South Africa: President Ramaphosa's Oral Replies to Questions in the National Assembly

press release

QUESTION 1 - PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA ON THE ATTAINMENT OF A NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY

Honourable Members,

The achievement of a national democratic society is a necessary response to the economic and social inequalities in South Africa.

It describes a society that is truly united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist.

It is an inclusive society in which all people benefit from sustainable economic growth.

Since the advent of democracy in 1994, the country has made valuable progress along the path towards a national democratic society.

Now, the measures we are undertaking to rebuild our economy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, are contributing to the fundamental transformation that is required to advance that aspiration.

We have said before that the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan cannot simply return our country to where it was before the pandemic struck.

It needs to build a new, more inclusive economy that can effectively reduce poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Through this plan we are mobilising investment, creating new jobs and supporting existing ones, and accelerating industrialisation.

We are undertaking large-scale public investment in key sectors such as energy, water and sanitation, roads and bridges, human settlements, health and education, digital infrastructure and public transport.

Investment in infrastructure is transformative.

Not only does it stimulate growth and expand economic infrastructure, which improves our competitiveness and promotes job creation.

It also provides crucial social infrastructure and services to the South African people, particularly those in poor and under-serviced communities.

Already we have seen over the last 27 years how our investment in infrastructure - whether for electrification, water provision or housing - has reduced poverty.

We have seen how our investment in schools, clinics, colleges and universities have opened the doors of learning to many young people and improved access to health care.

As we promote investment in sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, mining and tourism we are supporting emerging businesses in these areas through the provision of finance, training and access to markets.

Our emphasis on localisation aims to not only benefit established companies, but also to grow small-scale manufacturers and township and rural entrepreneurs.

We are undertaking the Presidential Employment Stimulus to provide work opportunities through public employment programmes, as well as through the protection of existing jobs and support for livelihoods.

By the end of March, the Presidential Employment Stimulus had supported over 650,000 opportunities through a wide range of programmes for people who would have otherwise been unemployed, with over half a million participants already at work.

As part of the employment stimulus:

More than 300,000 education assistants were placed in over 20,000 schools across South Africa. Funding has also been provided to protect vulnerable teaching posts.

Income support is being provided to more than 100,000 workers in the Early Childhood Development sector.

More than 50,000 opportunities are being created in public employment programmes in the environment sector, including in natural resource management, fire prevention and the war on waste.

Almost 2,000 artisans have been hired by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to support water and energy efficiency, facilities management and the Welisizwe Rural Bridges Programme.

The expansion of the Global Business Services incentive has enabled the creation of more than 8,000 new jobs in the sector since October.

More than 100,000 small-scale and subsistence farmers are being provided with input vouchers to expand production.

As we enter the second phase of the Stimulus, we are focused on ensuring that we establish pathways for participants into private sector employment, education and training, or other enterprise support.

The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan is underpinned by a dedicated focus on key economic reforms, particularly in network industries like energy, water, ports and rail, and telecommunications.

Through Operation Vulindlela, we are accelerating the implementation of these reforms and unlocking investment and growth.

Economic reforms are also necessary to reduce the cost of living for South Africans who will benefit from more efficient, competitive and sustainable services like electricity, water and transport.

The achievement of a national democratic society requires a capable developmental state that is people-centred and free from corruption.

This administration has therefore taken decisive measures to confront state capture and corruption, to rebuild public institutions and strengthen law enforcement agencies, and to professionalise the public service.

Through the District Development Model, we are seeking to bring all levels of government closer to the people, and to ensure that communities and other stakeholders are more involved in the development and implementation of local development plans.

As we have worked towards our goal of a national democratic society over the last 27 years, we have been confronted by numerous challenges.

We have had to tackle the damaging legacy of our apartheid past, which continues to divide our society by race, gender and class.

We have also had to confront our own weaknesses, including corruption and areas of mismanagement and poor delivery.

Most recently, we have had to confront the coronavirus pandemic, the most severe global health crisis in more than a century.

As we work to rebuild our economy and society, we continue to pursue the fundamental social and economic transformation that our Constitution promises - and that the people of this country desire and deserve.

I thank you.

QUESTION 2 - PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA ON PROGRESS WITH THE COUNTRY'S COVID-19 VACCINATION PROGRAMME

Madam Speaker,

An effective, comprehensive vaccination programme is an essential part of the fight to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.

