" We are concerned about the unprecedented cost of infrastructure in areas such as Rustenburg where about R3.3 billion was spent but there is no bus on the road"
Welcome to this roundtable discussion on the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) bi-annual monitoring reports that were produced by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and subsequently approved by Cabinet earlier this month.
The reports are aligned to the seven priorities of this 6th Administration and are critical for the development of the country and ultimate reduction of poverty, unemployment and inequality as envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030.
The seven priorities focus on the capacity of the state; economy and infrastructure; education and health; social wage; spatial transformation, environmental affairs, local government and basic services; social cohesion and safer communities and lastly, a better Africa and the world.
Over the past few months, we have undertaken a journey to reposition the DPME as an effective assurance provider on the performance of the state, working with others such as the Auditor General of South Africa. It is important that the state develops internal, robust institutional capabilities to plan, monitor and evaluate its own work.
In this regard, the DPME translated the priorities of Government into a five-year programme of action known as the MTSF 2019-2024. The MTSF disaggregates these priorities into clear indicators and targets and link them to the NDP’s developmental outcomes.
The DPME has also built-in an Integrated Monitoring Framework to trace the implementation of the MTSF and uses this instrument to produce progress reports biannually, at mid-year and at the end of the year of the Administration for consideration by Cabinet. Besides leading the development of the MTSF, the DPME also undertakes the assessment of the Annual Performance Plans of the Departments and regularly appear before different portfolio committees to report on the plans of Government.
Cabinet approved the bi-annual performance progress reports for the period 1 April 2022 to 30 September 2022. In addition to capturing the bi-annual performance progress, the reports also provide a review of the priorities of the MTSF 2019 - 2024.
The reports provide an analysis of the key indicators of the seven adopted priorities of Government using data collected from the departmental reports, data from Statistics South Africa and reports from academia.
In the main, the current report shows that despite the various emergent disruptive circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic, flood disasters in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, and North West provinces, the July 2021 unrests, conflict in Ukraine, Government is steadily making inroads towards the attainment of the MTSF 2019 – 2024 targets.
Priority 1: Building a Capable, Ethical and Developmental State
Since the advent of the democratic breakthrough in 1994, Government has made strides to create a capable, ethical developmental State, and that task continues to this day. A capable State is characterised by strong strategic leadership which ensures integration, prioritization and effective use of resources in a responsive, ethical and citizen focused approach.
Our commitment to a people centered development State was evident in the way that we dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. Led by His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa, Government mobilized a cross section of South African stakeholders to lend a helping hand in the fight against the pandemic. We continue with this trajectory of fostering consensus in the way we have engaged stakeholders in the reforms of the troubled energy industry and in the implementation of the ERRP as well as the relentless efforts against the scourge of GBVF.
We once again welcome the Cabinet’s approval of the National Framework towards Professionalisation of the Public Service. The framework is, among other, introduced to ensure that only qualified and competent individuals are appointed into positions of authority and to mediate the political and administrative interface as conceptualised in the National Development Plan (NDP).
In an effort to deal with corruption and reinforce ethical values, Government developed the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) which sets out a comprehensive programme of action to address both the preventative and reactive dimensions of the fight against corruption. The implementation of the NACS led to the appointment of the independent National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council (NACAC).
The fight against corruption was also bolstered by the release of the State Capture Commission (SCC) Report which spells out clear recommendations for implementations by the three arms of the state and society as a whole. Government has already put together an action plan which was tabled in parliament by the President to respond to the recommendations of the Commission.
We are aware that corruption undermines all efforts to develop the country and improve the living conditions of the citizens. To this effect, the President has instructed all law enforcement agencies to act without fear, favour and prejudice, and prosecute all alleged perpetrators.
We therefore appreciate the ongoing progress made in investigations, arrests, prosecutions as well as recouping monies which were fleeced from the state by individuals, including local and international companies. Going forward, Government will continue to reprioritise the review of the clusters to ensure integrated planning and coordination of programmes within and between the spheres.
As part of strengthening the developmental State, we will increase the reforms of State-owned companies to ensure that they are stable and deliver on their mandates without further bailouts.
