Government makes meaningful progress in various programmes in 2016
15 December 2016
It has been a productive and successful year for government as we continued to implement programmes based on the National Development Plan, aimed at pushing back poverty, inequality and unemployment and improving the quality of life.
ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION AND REIGNITING GROWTH AND JOBS
The South African economy remained resilient and continues to be an attractive investment destination that is open for business, despite the difficult economic climate domestically and globally.
Progress was made in the implementation of the Nine Point Plan, which is an action plan to deliver on the socio-economic goals stated in the National Development Plan, especially to achieve a higher level of inclusive growth. Areas of focus include energy, manufacturing, transport, telecommunications, water, tourism, the ocean economy, mining, agriculture, reform of state owned companies, telecommunications, Industrial Policy Action Plan and managing workplace conflict.
One of the key achievements of the year was the collaboration between government, business and labour to promote economic growth and stave off sovereign downgrades by credit rating agencies. The social partners undertook roadshow to the United Kingdon and the United States for the first time ever in February this year to promote the country together as an investment destination and build confidence.
Following an important investor luncheon with CEOs on February 9 in Cape Town hosted by the President, Business and government have worked hard as part of the CEO Initiative, supported by labour, to support small enterprise development, address youth unemployment and maintain South Africa’s investment grade status. We congratulate the social partners whose hard work helped the country avert a credit ratings downgrade.
To actively ensure the ease of doing business in the country, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Investment was established, chaired by the President, with the Deputy President and 18 Ministers as members. One of the key practical steps has been the establishment of the One Stop Shop or InvestSA initiative to remove obstacles to doing business in South Africa. The project, overseen by the IMC, works actively to assist potential investors to fast-track company registrations, water or energy licensing, environmental impact assessments, visa requirements and other imperatives. The programme will be rolled out in all provinces, removing the red tape in government that is impeding new investments.
Progress has been made in various focus areas of the Nine Point Plan, such as the following;
Significant strides were made to support the country’s manufacturing sector. During the 2015/16 financial year, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) through its range of incentives supported 1 770 companies resulting in a total of R57 billion new investment made by the private sector and more than 80 000 jobs were supported. In the first six months of the current financial year, the dti through its incentives leveraged more than R27 billion private sector investment and supporting just over 7 000 new jobs to be created. The dti’s Automotive Production and Development Programme has attracted automotive investments from across the world.
The Industrial Development Corporation last year approved R14,5 billion in new investment, the largest sum to date and 26% higher than the preceding year. Of particular note is the fact that this included 2,9 billion in transactions involving 54 black industrialists, so that we broaden participation in the economy. Roughly R1 billion was approved for youth-owned enterprises, showing that we are serious about implementing the Youth Employment Accord.
The Black Industrialists Programme was established to enable black industrialists to enter strategic and targeted industrial sectors and value chains. This project seeks to enable black empowerment beyond share ownership schemes, to create a footprint of industries owned by black people.
So far, more than 22 black industrialists have been supported to the value of more than R1.5 billion, mainly in agro-processing; plastic and pharmaceuticals; electro technical equipment; and metals sectors. More than 2000 jobs were created across the sectors.
The Special Economic Zones programme remains an important instrument to attract strategic foreign and domestic direct investment, build targeted industrial capabilities and also build new industrial hubs.
Since the introduction of the Programme; investments worth R41,2 billion have already been secured and the relevant projects are at various levels of implementation. Of these, R9.4 billion worth of investments are already in operation in the zones.
Tourism to South Africa continues to thrive. From January to September 2016, 6 625 141 tourists visited our country. This is an increase of 14.3% more tourists than January to September 2015. All South Africa's major overseas source markets performed well in 2016. The weaker rand and easing of Visa regulations continue to provide positive spin offs.
Agriculture and rural development
The agricultural outlook has improved and growth in this sector is expected to return as weather conditions improve in the coming months as expected.
The value of agricultural production in South Africa was R247 billion in 2015/2016, with its contribution to the GDP being close to R72 billion. South Africa’s exports of agriculture, forestry and fisheries products increased by 18,0% year on year, leading to a country being a net exporter.
The sector has been affected by the devastating drought. During the course of 2015/16 the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, collaborating with provincial departments of agriculture allocated an amount of R263 million towards agricultural drought relief, focusing on the provision of animal feed, drilling and equipping of boreholes for smallholder and subsistence producers. In addition the provincial equitable share funds to a total of R124 million was allocated.