Since we started negotiating with vaccine manufacturers around September 2020, we have made significant progress and have overcome many challenges in securing sufficient vaccines to achieve what is known as 'population immunity'.

In January, South Africa signed a contract with the Serum Institute to deliver 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses to vaccinate health workers. The first batch of the vaccines was received in February.

Unfortunately, the discovery that AstraZeneca was not effective against the dominant new variant of the virus meant that an alternative had to be sought.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was shown to be effective against the variant, and the vaccination of health workers began.

The vaccination process was interrupted briefly when the US medicines regulatory body, the FDA, halted vaccination using the J&J vaccine in Mid-April this year because of extremely rare, yet severe, blood clots experienced by some people who were vaccinated, resulting in the deaths of a few people.

South Africa's Health Products Regulatory Authority - SAHPRA - asked the Department of Health to halt the vaccination until the review of the available data was completed.

This matter has since been resolved and the vaccination of health workers has resumed.

We subsequently finalised a contract for the supply of 31 million doses of the J&J vaccine.

However, we have learned in the past week that the delivery of this vaccine will be delayed as a result of an FDA directive to J&J following the inspection that raised concerns at a facility of one of the manufacturing partners of Johnson & Johnson.

Following finalisation of the contract with Johnson & Johnson, we have also finalised a contract with Pfizer for the supply of 20 million vaccine doses with an additional allocation from the Covax facility of nearly 1.4 million doses.

The first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine was received earlier this week.

It should be noted that negotiations with the manufacturers were protracted as we had to ensure that the terms of the contracts were consistent with our laws and were not detrimental to our national interest.

It also required that we set up a 'no-fault compensation scheme' through which those who experience severe adverse effects following vaccination can claim for damages.

We have now finalised contracts for sufficient doses to vaccinate 41.5 million people.

The estimated times for the delivery of the vaccines depends on several factors, many of which are beyond our control.

The contractual delivery schedule as per the information shared by manufacturers is as follows:

In quarter 2 of 2021, we are scheduled to receive:

- 3 million J&J doses

- 4.5 million Pfizer doses from our contract with Pfizer

- 1.4 million Pfizer doses through the Covax facility

In quarter 3, we are scheduled to receive:

- 9.1 million J&J doses

- 8.5 million Pfizer doses

In quarter 4, we are scheduled to receive:

- 19.1 million J&J doses

- 7 million Pfizer doses

In total, we are therefore scheduled to receive:

- 31.2 million J&J doses

- 21.4 million Pfizer doses, including the Covax allocation

As a country, we want to manufacture vaccines locally against COVID-19 and other future pandemics.

It is for this reason that South Africa and India proposed the TRIPS Waiver at the World Trade Organisation to enable manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries. The proposal is now supported by more than 100 countries.

We welcome the statement by the United States that it will support the TRIPS waiver on intellectual property protection for COVID-19 vaccines.

Such a waiver should facilitate effective transfer of intellectual property, technology and know-how on mutually beneficial terms.

This will ensure production is ramped-up across many countries to ensure timely, affordable and equitable access to diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics.

I thank you.

QUESTION 3 - PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA FURTHER CLARIFIES THE COUNTRY'S COVID-19 VACCINATION PROGRAMME

Honourable Members,

The first goal of our vaccination programme is to ensure that we rapidly reduce the number of people who get very sick or die from COVID-19.

The second goal is to achieve 'population immunity'.

It is estimated that population immunity will be achieved when around 67 per cent of the country's population has achieved immunity.

This amounts to around 40 million people, or all South African adults.

To achieve the first goal of preventing as much COVID-19 related disease, hospitalisation and death as rapidly as possible, the national vaccination programme will prioritise those at the greatest risk.

The evidence shows that age is the single factor most strongly associated with the severity of COVID-19 disease, and therefore Phase 2 of the vaccination programme will target all people over 60 years of age.

At the same time, it will also target people of 40 years and older in vulnerable settings, such as frontline workers.

Phase 3 of the vaccination programme will then target the rest of the adult population.

The selection of vaccines for use in South Africa requires, among other things, that they be approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority - SAHPRA - as being effective against the dominant strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.

Currently, the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been registered by SAHPRA, and, as indicated in my earlier reply, these vaccines have been selected for procurement.

