It's the economy, says Zuma
Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma put the economy at the centre of his State of the Nation address on Thursday, and pledged to extend government's infrastructure drive to stimulate growth and create jobs.
Zuma claimed modest success midway through his term in office but conceded that unacceptable levels of unemployment, poverty and social inequality continued to plague the country.
"The triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality persists, despite the progress made. Africans, women and the youth continue to suffer most from this challenge."
He told Parliament government saw its role as guiding the economy to grow faster and announced steps to stimulate mining, integrate rail and road infrastructure and help exporters.
This will see the launch of five infrastructure projects - notably developing rail and road infrastructure in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West to serve the mining sector better and creating an economic corridor linking Johannesburg and Durban to the country's seaports.
The Eastern Cape would benefit from a drive to improve its industrial and agricultural sectors and maximise their export capacity, he said.
"For the year 2012 and beyond, we invite the nation to join government in a massive infrastructure development drive," he said.
Zuma announced that Transnet's Market Demand Strategy would see R300bn invested in capital projects over the next seven years, of two thirds will go on rail projects and the rest on ports.
He promised that a deal between port authorities and Transnet would save exporters about R1bn and said he was pressing Eskom to put the brakes on power price hikes to help both business and the poor.
"We need an electricity price pact," he said.
"I have asked Eskom to seek options on how the price increase requirement may be reduced over the next few years.
"We need an electricity price path which will ensure that Eskom and the industry remain financially viable and sustainable, but which remains affordable especially for the poor."
Looking back on 2011, Zuma said his government's policies like the New Growth Path had been vindicated by the biggest reduction in joblessness since the global economic meltdown in 2008.
"The results are encouraging though we are not out of the woods yet given the global situation," he said.
"The work done last year indicates that if we continue to grow reasonably well, we will begin to write a new story about South Africa - the story of how, working together, we drove back unemployment and reduced economic inequality and poverty.
"It is beginning to look possible. We must not lose this momentum."
The president noted that last year, a total of 365 000 people were employed and said its was important that all of these were in the formal sector of the economy.
"There are two main things that we did right in 2011 which are contributing to this joint success. Firstly, we mainstreamed job creation in every government entity including state owned enterprises.
"Secondly, we strengthened social dialogue and co-operation between government, business and the community sector."
Zuma heralded progress in health, education, crime reduction and rural development but warned that the pace of land redistribution was "slow and tedious" and that the willing buyer-willing seller option was not working.
"We have only distributed 8% of the 30% of land redistribution for 2014 that we set ourselves.
"The process is slow and tedious and there is general agreement that the willing buyer- willing seller option has not been the best way to address this question," he said, to loud applause from MPs.
After a year in which his leadership was tested but he emerged strengthened, Zuma struck an inclusive note when he spoke of the ANC's centenary.
He thanked every leader of the party from its inception, including his predecessor and rival Thabo Mbeki, who was not present on Thursday.
He also paid tribute to Black Consciouness leader Steve Biko and apartheid-era opposition stalwart Helen Suzman.
"In marking this occasion we are recognising the work of all South Africans in bringing about a truly free non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous country."
Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said it was a mystery how Zuma planned to fund the infrastructure drive as she believed the state was R300bn shy of the cash needed.
"It is just not clear where the money is going to come from."
DA leader Helen Zille welcomed the focus on economic growth and Congress of SA Trade Union secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi said the infrastructure programme was cause for optimism on jobs.
"[It] will do a lot to help the government reach the target of creating five million jobs," Vavi said.
Facta non verba
Having a elitist business section for comments on real issues is uncalled for and frustrating.
to be honest this yeats SONA was much improved. it was good to see him actually crack a smile and actually sort out his glasses :) honestly the guy means well, if he just got his party in gear he would make a pretty decent president.
Great speech by Mr President, he proved wrong a lot of people especially opposite party. i'm not into politic but the fact is, this was a great speech and there's nothing negative and what can you complain about in this speech?
