Eyes on the poll as Cyril tells a ‘good story’ to SA
'Fewer South Africans go hungry and live in poverty today'
President Cyril Ramaphosa has set the tone for elections by delivering a review of the ANC government’s success over the past 30 years during his state of the nation address on Thursday night.
Ramaphosa delivered a data-driven speech outlining progress made since the dawn of democracy – focusing on jobs created, housing delivery, water, electricity supply, healthcare, education, social security, safety and economic transformation.
Using the analogy of a child called Tintswalo, born at the dawn of democracy, Ramaphosa focused his address on the beneficiaries of the democratic government programmes from free healthcare to housing, water and education.
He said despite remarkable achievements of the last 30 years, many of democracy’s children still face great challenges.
He notably also said his government had created more than 1.7-million jobs and livelihood opportunities through the Presidential Employment Stimulus.
“Having a job does not only provide an income – it is fundamental to people’s sense of self-worth, dignity, hope, purpose and inclusion,” he said. “From the depths of deprivation and inequality, we have worked over 30 years to ensure that all South Africans have an equal chance to prosper.”
The president also announced that his government, having seen the benefits of the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, would extend it and improve it as the next step towards income support.
Ramaphosa said government policies and programmes over 30 years have lifted millions of people out of dire poverty. He said fewer South Africans go hungry and fewer live in poverty today.
“In 1993, South Africa faced a significant poverty challenge, with 71.1% of its population living in poverty. However, under the democratic government, there has been a consistent decline in these numbers,” he said.
“By 2010, the poverty rate had dropped to 60.9%, and it continued to decrease, reaching 55.5% in 2020, as reported by the World Bank.”
On education, he said over the last 30 years the government sought to use education as a tool to create equality. "Our basic education outcomes are steadily improving across a range of measures. The latest matric pass rate, at 82.9%, is the highest ever.
"And with each new year, learners from no-fee schools are accounting for more and more of the bachelor passes achieved. At the same time, fewer learners are dropping out of school," said Ramaphosa.
He said over the next five years, "we will focus our attention on expanding access to early childhood development and improving early grade reading, where we are already beginning to see progress".
He said government interventions on public health include social grants that have helped to increase SA's life expectancy from 54 years in 2003 to 65 years in 2023. He said maternal and infant deaths have declined dramatically.
'We have built more hospitals and clinics, especially in poor areas, providing better quality care to more South Africans. Today, 95% of persons diagnosed with HIV know their status, 79% of those receive antiretroviral treatment, and 93% of those are virally suppressed. New HIV infections among young people have declined significantly," said Ramaphosa.
He said one of the most impactful achievements in the first three decades of freedom has been providing homes to people. He said nearly nine out of every 10 households live in a formal dwelling. "Where there were once shacks and mud houses, there are now homes of brick and mortar.
"These are homes with water to drink and to wash with, homes with electricity for lighting and cooking. At the end of apartheid, only six out of 10 people had access to clean drinking water. Today, that figure has increased to nearly nine out of 10 South Africans," he said.
He also said the government was working to ensure that subsidised housing was located close to work, education and services.
Once again, Ramaphosa made promises to end load shedding. He said the government revived renewable energy programme five years ago, and have since connected more than 2,500 MW of solar and wind power to the grid, with three times this amount already in procurement or construction.
"With our abundance of solar, wind and mineral resources, we are going to create thousands of jobs in renewable energy, green hydrogen, green steel, electric vehicles and other green products," he said.
Ramaphosa also said his government was on track to resolve the most important constraints on economic growth by stabilising energy supply and fixing the logistics system. He said “the worst is behind us and the end of load shedding is finally within reach”.
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