2024 State of the Nation Address: What you need to know

Here are the key takeaways from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address.

The controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill will soon be signed into law, said President Cyril Ramaphosa in his 2024 State of the Nation Address tonight.

He joked that he was ‘looking for a pen’ to sign the document after it was recently passed through Parliament.

Sona kicked off with a literal bang after a 21-gun salute, an aircraft fly-past, a ceremonial guard, a step guard salute, the singing of the national anthem, and a full military band set the tone.

Joyous clapping and celebrations turned serious as Ramaphosa addressed the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces, as well as those tuning in across the country, with statements on state capture and corruption drawing comments from the audience.

The president based his speech on a fictional character, Tintswalo, who Ramaphosa called ‘the child of democracy’, born at the dawn of democracy. He highlighted how she, ‘like millions of South Africans’, was able to live in a house with water and electricity supply, had access to free education, food supplied through the national feeding scheme, tertiary education opportunities and policies, like the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act 53 of 2003, that provided her with the opportunity to create a better future for herself and her family.

Ramaphosa acknowledged that millions between the ages of 15 and 24 still face several challenges, such as unemployment, but said this is an issue in many countries across the world. He added that government has ‘taken steps to address youth unemployment’.

The president said: “It is not enough to recognise the injustices of the past, we need to correct them.”

NHI

Ramaphosa said the NHI was set to become a reality. “We plan to incrementally implement the NHI, dealing with issues like health system financing, the health workforce, medical products, vaccines and technologies, and health information systems.”

State capture

He said the administration’s biggest challenge was undoubtedly state capture and added that crime networks had to be dismantled to ‘rebuild our economy’.

Ramaphosa mentioned 200 accused being prosecuted in relation to state capture and said stolen funds are being recovered.

“Freezing orders of R14b have been granted to the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit for state capture-related cases, and around R8.6b in corrupt proceeds have been returned to the state. A restored and revitalised SARS has collected R4.8b in unpaid taxes as a result of evidence presented at the [state capture] commission, while the Special Investigating Unit has instituted civil litigation to the value of R64b.”

Load-shedding and climate change

The president said the ‘end of load-shedding is finally in reach’. He explained that plans are in place to prevent the country from facing a similar crisis by ‘reforming our energy system to make it more competitive, sustainable and reliable into the future’.

A climate change response fund will be established to respond to ‘persistent calamities’, such as the yearly floods in KZN and wildfires in the Western Cape. “This will bring together all spheres of government and the private sector in a collaborative effort to build our resilience and respond to the impacts of climate change.”

Those in attendance for Sona 2024. Photo: GCIS.

Other important points

  • Ramaphosa said they are overhauling the freight rail system by allowing private rail operators to access the rail network.
  • 79% of households had access to the internet in 2022, about twice of that in 2011.
  • The reforming of our visa system will make it easier to attract the skills South Africa needs and create a dynamic ecosystem for innovation and
    entrepreneurship.
  • The president said mining is the bedrock on which the South African economy was built and will once again be a ‘sunrise industry’.
  • Participation in the economy of previously disadvantaged people is increasing; black ownership stands at approximately 39% compared with 2% in 2004.
  • Water supply, diversifying water sources and lowering the dependence on surface water are priorities of the Department of Water and Sanitation, which it aims to address through infrastructure projects.
  • Once completed, the Msikaba and Mtentu bridges in the Eastern Cape will be among the highest in Africa.

Land reform

Farmland is now owned by around 25% of black South Africans, with an agricultural economist predicting that the target of 30% by 2030 will be exceeded because several initiatives are underway to secure ownership.

“In the last five years, we have supported around 1 000 black industrialists with funding and other forms of support. These black-owned firms employ more than 90 000 workers and contribute many billions of rands to our economy.”

Education

Ramaphosa explained: “One of the worst injustices of apartheid was the manner in which education was used as a tool to perpetuate inequality. Over the last 30 years, we have sought to use education as a tool to create equality.”

He said this issue has steadily improved and referred to the 2023 matric results as being the highest ever, adding that learners from no-fee paying schools are accounting for more bachelor passes. He referred to this as the ‘silent revolution that is underway’ and said this is ‘progress we have been longing to see’.

Poverty

The president highlighted that the country faced a significant poverty challenge in 1993, with 71.1% of the population living in poverty. “Under the democratic government, there has been a consistent decline in these numbers. By 2010, the poverty rate had dropped to 60.9% and it continued to decrease, reaching 55.5% in 2020, as reported by the World Bank.”

The national minimum wage was introduced five years ago and Ramaphosa said it immediately raised the wages of over six million workers. “In the midst of the [Covid-19] pandemic, we introduced the special SRD [social relief of distress] grant, which currently reaches some nine million unemployed people every month. We have seen the benefits of this grant and will extend it and improve it as the next step towards income support for the unemployed.”

Proudly independent

“As in the past, as in the future, the people of South Africa should stand together against any attempt to reverse the achievements of our democracy… As we move forward, let us remember that it is up to us – not anyone else – to determine the future of South Africa.”

You can watch the address here: The 2024 State of the Nation Address

Read original story on www.citizen.co.za

 
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