The prices that government has contracted to pay for the vaccines are US$10 per dose for Johnson & Johnson and the same per dose for Pfizer.

A wide range of vaccination sites have been identified.

These include, among others, primary health care clinics, community pharmacies, general practitioners, public and private hospitals, and travel clinics.

Vaccinations will also be done by mobile teams, at mass vaccination sites set up at conference centres and other facilities, and in some workplaces such as government departments, mines and factories.

All vaccination sites must meet certain legislative requirements and go through an accreditation process

By the end of April, the Department of Health has enrolled 3,357 accredited vaccination sites.

A comprehensive logistics and supply-chain plan is in place.

This includes all supply chain preparations and activities from when the vaccine arrives in the country until it is made available for vaccination at each vaccination site.

A critical part of this is an effective cold chain to maintain the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, match demand with supply and enable the tracing and tracking of vaccines.

The Electronic Vaccine Data System - or EVDS - is the backbone of the vaccination programme.

It provides an end-to-end solution that is used to digitally capture each event in the vaccination process and provides data to monitor all vaccinations administered.

Every person to be vaccinated will need to register and will receive details of the date and timeslot for vaccination.

For many South Africans who do not have access to the internet, both digital and walk-in systems will be used for registration. Callers may also register on a toll free helpline.

Provision has been made for alternative capturing of a unique identifier for individuals who do not have an identity document.

The magnitude of the COVID-19 vaccination programme requires dedicated staff at national, provincial and district levels.

Based on the experience of Phase 1, staffing requirements and norms for vaccination sites have been estimated to guide planning, budgeting and recruitment.

These norms may vary depending on the specifics of particular sites.

Government is committed to ensuring that every person 18 years and older will be able to be vaccinated, free at the point of vaccination.

The costs will be covered from public funds for uninsured people and medical aids for those who are insured, as part of prescribed minimum benefits.

This will be the first time in South Africa's history that a national vaccination programme aimed at adults will be rolled out.

It is an enormous undertaking that will require the support and cooperation of all parts of society.

A comprehensive plan is in place, resources have been mobilised and a steady supply of vaccines have been procured, so that every adult should have the opportunity to be vaccinated.

I thank you.

QUESTION 4 - PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA ON SOUTH AFRICA'S CONTRIBUTION TO REGIONAL AND CONTINENTAL EFFORTS TO ADDRESS THE SECURITY SITUATION IN MOZAMBIQUE

Honourable Members,

The conflict in the Cabo Delgado province has caused great death, suffering and trauma to the people in the area.

It has not only damaged the local economy, but also threatens stability in the broader region.

It is therefore vital that the countries of the Southern African region and the African continent assist in both ending the conflict and also addressing the social, economic and political factors fuelling the violence.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, has stated the AU's strong condemnation of the terrorist attacks.

An Extraordinary Double Troika Summit of SADC was held in Maputo on 8 April 2021 to address the security situation in Mozambique.

The Summit directed the technical assessment by SADC of the situation in the affected area should be conducted within a week, and that a report should be submitted to the next Extraordinary SADC Organ Troika Summit to deliberate on a proportional regional response.

The Summit, which was scheduled for 29 April 2021, had to be postponed, and a new date is yet to be announced.

The international community, and in particular SADC and the AU, has shown a firm commitment to contribute to the stabilisation of the situation.

The SADC Organ Troika is seized with finding a lasting solution to the conflict to ensure that the Mozambican people are able to live in peace and security and are able to benefit from the natural resources within their country.

I thank you.

QUESTION 5 - PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA ON THE PORT OF DURBAN IN RELATION TO ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLAN

Honourable Members,

The importance of the Port of Durban lies at the very heart of our economy.

It is the country's largest logistics hub for imports and exports, and it affects almost every aspect of economic activity.

During the last decade, the port has lost its status as the best-performing port on the African continent.

In recent years, the port has suffered from long waiting times, inefficient operations and congestion which has affected large parts of the Durban metro.

I visited the port several weeks ago to ensure that measures are being implemented to improve its efficiency and competitiveness.

The new management of Transnet is working hard to turn around the port's performance.

It has put in place an ambitious plan for the expansion of port infrastructure that will modernise and transform the port, alongside measures to improve performance and producvity and reduce congestion in the near term.

