Press Releases

Press Releases

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 21 SEPTEMBER 2020

 

Dear Fellow South African,
 
The United Nations will this week begin the 75th session of its General Assembly, where the nations of the world gather to seek collective solutions to global challenges.
 
In any other year, heads of state and government would travel to the UN headquarters in New York to address the General Assembly. But this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, this gathering is taking place virtually, using technology to bridge the distance between the capitals of the world.
 
As South Africa, we will be addressing the General Assembly by videoconference from the Union Buildings and will be participating in several other meetings.
 
This is an important moment for the United Nations. It is 75 years since its formation following the destruction of the Second World War. The countries of the world were determined that never again should such a human tragedy be allowed to happen. They believed that through an organisation like the UN, the world’s problems could be peacefully resolved through cooperation.
 
As the world confronts another global crisis, this time caused by a virus, the United Nations remains as important and relevant as ever.
 
The UN has played a vital role in supporting cooperation among countries and international organisations like the World Health Organisation as they have worked to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. It has focused attention on the most vulnerable countries and those parts of society most badly affected by the pandemic.
 
Importantly, the UN has enabled countries to focus on the work that needs to be done to not only to rebuild economies, but to do so in a manner that advances the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
The UN is leading the effort to ensure that the world that emerges from COVID is better, fairer and more peaceful.
 
In the 75 years of its existence, the UN has proven the value of cooperation and solidarity.
 
To resolve our global challenges – be they health emergencies, transnational crime, conflict and war, climate change, migration or natural disasters – we must work together. It is only through multilateralism that we can forge common strategies for the benefit of all.
 
We therefore need to strengthen bodies like the UN, ensure they are properly resourced and that they are representative. We must use this anniversary to push ahead with the reform of the UN and particularly its Security Council, which does not give equal voice to the different regions of the world. As South Africa, we will use our virtual presence in New York to continue to advocate for Africa – a continent of more than a billion people – to have permanent representation on the UN Security Council.
 
We recognise that global peace is not just about a world free of conflict, but one free of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. It is a world of inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity. By providing all the world’s people with the means to live secure and productive lives, we are laying the best foundation for peace and stability.
 
One of the greatest challenges to the achievement of this goal is the continued exclusion of half of the world’s population through discrimination and marginalisation.
 
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women, which placed the emancipation of women firmly on the global agenda. It is a valuable opportunity to not only review the progress made over the last quarter century, but most importantly to clearly outline the actions we must now take to ensure that women occupy their rightful place as equals in all areas of life in all societies.
 
For Africa, this means, among other things, that we must intensify measures to empower women economically. This is in line with the African Union decision to dedicate this decade to the financial inclusion of women. We therefore welcome the opportunity later this week to take part in a panel of G7 and African countries on women’s digital financial inclusion in Africa. It will look at how women can take advantage of technological advances to start businesses, trade and find meaningful employment.
 
There is much that can be achieved by ensuring that women have greater access to affordable financial services and education. This should take place alongside other measures we are pursuing on the continent, such as efforts to increase the portion of public procurement set aside for women-owned businesses.
 
Our message is that unless women are brought into the mainstream of the economy they will continue to bear the brunt of exclusion and be vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Our message is that a world that empowers women is a prosperous and sustainable world.
 
This sitting of the UN General Assembly must also address the climate change crisis. As the world rebuilds in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic we have an opportunity to place the global economy on a low-carbon, climate resilient path. We should be building green economies, not just for the sake of environmental sustainability but because of the opportunities for job creation and growth.
 
This pandemic has presented the world with a choice – between the global cooperation envisaged in the UN Charter or the pursuit of narrow self-interest. It is a choice between prosperity for all or for a just a few.
 
At the 75th UN General Assembly, the leaders of the world have an opportunity to begin rebuilding a new global order based on justice and equality.
 
By drawing on the spirit of solidarity, friendship and unity of purpose that has long defined the United Nations, we will set a clear path towards lasting peace and sustainable development.
 
