President Cyril Ramaphosa says the special COVID-19 grant of R350 will be extended by another three months. He made the announcement during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday evening in Parliament.

This year’s session was attended by a few Members of Parliament and guests without the usual glamour in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

More than 18 million South Africans have received additional social grant payments.

“We have therefore decided to extend the period for the Special COVID-19 Grant of R350 by a further three months.  We have also decided to extend the COVID-19 TERS benefit until 15 March 2021 only for those sectors that have not been able to operate.  The conditions of this extension and the sectors to be included will be announced after consultations with social partners at NEDLAC,” President Ramaphosa said.

Key priorities

Defeating coronavirus, accelerating economic recovery, implementing economic reforms and fighting corruption, are this year’s country’s overriding priorities. Ramaphosa outlined the four key priorities that government will focus on this year.

Addressing the biggest challenge ever to face the country over decades, the President says there’s light at the end of the tunnel in the fight against the coronavirus which has infected nearly 1.5  million South Africans and killed at least more than 47 000.

“We have secured nine million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Further consignments will arrive over the next four weeks. In addition, we have secured 12 million vaccines from the COVAX facility. This will be other vaccines that are available to SA, Pfizer has committed 20 million vaccine doses commencing with deliveries at the end of the first quarter.”

These will be complemented by other vaccines from Pfizer and the African Union’s Vaccine Acquisition Task Team facility.

Pfizer’s are expected in the country towards the end of the first quarter of this year.

Job creation 

He said the implementation of economic reforms to create jobs and clamping down on corruption will also take priority, adding that the government will soon appoint members of the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council that will oversee the establishment of an independent statutory anti-corruption body that will report to Parliament.

As part of the recovery plan, the government is also prioritising an increase in the local to make South African exports globally competitive.

“All social partners who participated in the development of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan as part of our social compact have agreed to work together to reduce our reliance on imports by 20% over the next five years.”

Opposition parties

While the President says he expects a strong recovery in employment by the end of the year,
mainly as a result of relief measures the government has implemented, and the phased reopening of the economy, opposition parties say that’s a pie in the sky.

DA

The Democratic Alliance has identified a number of flaws in President’s SONA, saying he failed to provide practical solutions to the challenges that the country faces.

Although the party welcomed the government’s latest move on the coronavirus vaccine, its leader John Steenhuisen says there was nothing new or progressive in Ramaphosa’s address tonight especially with regards to state-owned entities and socio-economic challenges.

“He can talk about reforms. He can keep them in a piece of paper in the Union Buildings until he brings them to the floor of the parliament, he is not going to get them passed. There was nothing new tonight about concrete reforms to rebuild our economy. A complete failure to deal with Eskom this evening in any comprehensive way. Hanging onto state control of the entity, no control about the other SOEs, he didn’t mention SAA once. Nothing new on job creation.”

EFF

The EFF has strongly criticised Ramaphosa’s address, with the party’s deputy president Floyd Shivambu referring to it as insanity.

“There is nothing different that he has said which was not said before and that amounts to insanity. Because insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. The difference today is that he was trying to be a hype man of a dying or actually a dead horse in terms of where we are. What is the state of SA’s economy and society currently? We’ve got more than 10 million people that do not have jobs and 2 million of those lost their jobs during the lockdown period.”