The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) further made available an amount of R500 million to the Land Bank for lending to farmers towards drought relief. As drought is still upon us, Government is rolling out a further drought relief programme focusing on animal feed to the amount of R212 million to be completed by the end of December 2016. This is coupled with on-going capacitation of farmers to enhance their resilience from the effect of drought and related hazards.
Negative growth rates were experienced in 2015 as a result of drought.
This led to increases of 14,3% in prices received by farmers for agricultural products field crop production volume decreased by 12,7%; horticultural production decreased by 1,5%, while animal production increased by 2,9% in 2016. The food prices increased by 7.3% year on year, and have caused pressure on consumers especially the poor and working class families.
The National Disaster Management Centre at the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs is co-ordinating government’s response to the drought. A total of 681 boreholes have been refurbished and 1 026 new boreholes have been drilled.
Good progress has been made in the implementation of Rural Development and Land Reform programmes across the country. One hundred and eighty six farms were supported under the Recapitalisation and Development Programme and 730 farmers have been trained through the Programme.
The programme also created 1,030 jobs in land reform projects. With regards to the work of the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, 183 land claims settled impacting 4,318 Households consisting of 32,172 beneficiaries and 35,204.89 hectares. Financial Compensation to the value of R636 006 442.71 was paid to land claim beneficiaries.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform also facilitated seven Agri-park projects. On transformative legislation, the amended Marine Living Resources Act was signed into law on 24 February 2016. Small-scale fishing is now recognized as a fishing sector within the fishing industry of South Africa. This new sector is designed to address food security needs within the local fishing communities.
Mining and the revitalisation of mining towns
Government continues to implement the recommendations of the Farlam Commission that was established after the Marikana tragedy in which about 44 people were killed. A detailed statement on the implementation of the recommendations by government was issued on 11 December 2016.
Government lawyers have processed various claims, particularly for loss of support for the deceased families, for unlawful arrest and detentions, and will soon be paying out those affected, working with legal teams of the affected persons or families of the deceased. Work is ongoing to improve housing in that area, and to direct the mining company, Lonmin, to also build houses for their employees.
Other remedies include taking steps against all those, particularly within the police service, who were found to have committed criminality in the way they handled the situation at Marikana. The prosecution authorities are working on the matter.
With regards to healing North West Premier Mr Supra Mahumapelo established the Marikana Reconciliation, Healing and Renewal Committee to promote healing, cohesion and lasting peace among the communities in Marikana.
The partnerships formed in 2012 with mining companies following the Marikana tragedy, known as the Special Presidential Package aimed at revitalising mining towns, continues to yield results. As at 31 March 2016, R1.3 billion was spent to provide co-ordinated support and to mitigate challenges with infrastructure provision in mining towns.
Various government departments implement various projects in the mining towns curently.There are 351 informal settlements in the mining towns that are receiving support from Government’s National Upgrade Support Programme
The Department of Social Development conducts community fieldwork through project Mikondzo providing support to mining communities. The Department of Mineral Resources employs mine accident and occupational diseases prevention mechanisms through improved mine inspections, audits, investigations and monitoring of occupational exposure levels. The Department of Health has established one stop service centres to bring health and compensation services to former and current mine workers in the mining towns and in labour sending areas. One stop service centres have been established in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape and Carletonville in Gauteng. The Mthatha centre is fully funded by government and more than 3000 former mine workers have already made use of the centre’s services. Also, to date over 3000 current and former-miners have already made use of the Carletonville centre’s services.
There is R10 billion of unclaimed former mineworker’s retirement benefits in various pension and provident funds. The Financial Services Board is providing support to provident and pension fund administrators to identify former mineworkers who need to receive the pension and provident funds due to them some dating back to the 1970’s. The 1970’s mineworkers provident and pension fund has already paid over R20 million to 7 200 former mineworkers, the Amplats provident fund has paid R6.4million to 488 workers.
The October 2016 platinum wage agreement signed by Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) with the three major platinum producers, represented a significant step in the continuation and strengthening of relationships built between the labour unions and mining companies since the signing of the October 2012 Social Accord.
The successful conclusion of the negotiations has provided a solid foundation of ensuring the stability in the sector and has contributed immensely towards the recovery in the mining industry.
The Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill which I sent back to Parliament has been considered by the National Assembly and has been sent to the National Council of Provinces. We look forward to its successful processing by the NCOP. The speedy conclusion of this process will contribute towards the ease of doing business in this country.