Best regards,

 

EMBASSY PHONE LINES TEMPORARILY DOWN

Kindly note that the Embassy telephone lines are currently out of order due to the ICT network being down. The Embassy is working closely with the head office (Department of International Relations and Cooperation) in Pretoria to have the broken-down switch (connector between a router and telephone lines) replaced as soon as possible. It is unfortunate and regrettable that the switch is not readily available and can only be sourced and couriered from South Africa to Portugal. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing delays in delivery of the switch from the supplier and also for the movement of goods and services. The Embassy apologises for the inconvenience caused.

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FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT- 14 SEPTEMBER 2020

Dear Fellow South African,
 
In many countries around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has required the limitation of many civil liberties and put social cohesion to the test.
 
But countries with strong institutions, vigilant judicial systems and a robust media have been able to prevent human rights from being undermined and the authority of the state being abused.
 
It has been six months since the national state of disaster was proclaimed. Despite the unprecedented nature of the disease and the immense challenge of placing a country of 58 million people under lockdown, we have fared well. We have managed to contain the spread of the disease primarily because of the cooperation and vigilance of all citizens.
 
This is in no small part due to the sterling work of our media.
 
We owe a debt of gratitude to South Africa’s hardworking and tenacious journalists. They have kept our people informed by disseminating key health messages about social distancing and hygiene. They have done so under extremely trying conditions, often with limited resources.
 
They have told the stories of the effects of lockdown on the lives of people and their businesses. They have been out in the villages, towns and cities, bringing stories of ordinary people and drawing national attention to problems being experienced in hospitals and clinics, prompting government action.
 
Our media have also shone a light on excesses that perhaps would not have ordinarily come to light. They have fulfilled their watchdog role by unearthing acts of corruption and maladministration, sparking a massive national debate and leading to a number of high-profile investigations. Through this reporting they have earned people’s trust.
 
A free press is not an end in itself. It is a means by which democracy is secured and upheld. During this pandemic, our media has played not just its traditional watchdog role, but exercised its civic duty in supporting the national effort to contain the coronavirus.
 
Given the importance of the media to the health of our democracy, it is a great concern that like all other sectors of the economy, the coronavirus crisis has hit our media houses hard. Some publications lost as much as 60% of their income in the early days of the lockdown. A number of companies have had to implement salary cuts, reduce staff numbers or reduce hours worked. Regrettably, some publications have even been forced to close, among them some of South Africa’s most established and well-known magazine titles.
 
The job losses that have resulted from the lockdowns have exacerbated a crisis for media companies already facing challenges like loss of advertising revenues, falling circulation and market share being taken by mobile-first news and other technologies. These financial difficulties are being faced across the board, from online titles to traditional broadsheets to the public broadcaster.
 
This was one of the issues that was raised sharply during my engagement with the South African National Editors’ Forum last week. Instead of lamenting their fate, however, the media industry is working hard to refine business models, to drive innovation and to retain staff as much as possible.
 
At the same time, the media is a unique entity in any society because its practitioners fulfil a role that is so essential to our democratic order. They work to keep the public informed and to keep power in check.
 
We need more journalists, not less. That is why the loss of even a single journalist is not just a loss to the industry but to the country.
 
We need our media veterans, who bring with them vast experience and institutional memory, and are able to offer critical reportage and informed analysis. At the same time we need more young journalists in the profession who are tech-savvy, abreast with new trends in storytelling and in touch with the concerns of a youthful population.
 
As a society we owe the media our full support. Whether it is electing to pay for content, supporting crowdfunded journalism, paying our SABC license fees or simply buying a newspaper, we can all play our part to support this industry in crisis. As government, despite the gloomy economic climate we will continue to extend advertising spend to publications and broadcasters, especially community media.
 
The private sector must also continue to support the industry through advertising and working with media houses in the production of innovative content in line with global media trends. Local philanthropic and donor organisations should also come on board and support public interest journalism ventures, as is the case in many democracies.
 