Over the next decade, this plan will expand the capacity of the port for container handling from 2.9 million units to more than 11 million units.

It will position the port as a hub port for the region, the continent and the entire southern hemisphere.

These expansion efforts will require greater private sector participation and investment in the port sector, well beyond the capacity of Transnet's own balance sheet.

Partnerships with the private sector are crucial to bring new expertise to port operations and to modernise equipment and infrastructure.

Among the plans outlined by Transnet is the advertising of a concession to build and operate the new Point Terminal by October 2021, which will crowd in private sectore investment and improve the efficiency of container handling.

This does not mean the port will be privatised.

We should not confuse the concessioning of terminal operations with privatisation of the port.

The Durban Port is and will remain an important national asset belonging to the people of South Africa.

Massive new investment in port infrastructure will not only lower costs and improve the competitiveness of our exports, but will in fact create thousands of new jobs, both in the port itself and in the economy as a whole.

I thank you.

QUESTION 6 - PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA ON THE COUNTRY'S EFFORTS TO END GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE.

Honourable Members,

The National Strategic Plan for Gender-based Violence and Femicide requires that the country strengthen the capacity within the criminal justice system to apprehend and successfully prosecute perpetrators.

The criminal justice system is expected to provide justice, safety and protection for survivors of gender-based violence.

A number of existing initiatives and measures, such as our Thuthuzela Care Centres, the SAPS's Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences units and our Sexual Offences Courts are continuing to do that by providing services to GBV survivors.

We are also confident that the three new Bills which are currently before Parliament for consideration will, once passed into law, further strengthen government's response to prevent and combat GBV in all its forms.

With respect to the backlog in cases relating to gender-based violence, during the course of the fourth quarter of the 2020/21 financial year, the South African Police Service finalised 3,534 dockets for crimes against women that had been outstanding for more than a year.

This constitutes 42 per cent of the total number of 8,289 dockets that had been outstanding for more than a year.

While this is welcome progress, our ability to effectively investigate and prosecute gender-based violence is severely hampered by the backlog in DNA cases at forensic laboratories.

According to the South African Police Service, 2,556 DNA cases related to gender-based violence were finalised between 18 February and 25 April this year.

As at 25 April this year, there were more than 83,000 GBVF-related cases in process, and more than 77,000 cases were older than 35 calendar days.

This is clearly unacceptable and, if allowed to continue at this pace, will severely hamper the fight against gender-based violence.

A number of interventions have been implemented by the SAPS to address the DNA backlogs.

These include, amongst others, improving supply chain processes, the procurement of consumables at a cost of R4.2 million, by way of a deviation from National Treasury, for the prioritisation of cases identified by the National Prosecuting Authority, and the filling of vacant posts in Forensic Science Laboratories.

An additional R250 million was allocated to the operational baseline budget to address challenges in forensic laboratory services.

The SAPS has also initiated the bidding process to award all outstanding contracts for the consumables that are critical in addressing the DNA backlogs.

In this regard, the SAPS developed a DNA Backlog Recovery Plan, which is a multidisciplinary intervention within and outside of the South Africa Police Services.

This Action Plan, with clear timeframes, was presented to Parliament's Portfolio Committee in March this year.

A new Forensic Exhibit Management system was implemented on 6 April 2021, to enable effective tracking and tracing of samples received at the different laboratories.

Regular meetings are also being held between the SAPS, the Department of Justice and the National Prosecuting Authority to assist the NPA with the prosecution of these cases and to fast-track DNA analysis reports of court cases that have been long outstanding.

In addition to these initiatives, the Presidency is working with the Gender-Based Violence Response Fund 1, which is a private sector initiative to mobilise funds to tackle GBV, and the South African Police Service to find effective ways to clear the backlog.

To expand forensic capacity, the work study investigation on the establishment of the DNA Analysis Capability at Eastern Cape Forensic Laboratory Services was concluded in February 2021.

The SAPS is also engaging the Department of Labour to review the basic conditions of employment of people working in this sector to allow for a shift system to increase the working hours of staff.

Our forensic laboratory services are a crucial part of our efforts to improve the response of the criminal justice system to gender-based violence and femicide.

We are therefore resolved to work with all stakeholders and to draw on whatever resources are available to remove these backlogs as soon as possible.

I thank you.

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