President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomes heads of mission and ambassadors of eight nations who presented their letters of credence at the Sefako Makgato Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria. PHOTO: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

PRETORIA - Hope had returned to South Africa after a period of "strife and stagnation" made worse by endemic corruption, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday as he welcomed eight new diplomats assigned to Pretoria.

The heads of mission and ambassadors were from The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Thailand, Peru, Norway, Kuwait and Sri Lanka. 

"Your Excellencies, we welcome you to our country at a time of renewed hope. 

"We are emerging from a period of stagnation and strife. Over the past few years, our economy has performed poorly relative to others of the same size," Ramaphosa said after receiving credentials from the eight incoming foreign envoys.

"Policy uncertainty, the weakening of public institutions and high-level corruption undermined investor confidence and public trust. We are now firmly on the path of renewal and rebuilding."

He said South Africa acknowledged "the errors of the past few years" and that the vast Southern African nation was working tirelessly to correct them.

Ramaphosa said that his administration had embarked on an overhaul of public institutions to restore public confidence in the government through tackling corruption, appointing the right people in the right jobs and holding office bearers accountable. 

The president said the recovery of the economy was evidenced by the economy's emergence from a technical recession with a 2.2% GDP growth in the third quarter of 2018. 

"We are working with our social partners - business, labour and communities - on a range of measures to significantly increase employment over the next few years."

Ramaphosa said the "highly successful" October investment conference saw several companies announced new investments in the South African economy, saying that investor concerns of policy consistency, the cost of doing business and labour stability were issues his administration was taking seriously.

"It was a clear indication that investors have confidence in our economy and are excited about the opportunities it offers. We have moved with speed to resolve many of the concerns of investors," Ramaphosa said.

"At the same time, we are working to address some of the structural challenges in our economy, specifically the extremely unequal distribution of skills, land, assets and opportunities."

Ramaphosa said that despite almost universal school attendance and high levels of tertiary enrolments, much more had to be done to improve the quality of education as well as the outcomes, and to ensure that learners and students are workplace ready when they finished schooling. 

On land reform, the president promised an acceleration of the project for the benefit of the country. 

"We are accelerating land reform to unlock the economic potential of this important asset and bring more South Africans into the productive economy. 

He said the government would stick to the letter of the law in the process and that the new diplomats had an important task to inform investors in their countries that South Africa was open for business. 

The Presidency said South Africa enjoyed strong bilateral relations with countries from all regions of the world and that was reflected in the diversity and high number of diplomatic missions hosted in Pretoria.

African News Agency (ANA)