South Africa: President Calls On Leaders to Look Past Political Divide, Unite Behind Economic Recovery

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the implementation of South Africa's Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan has begun in earnest and the focus should now shift to implementation.

Responding to a debate on the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan on Wednesday, the President said instead of opposition parties resorting to political grandstanding, all leaders should look past their political divide and rally behind the goal to ensure that they inspire public confidence and hold government accountable as implementation begins.

"I call on leaders across society to lend your wisdom, your ideas and your encouragement to the National Economic Recovery Council, which will be driving the implementation of this plan.

"We should heed the words of the Hon Prince [Mangosuthu] Buthelezi [IFP parliamentary caucus leader] when he says that like a country at war, we must put aside political agendas to rebuild the country.

"Regardless of where we sit across the political divide, we must find the political courage to unite behind this common vision for our recovery.

"We must work together to build this new inclusive economy and to build a South Africa that works," he said.

The President said this after Ministers, Premiers and members of Parliament took turns to debate the contents of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, that he tabled at a hybrid sitting in Parliament last Thursday.

The President's announcement of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan followed the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The South African economy contracted by a staggering 51% in Quarter 2 of 2020. The period coincided with the hardest levels of the country's lockdown, as government limited movement and economic activity in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19.

As the country recovers from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Ramaphosa has emphasised the need to take stock of the mammoth task of creating employment as the country's battered economy recovers.

Amongst other things, the stimulus is expected to protect and create directly funded jobs and livelihood support interventions while the labour market recovers from the pandemic.

While some of the interventions build on the strengths of existing programmes, the stimulus also includes new and innovative approaches.

The President on Wednesday said implementation had begun "in earnest".

"During the past several weeks, we have published an invitation to apply for high-demand spectrum that will enable the modernisation of our telecommunications system.

"We have made significant progress in our efforts to achieve energy security, activating the process for the procurement of new generating capacity in line with the Integrated Resource Plan and issuing new regulations to allow municipalities in good financial standing to generate their own power.

"Agreements with Independent Power Producers to expand our generation capacity are being concluded and we are unlocking emergency electricity supply," he said.

Focus should shift to implementation

DA leader John Steehuisen said earlier in the debate that the lockdown that government implemented was the most intense when compared to similar measures taken by other countries around the world.

The President said in response: "Honourable Steenhuisen, had we not taken the measures that we did to contain the spread of the virus, many more lives would have been lost, the economic impact would have been worse, and we would not even be in a position to be talking about an economic recovery.

"These exceptional circumstances require nothing less than an exceptional response.

"For South Africans who have been watching this debate, these are not theoretical issues.

"They have a direct effect on their livelihoods, their prospects for finding work, the recovery of their businesses, and indeed on our collective future".

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said earlier in the debate that following the completion of the plan, government has also put together an implementation plan that identifies the various key projects, the stakeholders responsible for the implementation of each project and also outlines timelines for completion of each project.

"The implementation plan is broken down into areas for immediate, medium to long term and long term implementation.

"To ensure there is close monitoring and evaluation, government is putting together structures to oversee the implementation of the reconstruction and recovery plan so as to avoid "mission drift".

"The economic cluster will receive monthly reports which after processing, will be consolidated into a report that is submitted to the Vulindlela and Presidential team."

She said the team will do an analysis and interrogation of the reports and submit them to the Economic Recovery Council.

"This will not only ensure constant monitoring of the implementation and impact of the plan but will ensure those given the responsibility to perform tasks are held accountable."

The President said, meanwhile, that the plan recognises that the private sector is by far the biggest driver of employment.

This, he said, was why the plan emphasises growth-enhancing measures that enable businesses to recover, to grow and to thrive.

This involves, in the first instance, urgent steps to remove the impediments to investment and greater economic activity.

"But the plan also recognises that our people need work and they need jobs now.

"It recognises that even with rapid progress in the implementation of the plan, it will take some time for the labour market to fully recover.

"Through the Presidential Employment Stimulus, we are using a substantial expansion in the scope of public employment programmes to mitigate unemployment and support recovery."

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