End of sixth administration

By William Baloyi

When President Cyril Ramaphosa took the oath of office on Saturday 25 May 2019, he committed to address a number of challenges that the people of this country continue to face. He was upfront about his plan to put economic growth and job creation as the apex priority of his administration.

He also spoke about the energy crisis and said that we would redouble our efforts to reduce the severity and frequency of load-shedding.  

He further pledged to turn words into action and called on all South Africans to rally behind his administration to build on the gains we have achieved since 1994.

What none of us were to know at the time that in less than ten months after his inauguration, we would be facing one of the deadliest pandemics in our history. The COVID-19 pandemic affected every nation around the world and led to a significant loss of lives worldwide. It also overwhelmed the healthcare systems of many developed and developing countries as they buckled under the spread of the virus.

It also negatively affected economies around the world, including the South African economy and led to loss of many jobs. The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic forced our government to refocus its priorities and pull all resources to defeat it and minimise the loss of life.

Our swift response included declaring the national state of disaster to allow an integrated and coordinated response. The measures we put in place were crucial to save lives, while ensuring that our country could still move forward. We were only able to terminate the national state of disaster 750 days after it came into effect.

While the pandemic adversely affected many things and led to summits being postponed or projects delayed, it never completely stopped us from delivering on our promises, in particular ensuring that we grow the economy and that it recovers as quickly as possible.

For instance, to deal with negative impact of COVID-19, we put in place an unprecedented stimulus package to lessen the damage to the economy. We kept millions of people out of extreme poverty through the special SRD grant of R350, which was introduced in 2020. It continues to provide crucial relief to those who are unemployed and in need.  

We also implemented the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan aimed at rebuilding our economy and creating jobs in the wake of the coronavirus. We have succeeded in bringing the level of employment close to its pre-pandemic level by creating two million jobs over the last two years and the economy is now larger than it was before the pandemic.

We have in addition, through the Presidential Employment Stimulus created over 1.7 million work opportunities and provided one million young people registered on the SAYouth online platform with access to opportunities for learning and earning. Furthermore, by January 2023, over 100 000 South Africans between the ages of 18 and 29 have been placed through the Youth Employment Service (YES) in various local businesses for a year of work experience.

In October 2023, a new partnership agreement that seeks to provide artificial intelligence (AI) skills to 300 000 South African youth was signed by Microsoft South Africa and the Youth Employment Service (YES). About R6 billion in youth salaries has been put into the economy through YES and this has enabled participants to support their families. Through this initiative, one million young South Africans will be offered paid work experience.

With regard to investments, we successfully held five South Africa Investment Conferences and surpassed our R1,2 trillion target for new investment commitments over five years by 26 percent to R1.51 trillion.

We have also scaled up our efforts to implement the country’s Energy Action Plan to improve performance in our energy generation system and this has resulted in a measurable decline in the severity of load shedding. The absence of load shedding for about a month has come as a welcome relief and is as a result of sustained availability of generation capacity and emergency reserves.

While still early days, and with the acknowledgement that the system remains tight; this positive trend shows that government’s interventions under our energy plan announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2022 has brought a new sense of direction, accountability and urgency to overcome our energy challenge. There is every reason to hope that the steady progress we are making will continue as we work to provide consistent electricity.

As government we are pleased that despite challenges we remain on track to meet our target of ensuring that our economy recovers as quickly as possible, create jobs and deliver on work opportunities as promised at the beginning of the sixth administration.

While progress has been made more still needs to be done especially to grow the economy at a higher rate to create more jobs. We are hopeful that the foundation we have set over the past five years will enable us to move faster in improving the lives of people.

We call on all South Africans and all sectors of our economy to continue to partner with government to grow and build on the gains we have made over the past five years of the sixth administration. 

William Baloyi is Chief Director: Media Engagement