The proliferation of fake news during the pandemic, primarily on social media platforms, has added to the urgency for more news that is accurate, fair and impartial. During this time our people have relied on our established media houses for information, once again underscoring their importance as pillars of our democracy.
 
As we begin the great task of rebuilding our economy in the aftermath of the pandemic, the media industry will need our support more than ever. The free press was once described as ‘the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men and women prize’. As we salute their role in this pandemic, let us do what we can to ensure that the free and diverse media in our country is able to survive and thrive.
 
Best regards,

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 7 SEPTEMBER 2020

Dear Fellow South African,
 
A year ago, almost to the day, thousands of women, men and children marched to Parliament to protest against a spate of rapes and killings of women and girls.
 
At the time, the nation was reeling from the murders of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Leighandre Jegels, Jesse Hess and a number of other women who had lost their lives at the hands of brutal men.
 
From all social backgrounds, young and old, students and working women, the peaceful protesters held aloft placards that read ‘Enough is Enough’ and ‘Am I next?’. The anguish and the anger was palpable that day. As I received their clearly articulated demands, it was clear to me that we needed to act urgently and with determination. It was important to me that I did not respond with hollow words and empty promises.
 
I committed to marshal the substantial resources of the state to tackle gender-based violence and femicide. I gave an undertaking that we would review our laws around gender-based violence. One of the key demands made by many women’s organisations was that the laws of our country should be tightened on granting bail to suspects and enforcement of long sentences for offenders.
 
I concluded that the struggle to end gender-based violence needed a multipronged strategy that should be led by the President and enlisted government to act. The Cabinet agreed to allocate resources and commit to a plan of action. A few days later, I called a joint sitting of Parliament, where we announced a R1.6 billion Emergency Response Action Plan to combat gender-based violence and femicide.
 
Over the six months of its implementation, public spending in various government departments was reprioritised to support interventions for care and support for survivors, for awareness and prevention campaigns, to improve laws and policies, to promote the economic empowerment of women, and to strengthen the criminal justice system.
 
And now we are on the cusp of the most far-reaching legislative overhaul in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.
 
Over the past week, three key Bills relating to gender-based violence have been introduced in Parliament. Through the introduction of these Bills, we are honouring the promise we made to the protestors last year and to all the women of this country.
 
The three amendment Bills are designed to fill the gaps that allow some perpetrators of these crimes to evade justice and to give full effect to the rights of our country’s women and children.
 
The sad reality is that many survivors of gender-based violence have lost faith in the criminal justice system.
 
Difficulties in obtaining protection orders, lax bail condition for suspects, police not taking domestic violence complaints seriously and inappropriate sentences have contributed to an environment of cynicism and mistrust.
 
These Bills, once finalised, will help to restore the confidence of our country’s women that the law is indeed there to protect them.
 
The first is the Bill to amend the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act. This creates a new offence of sexual intimidation, extends the ambit of the offence of incest, and extends the reporting duty of persons who suspect a sexual offence has been committed against a child.
 
It expands the scope of the National Register for Sex Offenders to include the particulars of all sex offenders. Until now, it has only applied to sex offenders convicted of sex crimes perpetrated against children or persons with mental disabilities. The time an offender’s particulars must remain on the register has been increased, and those listed on the register will have to disclose this when they submit applications to work with persons who are vulnerable. The Bill also makes provision for the names of persons on the National Register for Sex Offenders to be publicly available.
 
The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill tightens, among others, the granting of bail to perpetrators of gender-based violence and femicide, and expands the offences for which minimum sentences must be imposed.
 
People are angry that many perpetrators of such serious crimes are exploiting legal loopholes to avoid imprisonment and are frustrated that sentencing is often not proportionate to the crimes. The amendments impose new obligations on law-enforcement officials and on our courts.
 
When a prosecutor does not oppose bail in cases of gender-based violence, they have to place their reasons on record. Unless a person accused of gender-based violence can provide exceptional circumstances why they should be released on bail, the court must order their detention until the criminal proceedings are concluded.
 
