Johannesburg – ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday night announced the government’s ambitious plan to roll out Covid-19 vaccines to all South Africans as the deadly coronavirus continues to spread across the country.
Ramaphosa was addressing a virtual celebration of the governing party’s 109th anniversary of its establishment.
Strict Covid-19 regulations prohibiting mass gatherings forced the ANC to hold its annual January 8 birthday bash online.
”We start the year in the midst of a second wave of infections that is spreading far faster and has the potential to cause greater loss of life than the first wave. This requires effective implementation of prevention measures and a rapid and efficient programme to provide a vaccine to all our people,” Ramaphosa said.
According to the president, to overcome Covid-19 the government is preparing to implement a mass vaccination programme that reaches all South Africans as appropriate quantities of an effective and suitable vaccine are procured.
Ramaphosa promised that the mass Covid-19 vaccination programme will initially prioritise health workers and other frontline personnel such as teachers and police men and women, the elderly and those with co-morbidities.
”We will progressively reach all South Africans through a mass vaccination campaign to achieve herd immunity and prevent ongoing transmission,” he said.
Ramaphosa also praised his administration’s efforts to forge more effective collaboration among African countries in tackling the economic effects of Covid-19 during the country’s chairmanship of the African Union.
”We have worked with other countries to develop effective health responses and ensure that all African countries have access to essential medical supplies and, ultimately, a vaccine,” he said.
The ANC and the government it leads will continue to advocate for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, Ramaphosa promised.
”Inequitable access will deepen global inequality and will set back the development goals of many countries of the South. Besides, it will set the efforts against the pandemic back, not only in the developing countries, but across the globe,” he warned.
The president also warned about the wave of fake news around Covid-19 and vaccination.
”We need to actively counter the spread of disinformation relating to Covid-19 and unfounded conspiracy theories about the virus, its treatment and the development of vaccines. Above all, as we have done over the past year, we must continue to work together as a united nation to confront the grave coronavirus threat. Our focus throughout must be on saving lives and protecting livelihoods,” said Ramaphosa.
Addressing corruption, the ANC president said the party would be strengthening its Integrity Commission.
“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.
“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, Ramaphosa said.
“As we begin our campaigning for this year’s elections, we want to make it very clear: we will not tolerate members of the ANC who are involved in crooked practices like vote-buying, branch list manipulation to secure positions, or extending patronage to get votes.”
Ramaphosa also admitted that his administration has limited resources and therefore needs to intensify other poverty alleviation measures alongside the economic recovery as the emergency social relief measures introduced last year were coming to an end.
”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,” he said.
The country, Ramaphosa said, must also not continue the fight against what he has repeatedly described as the “second pandemic” and a national crisis – violence against women and children – which continues to plague society.
”Gender-based violence and femicide is rooted in patriarchal attitudes and is the most blatant affront to our common humanity. Ending gender-based violence in all its forms is integral to the social and economic progress of our nation,” he said.
Ramaphosa wants his administration to be more direct in its efforts to reduce alcohol and substance abuse through a combination of legislative and other measures and community mobilisation.
He said alcohol and substance abuse were contributing factors in the perpetration of violence.
“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,” he said.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said on Friday night that the ANC should honestly reflect and do spring cleaning inside itself if it was to unite the country and lead during the difficult time of Covid-19 pandemic.
Delivering a message on behalf of the labour federation’s national leadership and its 1.7 million members, Ntshalintshali said the ANC as a leader of society was being called upon to play its historical role of leading during the difficult times.
“We hope that the ANC is up to the task of keeping this country united and help it navigate this uncertain and difficult time. For this to happen, the ANC needs to do some honest reflection and spring cleaning inside the organisation,” he said in his virtual address.
Ntshalintshali also said one of the governing party’s achievements over the 109 years has been its ability to mobilise and unite the people particularly the black majority around the project of non-racialism, non-sexism and more precisely the project of nation-building.
“This is an important achievement precisely because it was informed by the deliberate progarmmme of dismantling the apartheid legacy of divide and rule that thrived on maintaining tribal and racial divisions.”
Ntshalintshali also congratulated the ANC on reaching such a significant milestone of 109 years of existence.
“This is an important anniversary that tells the evolution of the South African story. The ANC represents an inspiring African story of revolution, heroism and liberation.”
He, however, noted that this year’s anniversary celebrations were under difficult conditions when the deadly virus was running rampage and destroying lives and livelihoods.
“As usual the people of this country have responded with courage, resilience and even with humour,” Ntshalintshali said.
Political Bureau and IOL