Not only was this year’s January the 8th statement held virtually but it was also held without any of the traditional 109 year anniversary celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That still didn’t stop President Cyril Ramaphosa from outlining the African National Congress (ANC’s) priorities and duties for the upcoming year.
In recognition of the ideals that inspired the formation of the ANC, the mandate set by the 54th National Conference, and the tasks arising from the current environment, the National Executive Committee declares the theme for 2021 to be: Unity, Renewal and reconstruction in the year of Charlotte Maxeke.
ANC PRIORITIES OUTLINED FOR 2021
According to Ramaphosa, the priorities of the ANC for 2021 are based on the resolutions of the 54th National Conference.
“They are informed by the concrete conditions in which we operate. They reflect the continuity of the ANC’s mission and its programme over time,” he said.
3.1 Overcoming the coronavirus pandemic
The ANC’s foremost and immediate priority is to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to intensify our efforts to promote responsible behaviour, such as physical distancing, washing or sanitising our hands, wearing face masks appropriately and adhering to other protocols,” he said.
The ANC will continue to strengthen its health system and sustain community health interventions such as mass screening, testing and tracing. It has also vowed to, within the country’s means, continue to provide social support to the vulnerable and economic support to businesses and workers in distress.
“To overcome COVID-19 we are preparing to implement a mass vaccination programme that reaches all South Africans as appropriate quantities of an effective and suitable vaccine are procured,” he added.
3.2 Restoring the economy to growth and creating jobs
The ANC is now in the phase of rebuilding, and its focus is on aggressively implementing the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. At the heart of the plan is mobilising investment, creating new jobs and supporting existing ones, and accelerating industrialisation.
“We are undertaking large-scale public investment in key sectors such as energy, water and sanitation, roads and bridges, human settlements, health and education, digital infrastructure and public transport. In these and other infrastructure programmes, we are also pursuing public-private partnerships,” said Ramaphosa.
3.2.1 Tackling poverty and improving people’s lives
This year, the ANC government and broader society will need to continue discussions on the desirability and viability of a basic income grant to provide a social safety net to the poor.
“Through our massive infrastructure and public employment programmes, we will accelerate the provision of electricity, water, sanitation and other services to those South Africans who still do not have them,” said Ramaphosa.
3.2.2 Education and skills for a changing world
Ramaphosa said government needs to work harder to ensure that schools in townships and rural areas are better resourced, that all schools meet the basic infrastructure standards and that poor and middle-class students receive the financial support they need to access and remain in tertiary education.
“We must prioritise the upskilling of educators and school management. Curriculum reform to prepare learners for the 4th Industrial Revolution will be implemented,” he said.
3.2.3 Safe and secure communities
Ramaphosa said the ANC must continue to be at the forefront of the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.
“It cannot be, and it must never be, that any member or leader of the ANC is associated with violence against women and children in any form. We remain firm that any of our members who are found guilty of such crimes have no place in our movement. They do not belong in our meetings. They do not belong in our leadership structures. There is only one place where they belong: in jail,” he said.
“The temporary restrictions that were placed on the availability of alcohol under the state of disaster regulations have demonstrated the extent to which abuse of alcohol fuels violence, trauma and reckless behaviour and places a burden on our health system and emergency services. We must take measures to reduce the abuse of alcohol through a combination of legislative and other measures and community mobilisation,” he added.
3.2.4 Accelerated land redistribution and rural development
During the course of this year, Ramaphosa expects Parliament to approve an amendment to Section 25 of the Constitution, clearly outlining the circumstances in which land may be expropriated without compensation.
“This will give effect to an important resolution of our 54th National Conference and will contribute to the acceleration of land reform. This needs to take place alongside a comprehensive land reform programme that, among other things, draws on long-standing ANC resolutions and on the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture,” he said.
3.3 Forging ahead with the renewal of the ANC
Ramaphosa said the ANC will focus on the vital task of building unity of purpose and unity in action.
“We are going to strengthen the ANC’s Integrity Commission, to enable it to act decisively, without fear or favour, to deal with corruption and wrongdoing in our ranks. We reiterate, as resolved by the National Conference, that every member accused of, or reported to be involved in, corrupt practices should account to the Integrity Commission immediately or face disciplinary processes,” he said.
“Members who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down while they face disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial procedures, will be summarily suspended. The NEC will soon finalise guidelines on the implementation of these resolutions. It is only if we stand united against corruption that we can restore the integrity of our movement,” he added.
3.4 A better world and a better Africa
Ramaphosa said the ANC will continue to advocate for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“Inequitable access will deepen global inequality and will set back the development goals of many countries of the South,” he said.
“We must continue to build on the cooperation that has been forged under the pandemic to deepen the ties of collaboration between the countries and regions of the world. This includes strengthening our relations with other BRICS countries. In the year ahead – which has been declared the AU Year of the Arts, Culture and Heritage – the ANC will continue to prioritise the African Agenda and enhance Africa’s status in the global community,” he added.