In reaching a decision on a bail application, the courts are compelled to take a number of considerations into account. They include pre-trial reports on the desirability of releasing an accused on bail, threats of violence made against a survivor, and the view of the survivor regarding his or her safety.
 
When it comes to parole, a complainant or a relative of a deceased victim must be able to make representation to the parole board.
 
Given the unacceptably high levels of intimate partner violence in our country, we have tightened the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act.
 
Domestic violence is now defined to cover those in engagements, dating, in customary relationships, and actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationships of any duration. The Bill also extends the definition of ‘domestic violence’ to include the protection of older persons against abuse by family members.
 
Complainants will be able to apply for a protection order online. To prevent a scenario where perpetrators can hide past histories of domestic violence, an integrated repository of protection orders will be established.
 
The proposed amendments also oblige the departments of Social Development, Basic Education, Higher Education and Health to provide certain services to survivors where needed and to refer them for sheltering and medical care.
 
The circumstances under which a prosecutor can refuse to institute a prosecution when offences have been committed under the amended Act or to withdraw charges when it involves the infliction of bodily harm or where a weapon was used to threaten a complainant have been limited.
 
In perhaps the most groundbreaking proposed amendment to the Act, if someone has knowledge, reasonable belief or suspicion that an act of domestic violence has been committed against a child, a person with disability or an older person and fails to report it to a social worker or police officer they can be fined and even imprisoned.
 
Similarly, failure by a member of the SAPS to comply with their obligations under the Act will be regarded as  misconduct and must be reported to the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service.
 
The law is the one sure protector of all of society, but especially its most vulnerable. When diligently and fairly applied, it is the most powerful guarantor of justice.
 
The women of South Africa have had enough of lukewarm actions that do not address one of the most fundamental rights of all – to live in freedom from fear.
 
These proposed amendments are an appropriate response to a groundswell of dissatisfaction at the way survivors of gender-based violence have been treated by the criminal justice system in the past.
 
This government and its partners will make good by the women of South Africa. We will not let them down.
 
That we have reached this point is thanks to committed and principled activism.
 
The task before us now is to bring our collective efforts to bear by taking an active part in the public participation process towards finalising the Bills.
 
Let us now work together to see this process through, for the protection of the women and children of today and of tomorrow.
 
Best regards,

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 24 AUGUST 2020

Dear Fellow South African,
 
The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the social, economic, business and industrial landscape of our country and countries around the world.
 
As we work with our social partners to develop an urgent economic recovery programme, we are determined that we should not merely return to where we were before the pandemic struck. We are instead looking at actions that will build a new, inclusive economy that creates employment and fosters sustainable growth.
 
An important aspect of this new economy is that it must be able to withstand the effects of climate change. A climate-resilient economy is necessary to protect jobs, ensure the sustainability of our industries, preserve our natural resources and ensure food security.
 
While the dramatic scaling down of human and industrial activity during COVID-19 lockdowns has been good for the environment and natural ecosystems, these activities are now resuming. The coronavirus pandemic is devastating, but unless we act now, the impact of climate change on humanity will be catastrophic.
 
Unless we act swiftly to significantly reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change, we will be facing one state of disaster after another for many years to come.
 
Climate change has long been a measurable reality for South Africa. We have felt its effects in adverse weather conditions, droughts, flooding and rising temperatures.
 
But climate change is about much more than changing weather patterns. It impacts on water resources, food security, public health, public infrastructure, ecosystems and biodiversity. It affects the most vulnerable in society, who suffer the effects of extreme weather events and the degradation of ecosystems.
 
As we work to reduce our carbon emissions, we have to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability of communities to climate change. It has to be factored into every aspect of government planning: from water use management to the construction of human settlements, from public transport to infrastructure, from disaster management to energy.
 
Similarly, nearly every key sector of our economy – from mining to construction, from agriculture to automotive manufacturing – needs to adapt to the effects of climate change.
 
