minorities’ that are alienated, then we need to find out why, (although) I would hesitate to use the word “minorities”; there are groups of people who feel they are alienated.

We need to establish whether it is a matter of perception or the consequence of actual experience, and we need to engage in dialogue to address any grievances or concerns.

My experience is that the overwhelming majority of South Africans, regardless of race, class or gender, support the measures we have undertaken – in line with the Constitution – to address the inequalities of our past and to affirm those who were previously disadvantaged.

They are in many instances also eager and actively seeking to be part of the solution in building a united nation.

They have built a bridge and crossed over it.

They understand that we will never achieve a united, peaceful society for as long as racial privilege or other forms of inequality continue.
 
Perhaps it is time for us to challenge this idea of so-called ‘minorities’.

It is indeed true that South Africa is made up of people of different races, ethnicities, language groups and religions, but we are all part of the greater South African people.

Whatever our individual backgrounds or circumstances, we are all part of the majority.

South Africa belongs to all of us equally and we must all feel that we belong to this South Africa, regardless of the various differences that we may have along the lines of language, region or colour.

We are all one nation and let us begin to act as one nation.

I thank you.