On Wednesday, 31st May, the National Assembly debated the Presidency Budget Vote at its plenary sitting.
It is safe to say that coming to National Assembly is one move President Jacob Zuma hates with passion. This is because the House is where he is vehemently questioned, heckled and challenged over piles of personal scandals and those of his administration.
Zuma, himself, lamented over this on September 13, 2016, after a rough Question & Answer – which he is obliged to do once a parliamentary term.
He said at the time:
“Each time when I come here, I am abused by members of your Parliament, because instead of answering questions I sit here being called a criminal, a thief. I think this house must do something about it.”
The experience was not different yesterday when he presented the Presidency Budget Vote.
The so-called Gupta e-mails that leaked over the weekend further made his presentation much hectic during the vote debate. The nullification of Eskom boss Brian Molefe’s reappointment as Eskom chief executive also didn’t help.
Without mincing words, Zuma presented a speech which can be best described as a shorter (but updated) version of his State of the Nation Address (SONA) speech.
Other ANC speakers, including deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, also participated in the six-hour debate on the Presidency budget.
While other speakers paid tributes to OR Tambo [The ANC officially declared 2017 the year of the OR Tambo], Ramaphosa bucked the ANC trend of mentioning OR Tambo and instead paid tribute to ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu.
“Walter Sisulu was, by nature and by conviction, a unifier, a consensus builder… He worked throughout his life to draw together different people, sometimes with sharply differing views, into the service of one common cause – the liberation of the people of this country,” he said.
Throughout his speech, Ramaphosa stressed the importance of social compact and building partnerships. He also tackled the legacies of South Africa’s apartheid past – unemployment, poverty, and inequality.
From the Presidency budget vote speech, here are some points mentioned you must know.
- The vision/freedom of all races living safely [at home, at school, at work, and in the streets] in South Africa is being obstructed by the brutal attacks and killings of women and children currently going on in some parts of the country.
- The government has declared violence against women a priority crime from henceforth.
- The government has enacted Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act – aimed at affecting international agreements which include the Palermo Trafficking in Persons Protocol.
- In commemoration of the Child Protection Week, families are encouraged to support their children when they report abuse by anyone, including family members.
- The government is currently providing support to state-owned companies – the SAA, SABC, and Eskom and other affected entities.
- On social grants payments, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) will be submitting the quarterly reports to the Constitutional Court as per its judgment.
- The partnership between government and business is the key in the drive to re-ignite growth in the country. Hence, the government will work together with business on improving investor confidence in the country.
- Early this year, the government launched the InvestSA One-Stop Shop and remains committed to the expenditure ceiling in the 2017 budget and to stabilize debt levels.
- On energy security, the Ministers of Public Enterprises and Energy are working together to find an amicable solution to the Independent Power Producers impasse.
- The government will implement the nuclear energy program at a pace and scale that the country can afford.
- The Mining Charter will be gazetted in a few weeks’ time. The government is working towards transforming radically the ownership of the South African mining assets by ensuring that black people meaningfully and effectively participate in the mining and minerals industries.
- The government and the Presidency fully support the calls for a commission of inquiry into state capture.
- The government identified that supporting SMEs is an area with large potential for employment creation and economic growth. Hence, the government is driving a program to revitalize township and rural enterprises.
- On investment into small business development, the National Gazelles program, a pilot by the Department of Small Business Development has proved the potential of small businesses.
- Progress is being made in fighting fronting through the BBBEE Commission, as such practices reverse the gains of transformation.
- BEE codes in all sectors and transformation charters and plans for sectors will be soon finalized and gazetted.
- South Africa has the largest HIV treatment program in the world with more than 3.8 million people in the public sector on treatment. In 2016 alone, over 14 million people took the HIV tests, enabling them to know their status.
- Over 10,000 young people have been recruited and are being trained as water agents, electricians, plumbers, machinists and in other fields by the Department of Water and Sanitation through the War on Leaks Programme.
- National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) Programme has recruited about 19,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who are in possession of a Grade 12 qualification.
- The fee increase capped at 8 percent for all qualifying registered students for the 2017 academic year has been paid by the government.
- South Africa continues to support sister nations such as South Sudan, Lesotho, Central African Republic, DRC, Mali, and others in the special efforts of ensuring the silencing of the guns and ending pockets of conflict by 2020.
- South Africa will assume the chair of SADC in August and that of the Indian Ocean Rim Association later in the year.
President Jacob Zuma is expected to respond to the six-hour debate on the Presidency budget vote on Thursday.