It is to respond to this massive challenge, that Cabinet last week approved the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.
 
This strategy will guide one important aspect of our climate change response. In line with our commitments under the Paris Agreement to Combat Climate Change, we are moving ahead with both mitigation strategies – to reduce our carbon emissions – and adaptation strategies – to prepare our society for the effects of climate change.
 
As the Paris Agreement comes fully into force this year, we are committed to meeting our international responsibilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of the key instruments for this, the Climate Change Bill, is currently under consideration in NEDLAC. We will also be establishing the Presidential Climate Change Commission to coordinate our national response and implementing the carbon tax to encourage companies to reduce their emissions.
 
While these mitigation measures are implemented, the adaptation strategy calls for a multisectoral response to climate change that brings together government, the private sector, civil society organisations and communities.
 
Work is already underway in government and in the private sector to respond to climate change, with tangible projects being implemented at both national and provincial government level.
 
In provinces such as Gauteng and the Western Cape, new low-carbon technologies are being used to power public transport. Thousands of solar water heaters have been installed in public housing. The renewable energy power producer programme plays an important role in increasing the contribution of renewable energy to our electricity supply.
 
As we build a new economy, we cannot afford to be out of step with international moves towards green growth and green development. Our major trading partners have signalled a move towards ‘carbon border taxes’ to exclude products from those countries that they consider to be violating their climate change commitments.
 
Our country’s research and development activity has long engaged with the green economy.
 
We have already made significant advances in the waste and recycling economies. Looking ahead, the Hydrogen SA initiative has built local expertise for the hydrogen economy over a decade, with projects under way to support local manufacturing of fuel cell components. This supports the beneficiation of platinum group metals. The hydrogen economy, when linked to renewable energy, can also position South Africa as a global player in the many applications of green hydrogen.
 
Climate adaptation can also support infrastructure development and local production. The country can develop its own expertise in areas such as smart grids, e-mobility, smart water and sanitation solutions, ecological infrastructure and broadband connectivity.
 
The additional benefit of positioning our country as a significant global player in this space is that we will be able to draw on green funding sources and instruments. We already have a National Green Fund, the ‘Working for Water’ and ‘Working on Fire’ public employment programmes and the National Treasury’s Cities Support Programme. All of these support the development of new green industries and the greening of existing initiatives.
 
As we count the devastating cost the coronavirus pandemic has had on our economy, we must resist the temptation to relegate the critical issue of climate change to the back-burner.
 
Far from being an ‘added liability’ focused solely on issues of compliance, climate change adaptation is an opportunity to quicken the pace towards a sustainable economy that is just and inclusive.
 
We need to act now, guided by a common strategy, to combat climate change and build a new, resilient economy.
 
With best wishes,

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 17 AUGUST 2020

Dear Fellow South African,

At midnight tonight, our country will move to alert level 2 in our response to the coronavirus pandemic. This will come as a relief to all South Africans who have had to live under stringent restrictions for the last five months.

It is a sign of the progress we are making in reducing new infections and demand on our health facilities. It is also a very important development as we strive to restart our economy.

But it is too soon to celebrate.

We are still very much in the middle of a deadly pandemic that has taken over 11,000 lives in South Africa alone. At more than half a million confirmed cases, we still have the fifth highest number of infections in the world. And there is always a chance of a resurgence of the disease.
 
If we ever need a stark reminder of the need for vigilance, we should look to recent events thousands of kilometres away in New Zealand. Three months since the country was declared coronavirus-free, New Zealand is once again under lockdown. Although the latest outbreak was of relatively few cases, the government swiftly re-imposed lockdown restrictions.
 
Similar restrictions have had to be reimposed in several parts of Europe as they experience a ‘second wave’ of infections. These experiences show just how swiftly things can change when it comes to COVID-19.

It is a wake-up call to any among us who may harbour illusions that we are even close to seeing the end of this grave public health emergency.