Energy, water and environmental sustainability
Significant progress has been made to stabilise electricity supply in the country. Eskom has been able to meet the demand and no load shedding was experienced since August 2015. The stabilisation of the grid has been a direct result of commissioning of new capacity of the Eskom’s build programme and additional capacity sourced from the Independent Power Producers (IPPs).
The extension of electricity supply to communities continued. In the 2016/17 financial year a total grant of R5, 6 billion was made available to the Department of Energy for the electrification of 235 000 households with grid and 20 000 with non-grid. In the first and second quarters of the financial year, R1,3 billion has been spent realizing 167 225 household connections. Government also continues to implement programmes mentioned in previous State of the Nation Address, the electrification of households across the country such as in the UMzinyathi District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal (R109 million) and the Alfred Nzo District Municipality (R412 million).
Cabinet approved the publication of the Integrated Energy Plan and the Integrated Resource Plan for public comment and input in October 2016.
Importantly, Cabinet also designated Eskom and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation as the procurers and operators of the various components of the nuclear new build programme. The Department of Energy, the Energy Security Cabinet Sub-Committee and, ultimately Cabinet itself, will remain responsible for overall coordination and oversight of the programme.
Before any nuclear new build procurement takes place, the Request for Proposals has to be issued. Once proposals have been received and evaluated the Department of Energy is required to report back to Cabinet on the proposed funding model. As I have previously indicated, any procurement process must be on “a scale and at a pace that our country can afford”. It is from this basis that we would then proceed.
The National Nuclear Regulator launched its Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Safety and Security in September 2016. The Centre is jointly hosted by the Regulator and the University of Pretoria and is the first centre of excellence for nuclear safety and security on the African continent.
The development of infrastructure to expand water supply to communities and businesses continued.
To alleviate the pollution in the Vaal River System, the Oranjeville Waste Water Treatment Plant in the Metsimaholo District Municipality and Leeuwkuil Waste Water Treatment Plant in the Emfuleni District Municipality were refurbished at a cost of R44.4million. This is part of the R300 million set aside to upgrade 24 dysfunctional waste -water treatment works in parts of Gauteng and the Free State.
Other infrastructure projects opened include the following;
- The Ncora Bulk Water Treatment Works Project in the Eastern Cape, which is estimated to benefit 17 887 families from 208 villages.
- The Drakenstein Waste Water Treatment Plant which was launched and handed over to the Drakenstein Municipality in the Western Cape.
- The Mokolo and Crocodile River (West) Water Augmentation Project which supplies water to the Lephalale Local Municipality, Eskom's power stations (Matimba and Medupi), the Zeeland water treatment plant, and Exxaro's Grootegeluk Mine. It also transfers water from the Crocodile River West near Thabazimbi to the Lephalale area.
The training of youth as plumbers and water agents continued as part of the War on Leaks programmes. Government will train 15000 young people to help curb the R7 billion a year water losses.
The Environmental Sector continues to be a source of job creation, skills development and economic empowerment.
Through the Expanded Public Works Programme, environmental programmes have created work opportunities for over 97 000 previously unemployed people. Working for Waste has provided 3 750 job opportunities. The Working for Water programme employed33,000 participants to clear invasive plants. The 5,000 Fire-fighters of the Working on Fire programme continue to save billions of Rands for the country.
The 1,450 Environmental Monitors have made a significant difference in combatting the poaching of rhinos and other species.
During 2016, there has been a reduction in cases of rhino poaching, which points to the success of our Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros approach.
South Africa has also ratified the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.
Government has initiated Operation Phakisa to boost delivery initially in the oceans economy, education and health. The programme has since been expanded to mining and agriculture, in particular aquaculture. The President will officially launch the aquaculture and mining Phakisa initiatives early in the New Year.
A lot of work has been done in the two sectors this year already by government and stakeholders.
The education Phakisa has focused on the use of information and communication technologies in schools while the health Phakisa helps government to develop ideal clinics.
Investment in teacher education and training continued in order to improve education outcomes. The Funza Lushaka Teacher training bursaries were awarded to 14343 students studying towards a Bachelor of Education or a Post Graduate Certificate in Education during 2016. The Bursary Programme targets students wanting to be teachers in scarce skills areas such as Mathematics, Science and Technology as well as for students studying to become teachers in the Foundation Phase.
