SONA 2021: This is how Ramaphosa plans to tackle economy, corruption and Covid-19
By Siyabonga Mkhwanazi 29m ago
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Cape Town – President Cyril Ramaphosa says despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic plans were afoot to fix the economy and accelerate the vaccination programme across the country.
The economy is expected to decline this year with a gloomy picture painted by economists and financial institutions.
Beginning his State of the Nation Address on Thursday evening Ramaphosa using the analogy of the fynbos biome he said the country will pull through from the pandemic.
He said the fynbos can adapt to dry and cold weather conditions and still survive.
“The fynbos biome, which stretches across the Cape, has among the most distinctive features of any plants found on earth. It can adapt to dry, hot summers and cold rainy winters. It is wondrous in its diversity,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said the fight against Covid-19 will intensify next week when the country receives its first batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses.
A number of other pharmaceutical companies are also set to deliver millions of vaccine shots in the next few weeks and months.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and Ramaphosa have in the past said that they want to reach herd immunity by the end of the year.
To this end, the government wants to vaccinate 40 million people, or 67% of the population, by the end of the year.
He said the government was forced to shed plans to use Astrazeneca after scientists found in their research that its vaccines are less effective against the variant.
“Since this variant is now the dominant variant in our country, these findings have significant implications for the pace, design and sequencing of our vaccine programme. While it should not delay the start of the vaccination programme by much, it will affect the choice of vaccines and the manner of their deployment,” said Ramaphosa.
The first phase will target healthcare workers with the vaccines arriving next week.
Ramaphosa also said they need to get the economy going to save jobs. The latest figures show that unemployment was now standing at a staggering 30.8%.
“As a result of the relief measures that we implemented and the phased reopening of the economy, we expect to see a strong recovery in employment by the end of 2020,” said Ramaphosa.
He said the R500 billion stimulus package they announced last year they were able to provide cover to businesses and unemployed people.
He announced that he was extending the R350 social relief grant to the unemployed by another three months.
The grant was first extended last October to the end of January and Ramaphosa has granted another extension.
The ANC was also currently discussing the question of the Basic Income Grant.
Some of the parties have supported the idea with civil society.
In addition to the R350 grant the government has also extended the UIF Ters benefit scheme until next month.
“A total of 18 million people or close to one-third of the population received additional grant payments through these relief measures. It is estimated that this grant lifted more than five million people above the food poverty line, helping to alleviate hunger in a moment of great crisis,” said Ramaphosa.
He also promised to continue in the fight against corruption with the Special Investigating Unit probing hundreds of cases linked to the PPE contracts.
The SIU was roped in last year with the Auditor-General and other law enforcement agencies when allegations emerged of the looting of the Covid-19 funds.
Political parties have also called on the government to rope in the other agencies to look at cases of corruption in the procurement and distribution of vaccines.
Ramaphosa said they have been following up on pledges made by businesses during the investment conferences to pump billions of rand into the economy.
The government has targeted to raise R1.2 trillion in investments in five years and it has received more than R773bn in commitments from business.