Certainly, there are signs of hope. The number of new confirmed cases in South Africa continues to decline. At the peak of the disease just one month ago, we were recording around 12,000 new cases a day. This has dropped to an average of around 5,000 a day over the past week. Our recovery rate stands at 80%.

As the country moves to alert level 2, many restrictions on social and economic activity have been lifted. With this comes increased risk of transmission.

We now need to manage this risk and ensure the gains we have made thus far in containing the pandemic’s spread are not reversed. The greatest threat to the health of nation right now is complacency. It may be that we are now permitted to meet friends and family, to visit entertainment venues, to travel for leisure and to consume alcohol in restaurants, bars and taverns.
 
But as the old adage goes, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Many people who have the coronavirus do not have symptoms and may not even know they are infected. This is a sobering reality because it means that any of us could be infected right now and could unwittingly infect others.

This is particular the case when visiting relatives, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions that render them vulnerable to infection. It is also true for attending religious services or cultural activities.

The ‘second wave’ of infections that several other countries have experienced is an ever-present possibility for us too. Although many restrictions have been lifted, it does not mean they will not return should we experience a significant rise in infections. This pandemic is a matter of life and death. We need to adapt and we need to be vigilant.

In the days, weeks and months that lie ahead, we must urgently focus our efforts on recovery. Our economy and our society has suffered a great deal. As we return to economic activity across almost all industries – and work to repair the damage done – we have a responsibility to not let our guard down as individuals, employers, communities, families, professionals, workers and citizens.

None of us wants a return to the early days of extreme lockdown restrictions. We want to move on with our lives. We want our friends and loved ones to remain healthy and safe.
 
As a nation, let us continue to work together to ensure that we progress. The move to alert level 2 of the lockdown is not a ‘free for all.’ The rules on social distancing, mask wearing, social gatherings and international travel remain.

Our success rests on our ability to abide by these regulations and to ensure that we each behave carefully and responsibly.

Every time we are considering any form of non-essential activity, we should ask: what is the risk of infection to ourselves and to others? Where there is a risk, even a slight one, it is better not to do it.

Let us proceed, as ever, with caution. Let us keep each other safe.

With best wishes,

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 10 AUGUST 2020

Dear Fellow South African,

Yesterday, the country celebrated Women’s Day. This occasion marks the anniversary of the day in 1956 when 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings – a great sea of womankind speaking many languages, from different places and of all races. They were united in their demand for an end to the dreaded pass laws and for their right to live in freedom.
 
The status and position of women in South Africa today is vastly different to that faced by our mothers and grandmothers in 1956. We have come a long way in realising a South Africa that is non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, prosperous and free.

There has been real progress in improving the lives of South African women in the economy, in the political sphere and in public life.

At the same time, we know there is so much further we still have to go. Women still face discrimination, harassment and violence, and bear the greatest brunt of poverty.

If we are to truly realise the promise of our Constitution we have to tackle the economic and financial exclusion that makes women more vulnerable to abuse and violence.

We have joined a ground-breaking campaign that links us to global efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030. Generation Equality is an ambitious and transformative agenda to end discrimination and violence against women and for their equal participation in political, social and economic life.

As part of this campaign, we have joined two ‘Action Coalitions’, one for economic justice and rights and another against gender-based violence. Both of these themes are critical to our own national agenda.

Eleven months since the Emergency Response Action Plan to combat gender-based violence and femicide was implemented we have made progress in expanding support and care to survivors, and progress is being made in legal reforms to afford them greater protection.
 
This month we begin the implementation of the National Strategic Plan to combat gender-based violence and femicide. A key aspect of the plan is on ensuring greater women’s financial inclusion. This is because economic inequality and social inequality are interconnected. The economic status of women in South Africa makes them more vulnerable to abuse. We must therefore scale up up support for women to enable them to become financially independent.

We have made a number of commitments under Generation Equality that will be given effect to through the National Strategic Plan.

Firstly, we are going to drive women’s economic inclusion through public procurement. We have set the target of ensuring that at least 40% of goods and services procured by public entities are sourced from women-owned businesses.