The question is no longer why there are mud schools in the country but how far government has gone in eradicating them in a programme that is delivering on its intentions. Government completed the building or refurbishment of 170 schools through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure delivery Initiative, (ASIDI). The schools not only meet the minimum norms and standards expected of a school in a democratic South Africa but some exceed them. Government has also provided water to 615 schools, decent sanitation to 425 schools and electricity to 307 schools.
On learner transport, 377 933 learners were targeted to be transported. As at the end of the first quarter, 418 947 learners were transported to schools
In the 2015/16 financial year, the school feeding scheme, the National School Nutrition Programme reached a total of 9 630 590 learners in 21 177 public primary, secondary as well identified special schools. The major spinoffs are higher levels of school attendance, concentration and retention.
This programme also plays a major role in promoting local economic activity and community participation as well through the procurement of goods and services from 4 998 service providers nationally, including small medium enterprises and Cooperatives. Furthermore, 55 658 Volunteer Food Handlers who cook and serve food to the learners received a monthly stipend thereby ensuring food security and work opportunities.
To improve the health of learners in schools, the Departments of Basic Education, Health and Social Development jointly provide run the Integrated School Health Programme in schools, and reached 949 138 learners.
The Department of Basic Education also ran a successful National School Deworming Programme. A total of 3 523 794 (57%) learners were dewormed. Government has put through a request to the World Health Organisation for deworming tablets for the 2017 roll out.
The adult basic education programme, Kha Ri Gude Project, has reached the target and 4, 2 million completed classes from 2008 to 2015. Kha Ri Gude has created 326 320 job opportunities from 2008 to 2015. The campaign has won various awards including the UNESCO Confucius award.
Cabinet approved the Integrated Early Childhood Development (ECD) Policy confirming ECD as a public good, to promote child development. In preparation for implementation, the National Treasury allocated an amount of R812 million for improving ECD infrastructure and increasing the child subsidy. To date, more than 1.4 million children attend ECD centres.
Government is committed to ensuring that all financially needy, academically deserving youth are able to atend university and training and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges. As a result, a tremendous amount of progress has been made, particularly with expanding access to the poor through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. The scheme currently supports approximately 480 000 poor undergraduate students to access university and TVET colleges.
The higher education system was challenged by continued student protests in 2016.
I established a Presidential Commission of Enquiry into Higher Education and Trainingunder the leadership of Justice Jonathan Heher to investigate and make recommendations on the feasibility of implementing fee-free Higher Education and Training in South Africa. It is due to provide a final report in mid-2017.
We continue to restore the dignity of our people through building decent human settlements. Over the past 22 government has spent almost R170 billion to provide housing to over twenty two million indigent and vulnerable beneficiaries. Over fifty six percent (56%) of our housing beneficiaries are women.
The country this year celebrated the delivery of over 4,3 million houses and subsidies. Our eyes are now firmly on the target of delivering six million houses and subsidies to our beneficiaries by 2019. The integration of communities continues with the settlements in COSMO City in Johannesburg and Cornubia in Durban being good examples.
Support for SMMEs in the housing sector continued. Since our Cabinet approved intervention in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, the Department of Human Settlements has been paying more than R16 million to the contractors on a weekly basis. As a result of this intervention in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (NMBM) our contractors have been paidwithin fourteen days.
Care and support to military veterans
The delivery on some of the benefits to military veterans as stipulated in the Military Veterans Act of 2011 increased this year. The Department of Military veterans is currently providing 5 782 bursaries to military veterans and their dependents of which 3 655 is for Basic Education while 2 127 is Higher Education. An amount of R121 million has been paid for Education support. To date, almost 15 000 military veterans are being provided with free healthcare support. The DMV is working to sort out its database so that more deserving veterans would be able to receive much needed care and support.
Government is on course to provide 1000 houses to military veterans and a total of R138 million has been set aside for that purpose. Currently 1 900 destitute military veterans are provided with support through the Social Relief of Distress programme run by the Department of Social Development and an amount of R12million has been set aside.
During the reporting period, 65 Clinics and Community Health Centres were under construction across the country, which has also contributed to job creation.
Overall life expectancy has steadily been increasing from 60 years in 2012 to
62.9 years in 2014 due to improved health care provision. The health sector has recorded good progress in managing communicable diseases, inclusive of HIV andAIDS and TB. During quarter two 2016/17, a total of 2 416 020 clients were tested for HIV. A total of 3,520,305 patients remained on Antiretroviral Treatment. The number of male clients who underwent Medical Male Circumcision improved from 124 762 in Quarter 1 to 245 599 in Quarter 2.
