President Cyril Ramaphosa has responded on a number of key issues facing the country, including the introduction of the African Continental Free Trade Area, and the inequality divide between black and white South Africans.
In a parliamentary Q&A session on Thursday (12 November), the president was also again questioned on allegations of corruption which have continued to dog government.
His key responses are outlined in more detail below.
Reducing the gap
Ramaphosa was asked to respond on recent protests in Senekal and Brackenfell High School and what appears to be increasing polarisation across the country.
The president said that racial divisions are still found in:
- The structure of the economy;
- The distribution of skills;
- Land and other assets;
- Access to services;
- The spatial design of cities, towns and rural areas.
“Our task now, not just as government, but as broader society, is to act together to end all forms of racism, racial division and racial inequality,” he said.
“We need to consistently confront racist attitudes and condemn all instances of racist behaviour. Those who want to perpetuate racial tensions must know they are in a dwindling minority.”
Ramaphosa said that the government continues to reduce the material inequality between white and black South Africans through its policies and programmes – just as it wants to address the differences between men and women.
“From the provision of free basic services to the building of houses, from improving public transport to providing social support, from no-fee schools to free tertiary education for the poor, we are pursuing a policy of progressive redistribution.
“It is this goal – of reducing inequality – that informs our approach to the National Health Insurance, to the development of township and rural economies, to the accelerated redistribution of land, and to our support for black industrialists.”
Ramaphosa said that by making progress in these areas, in increasing levels of investment and creating jobs on a far larger scale, the country will steadily reduce the material differences between black and white South Africans.
“In doing so, we will improve the conditions for lasting reconciliation and unity in our country. This is a task to which this government is committed, and to which the vast majority of South Africans – black and white – are committed,” he said.
African Continental Free Trade Area
Ramaphosa also answered on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and what the new development will mean for the local economy.
Set for introduction in 2021, the AfCFTA is a flagship project of the African Union and aims to build an integrated market in Africa that will see a pool of over a billion people with a combined GDP of approximately $3.3 trillion.
Ramaphosa said that through the trade area, the continent’s leaders are determined to build strong and inclusive economies through industrialisation and the beneficiation of the minerals and commodities.
“The AfCFTA is a significant development that will change trade patterns and has the potential to transform African economies.
“It will encourage economic diversification, beneficiation of our minerals and resources and value-addition to seize the opportunities arising from an increasingly open African continental market.
“We expect that in the new year, 2021, preferential trade in Africa will begin with significant product coverage and will be further expanded over the coming years,” he said.
Ramaphosa said that even prior to the agreement on the AfCFTA, South Africa had already begun implementing an investment-led trade strategy.
He said that the country has sought to use its outward foreign direct investment in the rest of the continent to encourage balanced growth and localisation.
Between 2014 and 2018, South African firms invested over $10 billion – around R160 billion – in different parts of the continent. This has made South Africa the fifth-largest source of foreign direct investment on the continent in value behind the US, France, UK and China.
“Government has been working to prepare South Africa-based firms for their participation in the AfCFTA,” he said.
“We want to ensure that our firms, entrepreneurs, small enterprises and workers benefit from the trading opportunities that will arise as the AfCFTA commences to operate.”
The president also answered on his government’s fight against corruption and the key institutions tackling graft in the country.
He said that the fight against corruption and state capture has required ‘extensive measures’ to stabilise and revitalise law enforcement agencies.
“Much work has been done to ensure these agencies have the personnel, skills and resources they need to undertake the demanding tasks of detecting, investigating and successfully prosecuting instances of corruption.”
The president said that since the beginning of his administration, the Hawks has established task teams to fast track corruption investigations in municipalities, government and the private sector.
Together with the National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks have prioritised 10 priority corruption-related cases to fast track for investigation and prosecution, he said.
“To enable the directorate to address complex and organised corruption, personnel have been seconded from the South African Police Service, the Hawks and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).
“As further evidence of improved cooperation, the investigating directorate has also secured forensic accountants and legal resources from SARS, the SIU, FIC, Reserve Bank and State Security Agency.”
The president said that recent amendments to the regulations of the State Capture Commission now allows the commission to share information, records and documents directly with the Investigating Directorate and any other law enforcement agency in South Africa.
“Beyond the work of the law enforcement agencies, the fight against state capture and corruption has also been taken up in some of the state-owned enterprises,” he said.
“As a result, several matters have been referred to the NPA for possible criminal prosecution and to the SIU for investigation.”
The president said that much of the past two years has been focused on building up the capabilities of the institutions that the country relies on to combat corruption and state capture.
“There has been clear evidence of progress in bringing cases to court. Work is underway.”