Secondly, we are going to scale up support for women-owned SMMEs and for women who work in the informal sector or are unemployed. This will include engagement with the financial sector to make financial services accessible and affordable for women.

Thirdly, we want to ensure more women have access to productive assets such as land. It is essential that women are beneficiaries of the accelerate land reform programme. It is significant that of the R75 million in COVID-19 relief earmarked for farming input vouchers 53% of the beneficiaries will be rural women. We must ensure that women subsistence and small-scale farmers continue to receive support beyond the pandemic.

Fourthly, we want to ensure that women are protected from gender-based violence in the workplace. In this regard, we will be working at a national and regional level towards the ratification of the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the Workplace.

It is said that freedom is not given, but taken.

The emancipation of women is only words on paper unless it is matched by commitment from all sectors of society.

As we prepare for the reconstruction of our economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we have said that we cannot simply return to where we were before the outbreak of the virus. We must build a fundamentally different economy which, among other things, substantially improves the material position of women.

This means that our investment in infrastructure must support not only the development of local industry, but also women-owned businesses. It must deliberately create employment opportunities for women in all stages of planning, financing, building and maintaining infrastructure. By the same measures, as we scale up our public employment programmes, we must ensure that young women in particular are identified as participants. In addition to an income, these programmes will provide them with an opportunity to acquire some of the skills and experience necessary to enter the mainstream economy.

As much as it is government’s responsibility to provide economic opportunities for women and create an enabling framework for advancing gender equality, everyone in society needs to play their part.

Businesses must support women-owned enterprises in the procurement of goods and services. They should employ more women and appoint more women to management positions.
 
This is all the more important considering that the private sector’s record on gender-representation at management level lags behind that of the public sector. This is an issue that is repeatedly raised in engagements I have had with a number of women’s business organisations. By equal measure, we must eliminate gender disparities in pay for men and women, and give effect to the principle of equal pay for equal work contained in the Employment Equity Act.

Women must also be protected from harassment and discrimination in the workplace. It is up to transport operators, university administrators, school governing bodies and religious organisations to create conditions for women and girls to travel, study and worship in safety.

We must forge ahead with our efforts to eradicate chauvinism, sexism and patriarchy. It is these attitudes that enable the oppression of women.

It is up to us – both men and women – to affirm that a woman’s value, position and opinions are no less than that of a man. It is up to us as parents and grandparents to treat and raise our sons and our daughters the same.

It is up to us as men to reject and speak out against gender-based violence wherever we see it, even if it is against our friends, fathers or brothers.

Let us be the generation that ends the oppression of women in all its forms, in our lifetime. The brave generation of 1956 marched for us all. We owe it to them, to ourselves and to future generations to not betray this noble legacy.

With best wishes,

DONATION TO FOOD BANK TO COMMEMORATE NELSON MANDELA DAY

In commemoration of International Nelson Mandela Day celebrated on 18 July 2020, the Embassy gathered private donations for Portugal's Banco Alimentar food bank. The donations were handed over by Ambassador Gaoretelelwe, who was kindly greeted by the President of the Banco Alimentar, Ms Isabel Jonet. Thank you to everyone who donated and a very big thank you to the food bank for its wonderful work!

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 27 JULY 2020

Dear Fellow South African,

As several parts of our country experience a surge in coronavirus infections, we are also confronted with the economic damage of this pandemic.

The most recent economic indicators show a drastic decline in economic activity and in confidence. Despite the support measures we have put in place, businesses are being forced to close and jobs are being lost.

The path to recovery will be long and difficult. And so, it needs to start now.

Despite the economic challenges we face, we must continue to work towards the achievement of economic dignity for all South Africans. This is not the time to despair but to act. It is untenable, and unacceptable, to live with an unemployment rate of 30 percent, which will soon increase. It is also impossible to build an economy built on inequality.

It is often said that South Africans do not lack for ideas. We have seen the publication of various economic recovery proposals recently, including by the governing party, organised business, civil society and independent analysts.

