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SONA 2022 Recap: Ramaphosa Addresses COVID-19, Corruption and More
Photo via Nic Bothma/Reuters
With the backdrop of political polarization, corruption and a burnt Parliament building, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Thursday.
It was Ramaphosa's sixth State of the Nation Address, but this one was different. The President delivered his speech from a podium at Cape Town City Hall because the Parliament was set ablaze in January.
In his speech, Ramaphosa expressed optimism about the direction of the country and made big claims about its potential for the coming year.
The focuses of the SONA were overcoming the pandemic and rooting out the corruption that the President believes is halting political progress for South Africa.
When it came to the pandemic, Ramaphosa highlighted the resilience of the nation in overcoming the omicron variant and officially exiting the fourth wave. He also spotlighted the R3.4 billion fund that helped support local businesses and government projects throughout the pandemic.
The President also said the country's vaccination efforts were making progress with 30 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered, and 42 percent of all adults fully vaccinated.
He said the national state of disaster for COVID-19 would be lifted once the government finalizes its efforts to tackle the inevitable endemic nature of the pandemic.
The other main focus of the President's address was corruption. He focused on the Commission into State Capture for their work and reports, which listed companies caught for malpractice and corruption. Ramaphosa called for legal action against the companies and people from that report.
Thus far, two of the three parts of the report have been released, with the final portion scheduled for later this year. Ramaphosa said he believes the report confirms several companies have been involved in "state capture." He said there are currently efforts to get state-entities back under control to provide accountability and efficiency. He said there would be an official action plan against state capture by June 30.
The focus of that plan would be government entities such as Eskom, Denel, South African Airways, the South African Revenue Service, government communications and Transnet.
Also on the note of government entities, Ramaphosa said the government has taken additional measures to create additional capacity for ESKOM to close the gaps in coverage. He attributed the ongoing problems with ESKOM to "our aging power stations, poor maintenance, policy missteps and the ruinous effects of state capture".
Ramaphosa also addressed the ongoing unemployment crisis and the way it has coupled with red ted that has hindered the progress of businesses. He said the government is looking for ways to utilize the Business Act to help businesses create jobs and promote self-employment.
"We have been taking extraordinary measures to enable businesses to grow and create jobs alongside expanded public employment and social protection," Ramaphosa said. "We all know that government does not create jobs."
To help with these efforts, Ramaphosa announced the beginning of a new small business loan program. He said the program will help small businesses recover from the pandemic by expanding the financing available.
Despite those efforts, last year the unemployment in South Africa reached its highest recorded levels. Ramaphosa attributed that to "low growth, which has, in turn, resulted from a long-term decline in investment."
Cannabis was also discussed in the President's speech on Thursday. He said the government is looking to ease policies around hemp and cannabis businesses. He said he wanted to grow that sector of the economy by creating an additional 130 000 jobs.