Zuma to focus on economy in speech

2014-06-12 00:00

CAPE TOWN — President Jacob Zuma will in his State of the Nation Address next week make a strong statement on the status of the South African economy and how government plans to address the situation.

South Africa is entering a recession, with the latest data showing the economy had in the first quarter of 2014 contracted by 0,6%. Official data on growth — or not — in the second quarter will be released at the end of June and if this quarter also shows negative figures, it will mean South Africa is officially in a recession.

Economists like Mike Schüssler of economists.co.za said the country is already in a recession with manufacturing figures that did not improve in the second quarter and with no end in sight to the strike in the platinum belt.

Zuma’s new cabinet is currently busy with its first lekgotla, which ends today.

Officials with insight into the proceedings at the lekgotla, said hard words fell during the talks the past week.

“The cabinet is aware of the situation in the economy. Up to now the ministers did not really comment because no one wanted to leak information from the lekgotla.

“The cabinet is still busy deciding what the official position will be. This message will probably be announced in the next week by the president and will include the government’s message on the continuing strike in the platinum belt,” sources told sister paper Beeld yesterday.

Opposition parties said the silence that cabinet and the president is maintaining on the current economic situation in South Africa is worrying.

Ian Ollis, DA MP and the party’s spokesperson on labour, said the government’s silence is a huge problem.

“Where is the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant? Amid the continuing strikes she is shining in her absence. In the past year South Africa had experienced several prolonged and crippling strikes in several sectors. This includes the agriculture sector, the municipal sectors and even in the education sector.

“Minister Oliphant had in most of these strikes not said anything.”

The Department of Labour had in 2013 issued a report on labour unrest in the economy.

The total number of strikes in South Africa had increased from 57 in 2008 to 99 in 2012.

About 3,3 million working days were lost compared to 2,8 million in 2011.

Gauteng was the province that saw the most strikes at 42. In 2011 this number was 33.

Well over half (57,5%) of the strikes were in the mining sector. This sector saw the most labour unrest in 2012 and 82,4% of the total work days lost was in the mining sector.

Just under half (44%) of the strikes in 2012 were wildcat strikes that were not protected.

Ollis said the state must take control of the situation in the platinum belt before the strikes in the mining industry scare of all investors.

A second government source told Beeld each department will issue in-depth statements on the economy in July when they announce their budgets.

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