I am encouraged by the significant areas of agreement in these proposals. In the State of the Nation Address in February, I said that there were three things we would focus on this year. First, we were going to fix the fundamentals. Second, we would pursue new sources of growth. Third, we would ensure that our actions are underpinned by a capable state.

Many of the plans under discussion raise these fundamentals, such as reliable energy, access to broadband spectrum, competitive ports and efficient transport. Working with our social partners we must speed up the pace of implementation so that we can rebuild the base of our economy.

In all the proposals put forward in recent weeks, there is a substantial emphasis on improving execution. They all say that we should seek out pockets of excellence in the state and support and deepen them. But they also say that we must look outside the state. We need to bring together the best available local skills, whether in business, academia or civil society to support our common programme.

There is a strong commitment to a social compact – and the institutions necessary to support it – so that the reconstruction of our economy can be a shared responsibility and a shared undertaking.

With the advent of the coronavirus, we now need to pursue new sources of growth within a fundamentally different context. Many of the areas we had identified before remain relevant and urgent, such as a growing small and medium enterprise sector and an agricultural sector that delivers food security. Some sectors have taken on a new significance. We should, for example, use this opportunity to build a greener economy, with our entrepreneurs entering new fields such as hybrid cars, fuel cells, battery storage and waste beneficiation. This element has come out quite clearly in the various plans that have been released.

In the year of our chairship of the African Union, we were planning vigorously for the activation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which has been delayed by the pandemic. All social partners see the value of expanding trade in an integrated Africa, with concrete proposals on how to overcome the barriers that impede the ability of Africans to trade with one another. Our strategies to promote local production, which is a common theme across the various recovery plans, should support efforts to create regional value chains on the continent.

When we launched the economic stimulus and recovery plan nearly two years ago, we announced the establishment of an Infrastructure Fund that could blend different forms of finance to drive infrastructure development. This we identified as the flywheel of economic growth. There is now general consensus that our recovery should be led by infrastructure development and maintenance. At the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium organised by the Presidency a few weeks ago, business and government were of one mind on a new methodology to develop an infrastructure pipeline and deliver on it. Investors from the multilateral development banks, development finance institutions and the private sector all showed a strong appetite to make the necessary investments to meet South Africa’s extensive and diverse infrastructure needs.

In the coming weeks, we will work with our social partners to finalise an economic recovery programme that brings together the best of all the various proposals. The most important part of that programme must be the protection and the creation of jobs.

Analysts have estimated that this pandemic will cost the country millions of jobs. In the supplementary budget presented last month, government made provision for job preservation and job creation efforts. The job preservation efforts, such as those through the UIF and tax measures, aim to prevent job losses in the private sector.

However, if we are going to recover from the worst effects of the pandemic, we also need well-crafted public employment schemes. Creating jobs for people that add value to their communities through maintenance, care work and other services, keeps people engaged in productive activity. It helps them to retain and to develop skills. It gives many young people a chance to climb the first rung in the job market ladder. Such jobs complement employment created by businesses as they start to recover and private investment returns.

As the recovery takes hold and the world gradually adjusts to a global economy marked by COVID-19, we expect economic activity to pick up. By then, our initiatives to reform and improve the business environment will establish a firm platform for industries with high potential to flourish.

Since the onset of the pandemic in South Africa, our strategy has been to provide whatever support we can, within our constrained resources, to protect businesses and preserve jobs. Now we must move quickly towards a robust programme of reconstruction and recovery – and we must do so together.

Building on the vast areas of common ground among the proposals from social partners, we now have to put in place a clear, focused and ambitious set of measures to not only restore our economy, but to set it on a new path of inclusive and sustainable growth.

We are faced with a health, social and economic crisis of massive proportions. But we are not daunted, nor discouraged.

We will do what we must to build an economy that is resilient and dynamic, that creates work and opportunity, and that meets the needs of all our people.

We have all the ingredients for an economic recovery. Now let us work together to make it happen.
 
With best wishes,