A total of 12,9 million people were screened for high blood pressure, which exceeded the set target of 8 million. A total of 10 million people were screened for raised blood glucose levels, which exceeded the set target of 8 million
Government’s social assistance programme continues to support poor households. To date, over 17 million people access social grants. The Child Support Grant and the Older Persons Grant are the two largest grants, with 12 million children and 3.2 million older persons. With regard to Comprehensive Social Security, Cabinet supported proposals on mandatory contributions for retirement, death and disability benefits, and the establishment of a single National Social Security Fund to administer the benefits.
The Ministers of Social Development and of Finance will conduct consultations on this work with relevant stakeholders and report back to Cabinet in the coming year.
The promotion and protection of the rights of all persons with disabilities in South Africa remains a national priority.
The White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was approved by Cabinet in December 2015, and successfully launched in March 2016. This coincided with the inaugural meeting of the Presidential Working Group on Disability, which deliberated on, among others, the location of the disability rights coordination function in government, as well as domestication of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Cabinet will receive the First Progress Report on implementation of the new disability rights policy during the 2017/18 financial year.
To promote food security, government, through the Department of Social Development has facilitated the establishment of a network of food distribution centres, which includes setting up Provincial Food Distribution Centres and 212 Community Nutrition Development Centres in partnership with Non-Profit Organizations operating in the targeted deprived communities.
Through this programme the Department has since financial year 2015/16 provided food to 3,155 306 beneficiaries, created a market for 245 emerging food producers and cooperatives and procured about R9, 222 862.00 worth of food from these emerging food producers and cooperatives that previously would not be able to participate in the food supply chain in this country.
The Community Work Programme (CWP) run by the Department of Cooperative Governance, which offers an employment safety net to the poor, has expanded to 219 sites in 212 municipalities across South Africa. From a participation rate of less than 100 000 at its inception in 2010/11, the programme now employs 214 430 people in all nine provinces, mainly women and youth.
The impact of the programme in Gauteng for example can be measured by a number of interventions by programme participants: cleaning almost 300 000 square meters of public spaces, rivers and canals; clearing 1 051 illegal dumping sites; maintaining 2 076 community gardens; cleaning 81 000 square metres of cemeteries; benefitting 10 800 children at crèches; refurbishing 2 058 desks and benefitting 34 000 learners with school patrols. The Community Work Programme provides hope and opportunity to a sector of the population that is economically and socially excluded.
GOVERNANCE AND ADMINISTRATION
Government continues to fight corruption and promote professional ethics in the public service. As part of this drive, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) has introduced various measures through the Public Service Regulations, 2016, which came into effect on 1 August 2016.
The 2016 Public Service Regulations further prohibit Public Service employees from receiving, soliciting, or accepting gifts in return for performing or not performing their official duties and from conducting business with any organ of State, in their own capacity as individuals or through companies in which they are directors.
The DPSA, together with National Treasury, will be monitoring the implementation of this prohibition clause, and will further put measures into place to prevent Public Service employees and their companies from being listed on the Central Supplier Database. Since 2001 only members of the Senior Management Service (SMS) in the Public Service were designated to disclose their financial interest on annual basis. The Regulations now empower the Minister for Public Service and Administration to designate other categories of employees to disclose financial interest. The Regulations also made the use of the e-Disclosure system to disclose financial interest by designated employees compulsory. The e-Disclosure system is an electronic system to enable designated employees to disclose their financial interests on-line.
For the 2015/16 disclosure period, out the total number of around 10 000 senior managers from national, provincial and government components, close to 9000 used the e-Disclosure system to disclose their financial interests.
The Public Service Commission continued to investigate and monitor conflicts of interests in the public service. Since 2006, the PSC expanded its focus to include the scrutiny of the disclosures to identify potential and actual conflicts of interest in departments and to advise Executive Authorities accordingly.
The PSC accordingly scrutinises financial interests as well as property ownership using existing data-bases such as for example the Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).
A National Anti-Corruption Hotline (0800 701 701) for reporting corruption in the Public Service was established in September 2004 and is managed by the Public Service Commission. Whistle blowers can call the Hotline to report corruption without fear of victimization as the Hotline offers anonymity.
