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By Fiona Wakelin

 

President Ramaphosa’s letter to the nation on 9 May focused on Operation Vulindlela and South African infrastructure, including electricity, water, transport and telecommunications. Inefficiencies in these areas have in the past impeded economic growth – and expensive network services are a handbrake to conducting business in South Africa.

“A factory can only operate effectively with a reliable and affordable supply of electricity. A farm with irrigated farmlands can only produce food if its application for a water use license is processed timeously. A mine can only transport its minerals for export if the railways are functioning properly. And a small business cannot thrive if it lacks access to the internet or if the cost of data is too expensive.

“To address and overcome these challenges, we set up Operation Vulindlela in October 2020 as an initiative of the Presidency and National Treasury to accelerate structural reforms in these network industries. While the responsible government departments and entities drive these reforms, Operation Vulindlela monitors and identifies challenges and blockages. Where needed, it facilitates technical support to departments,” – President Ramaphosa.

May 9 saw the release of an updated progress report on the work done by Operation Vulindlela for Q1 2022. Sectors reported on include:

The release of new spectrum which will improve connectivity and bring down broadband costs.

The establishment of the National Ports Authority as a separate subsidiary of Transnet.

Reinstatement of the Blue Drop, Green Drop and No Drop system to ensure better monitoring of water and wastewater treatment quality. 

The raising of the licensing threshold in the energy sector for new generation projects to 100MW, allowing them to connect to the grid and sell power to customers 

The revival of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme through the opening of new bid windows.

The process of unbundling Eskom is on track.

In the transport sector, the White Paper on National Rail Policy outlines plans to revitalise rail infrastructure and enables third‐party access to the freight rail network. 

To help energise tourism, a fully operational e-Visa system has been launched in 14 countries. 

A comprehensive review of the work visa system is also underway. 

“I would encourage those who continue to raise concerns about the slow pace of reform to read this latest report. What has been achieved by Operation Vulindlela and the respective departments in a relatively short space of time should demonstrate the commitment of government to implementing reforms that are necessary to inject growth into our economy and inspire confidence in the business and investor community.

“We call on business and investors to take advantage of the changes that are underway and turn their pledges and commitments into tangible, job creating investments.

“The reform agenda is moving and its momentum is unstoppable.

“Together, let us build on this progress and translate economic reform into growth, opportunity and employment,” – President Ramaphosa