We have also recognised the need for a policy and legislative system that enables speedy turn arounds so that we can attend to immediate concerns in the economy and society. This will happen within the context of the implementation of the DDM which has taken off as almost all Districts have their One Plans which are currently being evaluated to ensure that all spheres participate effectively.
Priority 2: Economic transformation and Job Creation
The South African economy has started to show signs of recovery with real GDP reaching pre-pandemic levels in quarter 1 of 2022. Notwithstanding the prevailing challenges such as the flood disasters, COVID-19 and unrests, a total of 648 000 jobs were created between the first quarter of 2022 and the second quarter of 2022.
However, Government remains concerned about the high levels of unemployment in the country. Hence there is renewed focus on the National Employment Policy to assess appropriate procedures and reforms that should be undertaken to ensure that investments lead to sustainable growth and decent jobs.
Apart from the labour market regulation, Government has upscaled its public employment programmes to create work opportunities, particularly for the youth through the implementation of phase four of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) which has created almost 3 million work opportunities, as well as the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES) which created a total of a total of 857 833 opportunities by the end of January 2022.
To accelerate economic growth and development, the 6th Administration remains steadfast on its bid to support the development of sectors with greater potential to create growth and job opportunities through the implementation of infrastructure development and science innovation as critical conditions for reindustrialisation.
Importantly, all our interventions including the work that we are doing in the Just Energy Transition should be inclusive by enabling SMMEs and empowerment companies to participate in the emerging opportunities right from the beginning.
As we open new opportunities in the green economy, we will continue to attend to some of the emerging burning platforms especially in the electricity and the transport industries.
In particular, Transnet is emerging as another challenge following on what happened in the electricity industry. South Africa’s rail and port infrastructure has been in decline for a range of reasons including underinvestment and the vandalism of infrastructure. Given the limited budgets, Government has to find new efficient ways to maximise the use of the current resources.
Government’s procurement is one of the quick wins that can stimulate inclusive economic development. Over the past few months, our reports have emphasised the need for the Competition Commission to review the procurement laws and the associated regulations to the affirmative.
This matter is receiving attention and will be expedited so that more SMMEs and empowerment companies can enter the economy. Linked to this, Government has taken note of the findings of the Competition Commission which indicates that almost all the key sectors of the economy are characterised by barriers to entry.
We have to attend to this, and all departments are required to identify mechanisms to remove barriers to entry in their respective industries.
Digital Transformation remains another pillar of a modern economy. Government will accelerate the implementation of digitisation of Government services which include the uptake and usage of new technologies by all spheres. As The Presidency, we will assist the departments that are involved in digitisation to work together in a collaborative way.
Priority 3: Basic Education, Skills and Health
Our efforts to build an inclusive economy and create jobs, requires that we constantly build the capabilities of the citizens and provide access to quality education and health services. Government has made great strides to move towards universal access to education.
While we have made significant strides to improve access to education, we are still concerned about quality which includes the fact that many young people are opting for Maths Literacy as opposed to Mathematics.
We are also concerned about the levels of output due to the rate of dropouts at the basic and PSET levels. Our report also indicates that some of the learners take longer to complete their PSET qualifications.
We however welcome the introduction of new subjects such as robotics, coding, new technical subjects and focus schools. Government recognises the need to upscale connectivity at our schools and create a conducive environment for learners to embrace technological innovations. This is being considered as part of the SA Connect programme.
With regard to Health, Government has committed in the MTSF 2019-2024 to progressively achieve universal health coverage for all South Africans through the creation of an enabling legal framework for the implementation of National Health Insurance (NHI) namely, the NHI Bill 2020.
The Bill aims to improve the total life expectancy of South Africans through programmes that are aimed at curbing the impact of both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Subsequent to the completion of public hearings on the NHI Bill 2020 and its classifications as a desirable Bill by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health, we are pleased that the Bill is receiving attention at the National Assembly.
We welcome the robust engagements in Parliament and believe that the process will lead to legislation that advances universal healthcare for the citizenry.
Overall, we are pleased about the improvement in the life expectancy of both men and women in South Africa. It is important to note that improved life expectancy is a product not only of the interventions of the health sector, but of other social determinants of health, such as interventions to address poverty, unemployment and severe acute malnutrition, as well as provision of clean water and proper sanitation, proper housing and basic education.
