Defeating the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic is one of the foremost, overriding priorities of 2021.
President Ramaphosa emphasized this during the 2021 State of the Nation Address in the national assembly last night.
Other priorities include speeding up economic recovery, implementing economic reforms to create sustainable jobs and drive inclusive growth and fighting corruption and strengthening the state.
In terms of Covid-19, the president confirmed that the first phase of the vaccination programme directed at health workers “will now use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has been shown to be effective against the 501Y.V2 variant”.
Nine million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been secured with the first batch of 80 000 doses arriving in the country next week.
According to the president, further consignments will arrive over the next four weeks, totalling 500 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines and all provinces have vaccine rollout plans in place.
12 million vaccine doses have also been secured from the global COVAX facility to be complemented by other vaccines that are available to South Africa through the African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team Facility.
The president added that Pfizer will start to deliver 20 million vaccine doses at the end of the first quarter of 2021.
As regards social and economic support to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, the president announced that the Special COVID-19 Grant of R350 will be extended by a further three months.
The COVID-19 TERS benefit will also be extended until 15 March 2021 for those sectors that have not been able to open and operate.
“The conditions of this extension and the sectors to be included will be announced after consultations with social partners at the National Economic Development and Labour Council.”
The president also indicated that the Loan Guarantee Scheme will be improved “so that it better addresses the realities of SMMEs and other businesses as they strive to recover”.
In the realm of Eskom and electricity generation, the president announced that, in order to increase generation capacity, the mineral resources and energy department will soon announce the successful bids for 2 000 megawatts (MW) of emergency power.
Systems are also being put in place to support qualifying municipalities to buy power from independent power producers and government will soon initiate the procurement of an additional 11 800 MW of power from renewable energy, natural gas, battery storage and coal in line with the Integrated Resource Plan 2019.
A request for proposals for 2 600 MW from wind and solar energy as part of Bid Window 5 will be issued in the coming weeks with another bid window set for August 2021.
The president also announced that Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act of 2006 will be amended within the next three months to increase the licensing threshold for embedded generation that can unlock up to 5 000 MW of additional capacity and help to ease the impact of load shedding.
Other developments highlighted by the president include:
• Digital migration – phased switch-off of analogue television transmitters to begin next month – to be completed by end of March 2022;
• Process for the licensing of high-demand spectrum at an advanced stage;
• Operation Vulindlela working to ensure that water license applications are finalised within the revised timeframe of 90 days – Green Drop and Blue Drop programmes being revived to strengthen water quality monitoring – Raw Water Pricing Strategy to be implemented and national water resources infrastructure agency to be set up;
• eVisas to be rolled out to visitors from China, India, Nigeria, Kenya and 10 other countries once international travel starts to recover;
• Revised list of critical skills to be published for comment within one week;
• Overarching legislation for state-owned companies will be tabled in cabinet this financial year and in parliament in the next financial year – centralised SOE model to be implemented this financial year that will ensure a standardized governance, financial management and operational performance framework for all SOEs – mandates of SOEs to be re-evaluated;
• A Land and Agrarian Reform Agency to be set up in the next financial year to fast-track land reform;
• National Anti-Corruption Strategy being implemented and members of the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council to be appointed soon to oversee the initial implementation of the strategy and the establishment of an independent statutory anti-corruption body that reports to parliament;
• Political Party Funding Act to come into operation on 1 April this year – will regulate public and private funding of political parties.