Covid-19, the vaccine and economic recovery dominated President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address last night.
He said this year will be focused on “containing and overcoming” the Covid-19 pandemic through the roll-out of the government’s vaccination programme as the country revives the battered economy and clamps down on corruption.
To this end, government will extend the R350 grant by a further three months to the unemployed because it has aided many families.
He also extended the TERS benefit until 15 March, but only to certain sectors that have not been able to operate due to the lockdown.
Ramaphosa delivered his Sona in a peaceful and near empty Parliament, with only 30 MPs, 20 officials and guests, and a handful of media representatives.
He assured that the vaccination drive will begin next week as 80 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available for use for healthcare workers.
Another 500 000 doses are expected in the next few weeks while Pfizer has committed to providing the country with 20 million vaccine doses.
The president said while the economy was being revived, they wanted to create more jobs and continue with the unbundling of Eskom to ensure there was energy security.
He said the unemployment rate was now sitting at 30.8%, up from 29% last year.
To revive the economy the government will roll-out infrastructure projects to create more jobs, and also push for the land reform programme.
To date, the government has redistributed 5 500 farms.
He said one of his government's priority interventions is an employment stimulus to create jobs and support livelihoods - through a relationship between the private and public sectors.
body.copy.three...: "The Presidential Employment Stimulus is one of the most significant expansions of public and social employment in South Africa’s history.
“By the end of January 2021, over 430 000 opportunities have already been supported through the stimulus.
“A further 180 000 opportunities are currently in the recruitment process.
“These opportunities are in areas like education, arts and culture, global business services, early childhood development, and small-scale and subsistence farming," Ramaphosa said.
The president said the National Treasury was also in talks to improve the loan guarantee scheme so that it better addresses the realities of SMMEs and other businesses as they strive to recover.
Regarding corruption, Ramaphosa said a new council will be appointed to catch skelme officials: “We are saying the days of messing up are over, we want professional people to run local government.”
The official opposition, the Democratic Alliance, has slammed Ramaphosa’s Sona, saying he has failed to give clear guidance with regards to the vaccine, job creation and corruption.
“He used beautiful words and soothing tones to offer empty promises and impractical plans,” DA leader John Steenhuizen said.
“He failed to commit to using only established service providers with a track record of delivery for the vaccine distribution.
“So the risk remains that BEE will be used as a vehicle for ANC cronies to steal vaccine funds under the cover of ‘transformation’.
“Given their looting of R13 billion of PPE funds, Ramaphosa should have taken every precaution possible to ensure that 100% of vaccine funds are spent on protecting the public, and that means dropping BEE from the process.”