#SONA2020: On Eskom, SAA, land distribution, the NHI and dagga

The EFF's Julius Malema stalled proceedings of SONA 2020 right from the start, with a request that former president FW de Klerk leave the chambers.

He called him an ''unrepentant murderer'' and said his "presence is an insult."

The EFF then demanded that Pravin Gordhan be fired, saying he ''misled Eskom''.

The House was suspended and proceedings delayed by 90 minutes.

After the EFF left the house President Ramaphosa finally started his speech one hour and 36 minutes late, by reminiscing about Madiba's speech at City Hall 30 years ago.

"Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way," he said.

''Our country is facing a stark reality. The economy has not grown in over a decade.

''The rate of unemployment continues to deepen. The recovery of our economy has failed as energy shortages disrupt business. State Owned Enterprises are in distress.''

But hope, he said, resides in the youth who now have more access to education than ever before. He referred to the matric results and called for applause for the class of 2019.

Ramaphosa welcomed Miss Universe Zozibinzi Tunzi's and Springbok captain Siya Kolisi in the house, as a reminder of our potential.

Apart from strides in education, he listed several achievements made in South Africa over the past few years, such as improvements in treating HIV, as well as sound laws and legal institutions.

Yet, these are not enough, he said: ''Therefore this State of the Nation Address is about inclusive growth''.

Ramaphosa went straight to business and listed the debilitating effect on the country Eskom's load shedding has had.

To great applause from the house, he announced the following measures to rapidly increase generation capacity outside of Eskom:

  • A Section 34 Ministerial Determination will be issued shortly to give effect to the Integrated Resource Plan 2019, enabling the development of additional grid capacity from renewable energy, natural gas, hydro power, battery storage and coal.

  • We will initiate the procurement of emergency power from projects that can deliver electricity into the grid within 3 to 12 months from approval.

  • The National Energy Regulator will continue to register small scale distributed generation for own use of under 1 MW, for which no licence is required.

  • The National Energy Regulator will ensure that all applications by commercial and industrial users to produce electricity for own use above 1MW are processed within the prescribed 120 days.

  • We will open bid window 5 of the renewable energy IPP and work with producers to accelerate the completion of window 4 projects.

  • We will negotiate supplementary power purchase agreements to acquire additional capacity from existing wind and solar plants.

  • We will also put in place measures to enable municipalities in good financial standing to procure their own power from independent power producers.

Eskom has started with the process of divisionalising its three operating activities – generation, transmission and distribution – each of which will have its own board and management structures.

The social partners – trade unions, business, community and government – are committed to mobilising funding to address Eskom’s financial crisis in a financially sustainable manner.

Also to great cheers from the house, he stated that this will be done in a manner that does not put workers pensions at risk and that does not compromise the integrity of the financial system.

SAA:

The President stressed that he wants to see SAA commercially and operationally sustainable and NOT dependent on further government funding.

RAILWAYS:

PRASA’s rail network is being modernised. The Central Line in the Western Cape and the Mabopane Line in Pretoria have been closed for essential refurbishment and upgrades.

R1.4 billion is invested in each of these lines to provide, a ''safe, reliable and affordable service''.

STIMULATING JOB CREATION:

Water use licences, essential to operations on farms, factories and mines, have previously taken sometimes up to 5 years to process. He announced that water use licences are now issued within 90 days.

Through the Bizportal platform one can now register a company in one day, register for UIF and SARS and even open a bank account.

Ports: During the course of this year, there will be a fundamental overhaul of the Durban port, to reduce delays and costs.

The investments made in early childhood development and early school learning will yield great economic benefits in the next two decades and beyond, he said - and here he mentioned the building of nine new TVET college campuses this year, in Sterkspruit, Aliwal North, Graaff Reinet and Ngungqushe in the Eastern Cape, and in Umzimkhulu, Greytown, Msinga, Nongoma and Kwagqikazi in KwaZulu-Natal.

He also announced the introduction of coding and robotics in grades R to 3 in 200 schools, with a plan to implement it fully by 2022 as well as a new University of Science and Innovation in Ekurhuleni.

CRIME HAMPERING GROWTH:

To support the growth of the tourism industry, the SAPS will increase visibility at identified tourist attraction sites.

Anti-Gang Units will be further strengthened, with priority given to the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Free State.

The Domestic Violence Act will be amended to better protect victims in violent domestic relationships and the Sexual Offences Act to broaden the categories of sex offenders whose names must be included in the National Register for Sex Offenders, and government will pass a law to tighten bail and sentencing condition in cases that involve gender-based violence.

DATA: The competition authorities are working towards a resolution with the large mobile operators to secure deep cuts to data prices across pre-paid monthly bundles, additional discounts targeted at low income households, a free daily allocation of data and free access to educational and other public interest websites.

The regulator, ICASA, has undertaken to conclude the licensing of high demand spectrum for industry via auction before the end of 2020.

LAND EXPROPRIATION: This year, key recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture to accelerate land redistribution, expand agricultural production and transform the industry will be implemented.

Government stands ready – following the completion of the Parliamentary process to amend section 25 of the Constitution – to table an Expropriation Bill that outlines the circumstances under which expropriation of land without compensation would be permissible.

To date, 44,000 hectares of state land have been released for the settlement of land restitution claims, and will this year release round 700,000 hectares of state land for agricultural production.

A new beneficiary selection policy includes compulsory training for potential beneficiaries before land can be allocated to them.

DAGGA: This year government will open up and regulate the commercial use of hemp products, providing opportunities for small-scale farmers; and formulate policy on the use of cannabis products for medicinal purposes, to build this industry in line with global trends.

NHI:

In preparation for NHI, more than 44 million people at over 3,000 clinics in the electronic Health Patient Registration System have been registered, and are now implementing this system in hospitals.

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering the State of the Nation Address on 13 February 2020. Picture: GCIS

CORRUPTION AND STATE CAPTURE

The work of the joint government and civil society working group charged with developing a national anti-corruption strategy and implementation plan, is close to completion of this phase of its work.

The strategy will be launched by mid-year.

STUDENT ACCOMMODATION

R64 billion will be spent over the next few years on student accommodation and government will will leverage at least another R64 billion in private investment.

The President again referred to his dream last year of a new smart-city, ''a truly post-apartheid city that would rise to change the social and economic apartheid spatial architecture''.

''A new smart-city is taking shape in Lanseria, which 350,000 to 500,000 people will call home within the next decade.''

The process is being led by the Investment and Infrastructure Office in the Presidency alongside the provincial governments of Gauteng and North West, working together with the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Madibeng.

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT

On youth employment, as from today, the implementation of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention will start with six priority actions over the next five years to reduce youth unemployment.

(This article is a summary of Sona 2020. Follow 702 and CapeTalk tonight, on Friday and over the weekend for analysis.)


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