Priority 4: Social Wage
Government is investing significantly to improve social wage and protection and deal with poverty and inequality. Over the medium term, Government has dedicated 59.2% of the consolidated non-interest spending to health, education, housing, social protection, transport, employment and local amenities.
While we have made strides in the provision of the social wage to protect the most vulnerable in society, it is important that we place more emphasis on achieving sustainable economic growth to particularly deal with youth unemployment. The answers to our social challenges lay in economic growth and development.
Going forward government will prioritise the development of a national integrated social information protection system which will enhance universal social security coverage.
Priority 5: Spatial Integration, Rural Economy, Environmental Management and Climate Change, Human Settlements and basic services
The MTSF places Spatial transformation at the centre of Government’s approach to sustainable human settlement, provision of basic services, environmental management, and rural development.
Over the years, Government has prioritised spatial reform and transformation leading to the adoption of the National Spatial Development Framework (NSDF) in 2022. The NSDF is a tool that Government is going to use to ensure coherence in spatial planning across the three spheres, contributing also to disaster management.
The spatial transformation programme is also imbedded in the human settlements sector as it seeks to provide the majority of South African access to adequate housing in better living environments and a more equitable and functional residential property market.
The DPME has observed that our country has demonstrated progressive growth in the provision of basic service delivery, but continues to face difficulties particularly with regard to deteriorating infrastructure due to neglect of asset maintenance.
The quest to build Integrated Public Transport Networks (IPTNs) is gaining momentum and as a result it is operational eight cities, Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, Cape Town, George, Polokwane, Nelson Mandela Bay and Rustenburg – albeit Rustenburg is in its pilot phase.
We are however concerned about the unprecedented cost of infrastructure in areas such as Rustenburg where about R3.3 billion was spent but there is no bus on the road.
There is an urgent need to improve the rail infrastructure and services for use by both passengers and goods thereby reducing congestion on the roads which lead to a huge cost of maintenance. This is receiving attention in line of a raft of policy instruments being introduced by the Government.
Priority 6: Social Cohesion
The report reminds us that the growth and development of the country requires that we continue to unite as a nation and collectively channel our energies towards the set priorities. Our Constitution has set a clear vision for us to build a non-sexist, non-racial and prosperous society.
Government has intensified its Constitutional awareness campaign to rally the nation behind this vision. Learners are introduced earlier to the values of the Constitution and many have shown to be familiar with the constitutional rights. The Hate Speech and Hate Crimes Bill was developed to address prejudices and racial conduct that undermines the social cohesion project.
The MTSF also directs us to address social ills which have a potential to divide us as a nation and undermine our transformation agenda. We call on all stakeholders to work with Government in dealing with the scourge of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF).
The high rate of GBVF affects the full participation of women and deprives the nation of the benefits of an inclusive active nation. Government has introduced a number of interventions to deal with GBVF and advance women empowerment, including the passing of crucial legislation.
Priority 7: Building a Better Africa and Better World
On the international front, South Africa will continue to prioritise regional integration and multilateralism in an environment that is shaped by constant changing geo-politics and economics.
In this regard, more work needs to be done to operationalise the Continental Free Trade Agreement so that we can realise tangible outcomes and benefits for all African countries. Cabinet also accepted the recommendation of paying attention to economic developments in the region as a way to ensure shared benefits and security.
In this regard, we will continue to assess the extent to which current SADC Plans enable growth and development across the region. On multilateralism, South Africa will continue to call and work for a just and equitable global order where conflicts are resolved through persuasion and negotiations.
We will also make use of our G20 Chairpersonship to advance our progressive agenda for a just and equitable world, especially for developing countries.
In conclusion, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Director General of DPME and his team for the starling work in monitoring the work of Government and refocusing all Government institutions to the key developmental priorities. The DPME continues to live up to its vision to be the leaders and catalysts for improved developmental outcomes.
We have taken a decision to publish all reports that are produced by the DPME in the interest of transparency and accountability. These reports will not only assist Government to improve its performance, but will also rally stakeholders to identify areas of collaboration and contribute in improving outcomes.