There were few new pledges in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s fifth State of the Nation Address on Thursday evening.
“This evening, we stand here not to make promises but to report on progress in the implementation of the recovery plan and the priority actions we must now take to restore growth and create jobs,” he said at the start of his speech, which was mostly focused on how government was making headway with previous initiatives.
Still, there were a couple of new announcements:
R350 grant extended
The Special Covid-19 Grant of R350 has been extended by a further three months.
“This has proven to be an effective and efficient short-term measure to reduce the immediate impact on the livelihoods of poor South Africans,” Ramaphosa
The R350 grants, formally known as Social Relief of Distress (SRD) payments, are paid to unemployed people who receive no other state support. The grant was originally supposed to end in October, and was then extended to end-January.
TERS now ending in March
The Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Covid-19 the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS). benefit has been extended to 15 March 2021 – for those sectors that have not been able to operate.
To date, more than R57 billion in wage support has been paid to over 4.5 million workers through the TERS scheme.
But there has been major problems with Ters, due to technical issues as well as fraudulent payments.
500,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines in the next four weeks
The first batch, of 80,000 J&J doses, will arrive in the country next week – part of the first shipment of a total of 500,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines which will land in the next four weeks. The vaccines will be used to vaccinate health and other frontline workers.
Pfizer has committed 20 million vaccine doses commencing with deliveries at the end of the first quarter.
New anti-corruption body
As part of a National Anti-Corruption Strategy, Ramaphosa said that a new council with members from different sectors will be appointed soon.
Licensing change for small power generators
Easing the licensing requirements for new embedded generation projects – these are small scale producers of power, including office buildings – could unlock up to 5,000 megawatts of additional capacity and help to ease the impact of load shedding, said Ramaphosa.
“We will therefore amend Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act within the next three months to increase the licensing threshold for embedded generation.”
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy will also soon be announcing the successful bids for 2,000 megawatts of emergency power. In the coming weeks a request for proposals for 2,600 megawatts from wind and solar energy as part of Bid Window 5 will be issued, followed by another bid window in August 2021.
Eskom wants a coal partner
Eskom will be looking to partner with investors to repurpose and repower part of its coal fleet, Ramaphosa said.
New critical skills list imminent
Ramaphosa said that a revised list of critical skills will be published for public comment by the Department of Home Affairs within a week.
Foreigners who have the skills required in South Africa will get easier access to working visas.
Analogue TV transmitters will be switched off from March
“After many delays, we will begin the phased switch-off of our analogue TV transmitters from next month. It is anticipated that this process, which will be done province-by-province, will be completed by the end of March 2022,” Ramaphosa said.
In South Africa, mobile spectrum is limited because television broadcasting is still hogging frequencies – because a move from the analogue TV system to digital terrestrial television has been delayed for half a decade.
Mobile operators have long blamed the lack of spectrum for South Africa’s high data prices.
Land and Agrarian Reform Agency coming soon
During the course of the next financial year, government will establish a Land and Agrarian Reform Agency to fast-track land reform.
To date, government has redistributed over 5 million hectares of land, totalling around 5,500 farms, to more than 300,000 beneficiaries. This is in addition to the land restitution process, which has benefited over two million land claimants and resulted in the transfer of around 2.7 million hectares.
For most of his speech, Ramaphosa detailed progress made on announcements made in previous years.
This included an update on pledges made as part of Ramaphosa’s investment conferences, which now total R773 billion. Companies have already invested R183 billion as part of these pledges.
He also said that South Africa is now producing an additional one million chickens a year after the implementation of the poultry master plan, which saw the industry investing R800 million to upgrade production. The sugar master plan – which included a commitment from large users of sugar to procure at least 80% of their sugar needs from local growers – also saw a rise in local production and a decline in imported sugar.
“Support for black small-scale [sugar]farmers is being stepped up, with a large beverage producer committing to expand their procurement sharply,” Ramaphosa said.
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