A positive speech means nothing unless he implements what he has promised. To this day I have yet to see a promise kept by this goverment.
I agree Mr. Tembe, it was a very good speech. Mr. Zuma has never been enough credit. His biggest critics may very well realize one day that he was a benevolent man - probably too late.
Bla bla bla lies lies lies... where is the proof in anything this fool says
And "creating" jobs should not mean filling an Affirmative Action position from an already existing position inside a company. "Creating jobs" should mean creating something from NEW, whether creating investment so new industries, or companies invest in South Africa for job creation. And once that's done, the question is, how many of those "new" jobs will be for everyone and not for a selected race?
I do not get people's logic. How many whites left the country? Taking the cake is only so small, and whites even less, just imagine how many jobs that whites did are now done by blacks. Yet, it's the same old story.
Maybe the reason there is no jobs in SA is because there are no whites. The fact is the whites had the skills. In order to create NEW jobs, you need Skills. Take away the skills, (regardless if they are white) and your cake will keep shrinking as you will not have a growing economy.
Shame. The logic. The ANC is hanging itself and will keep doing it even with it's "best" intentions, until a logic light goes on. Forget about the colour "WHITE" and think "SKILLS". Once you do that, it will benefit black people at large. Not rocket science, but then again Im not an ANC supporter either.
@ henrileriche.. very well said, could not have put it plainer and simpler myself. A few things still bother me though...1.Those 365,000 jobs created.. hogwash..where, how and who?...2 Zuma heralded progress in health, education, crime reduction. How the heck can he blantantly boast with a straight face about the exact things which are haunting us citizens when they are precisely the biggest problems this country is exsperiencing. The way to hell is paved with good intentions but Lindiwe Mazibuko of the D.A. was spot on when she asked " where is the
money going to come from. (R35 billion Rand shortfall) and what screams
the loudest is the silence on all the Government's corruption, some of which, to the ordinary person's perception, just got, and still gets swept under the carpet. The real answer to unemployment is so simple to solve. Ammend the Labour law and work on sound economic foundations of Laissez Fair. Supply and demand and in the process.. skills will be developed. I rest my case! News 24 deleted my previous simular comment)
Well done Mr Zuma. Pity ur own party doesn't act noreven think this. Where's the Manuel report??
Mr JZ, please pay your accounts, then companies in the private sector won't have to close down because of debt. Currently the private sector must carry hospitals, labs and many more, due to bad management in the goverment, and yet nobody will be accountable for this, infact they will get a performance bonus at the end of the year.
To take this man seriously is a big mistake. Still waiting for 500 000 jobs he promised.
Never take the ANC seriously
The origins of a fascist state:
Growth from a distortion of the interventionist welfare state.
What about the toll-gates, the issue of toll-gates is serious and he doesn't give a damn about it.
@ Olive.. Don't worry about the toll-gates. This is a multi racial struggle and there are already sufficient "volunteers" and more important-
fool proof stratagies to make them unmanageble if legal channels should fail. Just join the party when it happens
Notwithstanding edcuation and skills, COSATU is the biggest threat to economic growth in SA. The Govt. needs to make busting the unions its no. 1 priority
@ Ryan.. My thoughts exactly. God, I wish we had a President like Margereth Thatcher. That would bring us back into the 1st World within a year.
Create jobs and stimulate the economy by increasing spending on infrastructure sounds good but once you discount the fact that the past has shown the corruption involved in granting tenders etc then it becomes meaningless as it only serves a very few people who earn themselves stupid and does not serve to stimulate the economy. then once the infrastructure has been built new taxes are levied to pay for it. How does this improve the wealth of the multitudes.
Government does create jobs but not PRODUCTIVE jobs. The jobs they create are consumptive - they do not add a cent to the SA GDP. What government needs to do is cut away the red tape, restrictive labour laws, repeal the minimum wage legislation, then sit back and see the economy take off. Will they do this? Not a chance. They are busy killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
I can not wait the day there is a "turn-around"...I think most will know what I mean.