Cabinet held its first physical meeting since the Covid-9 lockdown began last year, where President Cyril Ramaphosa and his executive were briefed on a broad range of issues, including the state of the fight against Covid-19 and numerous other local and global issues.
They were firstly briefed on why the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) Sisonke Vaccination Programme was temporarily suspended, but welcomed the plan to start vaccinating people aged 60 and older from May 17 once it had been confirmed that no South Africans had suffered blood-clot side effects.
Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said the successful negotiation of an additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine brought the total doses of the Pfizer vaccine to 30 million.
“This means South Africa will be able to vaccinate 15 million people with the Pfizer vaccine instead of just 10 million.”
There had been a slight increase of 4.9% in persons testing positive for Covid in the past 14 days by 18 April, which was attributed to cluster resurgences in the Free State and Northern Cape, “and rapid response teams have been activated to conduct contact tracing”.
Cabinet received the welcome news from the Annual Front Office Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Omnibus Survey that ranked South Africa first in the world as a destination for BPO.
“The survey extended to over 600 executives from eight key sourcing markets, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom (UK) and the USA.
“Strong growth in call centres, technical support and back and front office services for major multinational and South African firms,” was behind this achievement.
“The country’s sophisticated digital infrastructure, skilled workforce, knowledge in technology and financial services, and proficiency in English, continue to make it an attractive destination for BPO.”
There was also evidence that employment prospects have been improving, including for young people.
“The Presidential Employment Stimulus that was launched in October 2020 to respond to the economic impact of Covid-19 created or retained 360,010 jobs by the end of February 2021, mostly for unemployed youth. In addition, the employment stimulus has supported the livelihoods of 60,539 beneficiaries through the transfer of support, including production vouchers for subsistence farmers.
“Over 300,000 of these opportunities came from placing young people as assistants in schools across the country, through the Basic Education Employment Initiative. These school assistants have played an important role in strengthening the learning environment at schools during a difficult time.”
Cabinet was also pleased that the “implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan is making noticeable impact in South Africa’s recovery”.
Progress has, according to Cabinet, been made in enhancing the efficiency and competitiveness of the Port of Durban.
“The Small Harbours Repairs and Maintenance Programme, which is a Strategic Integrated Project as part of the Infrastructure Investment Plan approved by Cabinet in May 2020, is currently 77% complete. It has created a total of 611 job opportunities and various local small, medium and micro enterprise businesses have benefited to the value of R55 million. The project is expected to be completed in March 2022.”
Bullying at schools and hate crimes
Cabinet expressed concern about the prevalence of bullying in schools, and called on authorities to speedily investigate the death of Lufuno Mavhunga (15) from Mbilwi Secondary School in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, and “ensure effective justice”.
They also “strongly condemned” the recent rise of LGBTIQ+ hate crimes that resulted in the deaths of Andile Ntuthela, Siphamandla Khoza and Nathaniel Mbele.
Other issues that Cabinet focused on included the outbreak of African Swine Flu on a farm in Potchefstroom in North West as well as Avian Influenza (bird flu) on a commercial farm in the East Rand in Gauteng; the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital and Cape Town fires; the efforts to deal with insurgency groups in Mozambique; the recent “senseless killing of two brothers, Zenzele and Amos Coka, on a farm in Mpumalanga”; and resolving the issue relating to protests by refugees from primarily the DRC in Cape Town.
Cabinet approved the publication of the Green Paper on Marriages for public consultation. The Green Paper seeks to work towards the development of a new Single Marriage Bill and aligns the marriage regime with the constitutional principle of equality.
“The paper makes proposals on unions of people from all sexual orientations, religious and cultural persuasions. It also proposes the complete removal of child marriages in our future marriage regime,” said Williams.
“Cabinet approved the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan. The plan represents the collective response by government and the tourism sector to the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It proposes seven strategic interventions, which include stimulating domestic demand; launching investment and resource mobilisation programmes; and regional tourism integration.
Cabinet approved the submission of the Report on the Performance of R&D Tax Incentive Programme for 2018/19 to Parliament.
“The tax incentive programme was introduced to help the country achieve about 1% of gross domestic product target on R&D expenditure by 2024. The report will be available to the public once it has gone through the parliamentary process.”
No-Fault Compensation Fund Scheme
“Cabinet approved the establishment of the No-Fault Compensation Fund. The Fund’s establishment is in line with the contractual agreements entered into with the pharmaceutical companies that will be supplying the South Africa with Covid-19 vaccines.”
“Cabinet approved the report of the HLP on Wildlife Management, which was established by the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to review policies, legislation and practices on matters related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling (welfare and well-being) of the country’s endangered wildlife species. These include elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.”
Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill
Cabinet approved the submission of the Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill to Parliament. The Bill amends Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act 51 of 1977), which a Constitutional Court judgement found to be failing to protect the identity of child victims of crime in criminal proceedings.
Proposed amendments prohibit the publication of any information, which reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused or a witness who is or was under the age of 18 years at the time of the alleged offence. Publication may only be done after it has been authorised by the judicial officer or presiding judge.