Some successes of the Hotline are that a total of 3 570 officials were found guilty of misconduct related to corrupt activities reported to the Hotline. The following are the types of sanctions that were taken against officials that were charged and found guilty of misconduct since 01 September 2004 and as at 30 September 2016:
- 1 694 officials were dismissed from the Public Service
- 438 officials were fined (e.g. not receiving three month salary)
- 133 officials were demoted
- 913 officials were given final written warnings
- 392 officials were prosecuted
The successful investigation of cases of alleged corruption reported to the Hotline resulted in the recovery of R340 million from perpetrators. It is, therefore, evident that the Hotline has yielded positive results, not only in terms of monetary value but also in terms of disciplinary action taken against perpetrators
SAFETY AND SECURITY
The fight against crime and corruption continued.
The consistently increasing incidence of violent public protests across the country during 2016 placed the resources of the SAPS under considerable pressure to tangibly demonstrate its ability to not only stabilise and contain such protests, but to do so within the context of the proportional use of force, guided by the principle of maximum restraint.
During the 2015/16 financial year, the Public Order Policing (POP) managed to control 14 693 crowd-related incidents of which 3 542 were unrest-related and 11 151 were peaceful incidents.
Since South Africans have a right to protest peacefully as stipulated in the country’s Constitution, the SAPS will continue to capacitate the 28 Public Order Policing Units that it has at its disposal to manage public-related protests, including the training and equipping of members to deal with crowd management. This is also in line with the recommendations made by the Farlam Commission following the Marikana tragedy.
Government continues with measures to ensure that offenders do not repeat crimes when they are released from prison. This has led to the introduction of a tighter system of a checklists and various instruments for use by Parole Boards, Case Management Committee, and responsible professional such as psychologists and social workers.
The views of victims of crime are important. As a result, the numbers of victims participating in parole considerations increased eight fold over the past six years, 253 to 2279 victims of crime.
The country’s 53 Correctional Supervision and Parole Boards, considered 41 000 submissions, and approved placement on parole or release of 23 000 offenders, and referred 1800 offenders back for further intervention and restorative justice programmes.
The Department of Correctional Services continues to contribute in reducing the rate of reoffending through various strategies from psychosocial support to access life changing skills and education. Compliance levels with parole and probation conditions improved to reach a historic mark of 98.8% among both 52 475 parolees and 16 266 probationers.
Government has made good progress in reducing the numbers of children in correctional centres and in prioritizing them in implementing correctional and developmental programmes.
Since the introduction of the Child Justice Act, the number of children incarcerated in correctional centres was reduced by 74%, from 1004 to 287 in six years. As much as this trend in commendable, a challenge that requires everyone of us in society to address, is that the nature of crimes committed by children is more violent, which results in 90% children being on remand not qualifying for bail.
The top three crimes committed by children include rape, murder and robbery, with 47% of them in KwaZulu-Natal. All children are given priority access to psychological, social work, spiritual and other intervention programmes aimed at correcting the offending behaviour.
Boosting bilateral relations with sister countries in the continent and beyond our borders continued.
South Africa continued participation in mediation efforts, peacekeeping operations, and peace-making initiatives in Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Mozambique, South Sudan, Somalia and Libya.
Trade with our traditional partners in the west remains a significant contributor to our economy. Western Europe accounts for over 25% of South Africa’s global trade and also remain our biggest tourism provider, which injects considerable revenue into the country. Importantly, an area where we have witnessed progress in from this region is, the significant contribution in vocational training, youth skills development and the provision of scholarships.
Cooperation within the BRICS forum continued to yield results in various areas, social, economic and political. The BRICS New Development Bank has recorded encouraging progress. We have already benefitted from its first tranche of projects that enabled us to stabilise our electricity grid through-out the past year. We welcome the Goa BRICS Heads of State and Government decision to establish the BRICS Rating Agency so that we can assist each other in assessing our economic paths.
South Africa also continued with efforts to reform the global system of governance with a view to enhance its responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of developing nations.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the occupation of Palestine and South Africa continued to support the Palestinian course.
The progressive world was dealt a blow with the passing on of one of the leading revolutionaries of modern times, the former President of Cuba, President Fidel Castro Ruz. Relations with Cuba will be strengthened to take forward the vision of President Castro.
Work continues towards the achievement of a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
We thank all South Africans and stakeholders for support during 2016.
Issued by Bongani Ngqulunga on behalf of the Presidency, 15 December 2016