Last night President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA), focusing on vaccine rollouts, corruption, renewable energy procurement, Covid-19 relief grant extensions and more.
The SONA is an annual event in the Republic of South Africa, in which the President of South Africa reports on the status of the nation, normally to the resumption of a joint sitting of Parliament. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the address was attended by a limited number of MPs while others joined virtually.
Ramaphosa highlighted four main priorities:
1. Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic.
2.Accelerating economic recovery.
3.Implementing economic reforms to drive inclusive growth.
4.Fighting corruption and strengthening the state that has been weakened
With regards to defeating COVID-19, Ramaphosa said the first phase would use the J&J vaccine which had shown to be effective against the second variant of the virus. He confirmed that the government has managed to secure 9 million doses.
The president said the government had also managed to secure 12 million vaccines from the Covax facility to complement other vaccines available to the country, while Pfizer had committed 20 million vaccines to be delivered at the end of the first quarter.
With regards to overcoming poverty, Ramaphosa said the government would also prioritise overcoming the increasing poverty levels in the country.
Last year, the National Income Dynamics Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey said three million people had lost their jobs since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, leaving the unemployment rate 30.8%. To alleviate the unemployment rate in South Africa, Ramaphosa said 18 million people had received grant payments, which lifted more than 5 million people above the poverty line.
The president announced that the grant would be extended for another three months. “We have therefore decided to extend the period for the special Covid-19 grant of R350 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,” said Ramaphosa.
The R350 temporary social grant was introduced after the emergence of the deadly coronavirus in March last year, but it was cancelled towards the end of 2020. The government has since been under pressure to reinstate the temporary relief measure as the country remains under the adjusted alert level 3 lockdown.