Zuma: Poverty levels still too high
Polokwane - 2011 would be a year of job creation as the ANC government was committed to addressing continuing poverty and unemployment, President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.
In his address at party's 99th anniversary celebration in Polokwane, he said the country's unemployment and poverty levels were still unacceptable.
State-owned enterprises were crucial to economic growth but the way it had been managed so far would need to change and become more efficient, he said.
"We need a social partnership between government, business and labour."
To rousing applause at the Peter Mokaba stadium, Zuma announced that government hoped to introduce a scheme that would benefit students who passed their final year of studies.
The scheme entailed having their student loans converted into bursaries that would not need to be repaid.
He said the country needed media that was "independent of economic and political control" and that the ANC would continue to fight for media independence.
"We will also continue to fight for fair and balanced reporting."
On local government, Zuma said the majority of municipal councillors were doing a sterling job but found that there were problems.
"We acknowledge that in certain municipalities there are problems.
The African National Congress was convinced that elected councillors should not hold senior positions in political parties, he said.
Referring to the upcoming local government election expected in May or June, he urged the party to improve its results in municipalities it controlled and in those it did not control.
He said the party supported the tripartite alliance but that its other members, the SA Communist Party and the Congress of SA Trade Unions, also had to defend the alliance.
"We must not allow ourselves to introduce tendencies that are foreign," said Zuma, highlighting the need for alliance partners to resolve their differences and not publicise them.
At the beginning of his speech, he drew supporters' attention to the resolution on discipline taken at the party's National General Council held in Durban last September.
"Discipline is non-negotiable. It must be enforced without fear or favour," he said as the skies opened with a downpour.
Sitting behind Zuma, ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema looked on during the president's address.
Moments earlier Malema said the only way to free the country from poverty was to implement a programme of nationalisation.
"Nationalisation is the solution to the problems we are facing," he said.
He took aim at big business, especially white business owners.
"We cannot accept the economy being in the control of white males," said Malema.
Bus, taxi loads of people arrive
Zuma received a rousing welcome earlier in the day from supporters wearing yellow ANC t-shirts and blowing vuvuzelas.
Bus and taxi loads of people were seen arriving at the stadium amid a high police presence.
As distinguished guests and well-known performers began arriving they received a rapturous applause and blast of vuvuzelas.
Zuma's annual statement is traditionally the start of the political year, where the president is expected to detail what he expects the party to achieve.
Zuma and dignitaries cut a green, yellow and black cake that had been brought in by Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans.
Loud music, cheering and the sound of vuvuzelas filled the stadium after Zuma left.