What Zuma must address

2014-06-16 00:00

CAPE TOWN — President Jacob Zuma delivers his second State of the Nation Address of the year tomorrow.

In February he said South Africa had a “good story to tell”, but an economist and other experts say there are seven national issues he will have to address tomorrow.

Economy

Zuma had said in his State of the Nation Address in February government, business and labour must co-operate to grow the economy at over five percent to create job opportunities in South Africa.

He said government had intervened in the mining sector because it was one of the key sectors for job creation. “We need a mining sector that works,” he said.

Maarten Ackerman, investor strategist at Citadel Asset Management, said South Africa’s economic growth for 2014 will be “very bad”. Zuma should pay attention to the inefficient labour market.

“The fact that workers can strike for five months is not good for anyone. The president must be very specific about how the labour environment will be managed.

“The country’s growth rate is very low — it is totally unacceptable, compared to economies elsewhere in the world. The president must say what will be done over the short term to improve matters.”

Job creation

In his February address Zuma said 15 million people had jobs in the country — the most ever. The cabinet set a target of six million job opportunities for youth by 2019.

Cosatu said in a statement the need for the radical restructuring of the economy is underlined by the latest figures from Statistics SA, which show that joblessness among the youth had increased from 32,7% to 36,1% between 2008 and 2014.

“This shocking statistic is a symptom of a wider economic crisis which we we facing.”

Too many people live in poverty. “It is totally unacceptable that one half of all workers earn R3 000 or less, which means that most South Africans cannot afford the basic necessities.”

Cosatu said eradicating low wages was at the core of eradicating poverty and inequality.

Corruption

Zuma said in February South Africans were united in their need for a country without corruption. The government had recovered more than R320 million from transgressors through the national hotline against corruption.

Advocate Paul Hoffman, director of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, however said if the president does not change the direction of the country as regards corruption there is a good chance that South Africa might fail as a state.

“Until the government is serious about weeding out corruption and accepts legislation to have a dedicated and independent anti-corruption unit; and gives it enough resources, South Africa is doomed as a constitutional democracy.”

Education

In February Zuma focused on the improved matric pass rate and announced plans for legislation to govern pre-school education. The budget for financial aid to tertiary students was also increased.

Doron Isaacs, deputy general secretary of Equal Education, said new legislation for norms and standards of school infrastructure was announced at the end of last year. “We want to know the state of these laws,” he said.

“Desks and chairs destined for class rooms in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga are still in warehouses. The president must say what he plans to do about this.”

Agriculture

Zuma said in February agriculture plays a key role in job creation and is important to create opportunities for entrepreneurs. The fisheries sector will increasingly be promoted.

AgriSA president Johannes Möller said it is important that Zuma should talk about food security at household level and the jobs that are being lost in the agricultural sector.

Möller said the current economic situation made it more difficult for families to maintain food security and called on Zuma to explain how poverty relief will be put in place. He said it was vital for South Africa to have a rural development policy, to feed families as well as give potential investors more security.”

Health

Zuma announced in February that a “new phase” in the National Health Insurance system would soon start, which will extend quality health services to the poor.

Professor Louis Reynolds, chairperson of the People’s Health Movement in South Africa, said they want “more transparency” about the NHI from the president.

It is extremely important that the NHI is used to develop a single, national health system that will give everyone equal treatment. “What we don’t want is a two-tier system that treats rich people differently from poor people.”

Local government

In February Zuma admitted not all communities have access to basic services — with 23 municipalities to be brought up to standard. He also expressed his concern about violent service delivery protests that threatened lives and property.

Karen Heese, economist of the non-governmental organisation Municipal IQ, said the most important topic from this part of Zuma’s speech was that the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC), at its recent meeting, showed the political will to do away with cadre deployment. Competence should be the key criterion.

About the violent protests, Heese said the president always admitted the people’s right to protest, but the government must start to listen to the protesters.

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