President Cyril Ramaphosa outlined a hefty 7-priority checklist at this year’s State of the Nation Address, signaling the difficult reality facing the country, and the urgent demands that his new administration is expected to meet.
At the very top of the president’s checklist was the National Development Plan, and he was swift to confirm the expected: The National Development Plan’s targets, which were first introduced to the public in 2013, were far from being reached in time for the 2030 deadline. This doesn’t come as a surprise when considering that as early as 2015, 49.2% of South Africa’s adult population was already living in poverty, according to Statistics South Africa’s Living Conditions Survey.
Coupled with that has been the poor state of service delivery – of which the NDP has plans to radically improve– boiling over into massive protests since April this year and continuing to simmer.
Next on the list was the country’s stagnated economy, which is under even more strain due to national power utility Eskom’s alarming debt book. As a result, Ramaphosa announced a Special Appropriation Bill to allocate a “significant portion of the R230 billion fiscal support” to Eskom for the next 10 years. More details about how exactly to mitigate the Eskom crisis were not revealed.
“Working together, we have laid a firm foundation on which we can build a country in which all may know peace and comfort and contentment. Yet, we also meet at a time when our country is confronted by severe challenges,” said Ramaphosa, introducing national delivery plans through a seven-priority approach that includes education, skills and health; minimum wage and basic services and tackling crime to build safer communities, among others.
The seven priorities are a tall order, but they are also not new, and are yet to have been fully met despite their constant prioritisation each year.
Crime was a point of focus during the president’s address, and Ramaphosa’s administration aiming to half violent crime in the next 10 years is an immense declaration. This is on the tail of recent cases of violence in schools in various parts of the country, and the grim spate of murder cases on the homeless in Pretoria.
Job creation for South Africa’s youth were a key part of the agenda. Bodies such as the Expanded Public Works Programme will be expected to provide jobs in labour-intensive areas like maintenance, clearing vegetation, plugging water leaks and constructing roads. The National Youth Service is also expected to take on 50,000 young people yearly.
The Presidency equally aims “to create no fewer than two million new jobs for young people within the next decade.”
Where more economic stimulation is concerned, sectors such as steel and metal fabrications, clothing and textiles, renewable energy, plastics and gas will be prioritised, and have so far shown the strongest potential for growth. The mining and agricultural industries are also expected to get a boost.
Despite an outline of future stimulation plans for additional sectors such as infrastructure, and further outlining plans to build smart megacities, fixing the country’s mounting problems need to be given even more impetus.
While Ramphosa further committed to building a “capable, ethical and developmental state”, the proof will be in whether the priorities in his checklist will be ticked off in time. The nation will nevertheless be optimistically keeping score.