President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) at 19:00 on 11 February. The annual address kicks off the Parliamentary year and focuses on the economic and political state of the country.
Outlining Agri SA’s expectations for the address, Christo van der Rheede, executive director at Agri SA, said that the President would have to spell out the role of the commercial sector very clearly in his address.
He said that Ramaphosa also needed to highlight the factors that undermined the sector’s contribution to the economy and the country’s progress in general.
Van der Rheede stressed that the Auditor-General’s reports on the roll-out of COVID-19 initiatives by the state, the financial position of various state-owned enterprises and related projects, sketched a dismal picture of a lack of control, mismanagement and corruption, as well as poor or non-existent implementation of projects.
“In this regard, Ramaphosa will have to enforce comprehensive and practical measures to curb corruption and the unacceptable level of irregularities, address the lack of control and oversight, and non-compliance with regulations, and to hold officials accountable,” he said.
“We believe that the President now has an opportunity to involve the commercial sector on a large scale to drive sustainable economic growth, job creation and development. But the ball is in Ramaphosa’s court to lay a firm foundation for such a partnership, [and] to create an environment [in which] the commercial [agriculture] sector is not hampered by all kinds of constraints, but can flourish and be of service to all South Africans.”
Agbiz said that it would welcome the President acknowledging the importance and performance of the whole agricultural value chain as not only a major economic sector and employer of South Africans, but also as the critical provider of food security to the people of the country.
Dr John Purchase, CEO of Agbiz, said that in order to maintain and improve its global competitiveness, the broader value chain was dependent on a range of services and support from government.
He explained that this would range from affordable finance through the Land Bank, uninterrupted and cost efficient power supply via Eskom, rail and port services through Transnet, and various departmental regulatory authorisations.
“However, to be frank, these services are sub-optimal and together with policy uncertainty around land reform, especially expropriation without compensation, are not enabling the broader sector to invest and grow to the extent that it should,” he said.
He added that Ramaphosa would also need to clearly indicate government’s position on the proposed amendment to the Constitution and its intentions in this regard, as well as with the Expropriation Bill before Parliament now.
Neo Masithela, chairperson of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa, said that he hoped Ramaphosa would address the issue of security and safety in rural areas.
“The number of attacks on farmers and farmworkers in rural areas requires a concerted effort in order to reduce it. The loss of one life is one too many in the agriculture sector,” he said.
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