Zuma tough on mining companies, violent protesters

2013-02-14 20:34

President Jacob Zuma steered clear of some difficult decisions in his state of the nation address tonight, but came down hard on mining companies and protesters who lead violent strikes.

Before Zuma’s arrival at the parliamentary precinct in Cape Town, the red carpet was awash with colour as MPs and guests wanted to show off the latest fashion.

But once everyone was inside the hall, it was all business.

Zuma said nothing about the proposed youth wage subsidy that has raised the ire of Cosatu, but did talk of an “accord” about employment incentives that will be signed by government, labour and business. He declined to say what exactly this accord will entail.

Although Zuma was proud to announce the “certainty” that the end of the nationalisation debate had brought, he was quick to add that South African tax policies would be reviewed later this year – leaving the door open for a much-maligned mining tax that the ANC agreed to in Mangaung.

“Later this year, the minister of finance will be commissioning a study of our current tax policies, to make sure that we have an appropriate revenue base to support public spending. Part of this study will evaluate the current mining royalties regime with regard to its ability to suitably serve our people,” he said.

It was no easy speech for teachers.

“We will establish a presidential remuneration commission which will investigate the appropriateness of the remuneration and conditions of service provided by the state to all its employees. I have directed that the first priority should be teachers,” Zuma said.

The president said he wanted value for money in education.

“The commission will also assess the return on investment.”

He also made it clear the time for tantrums by teacher unions were over.

“We want to see an improvement in attitudes, posture and outcomes.”

Zuma could not give any new direction in the land reform debate but admitted it to be “a highly emotive matter”.

“We need to resolve it amicably within the framework of the Constitution and the law.”

Following the rape of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in Bredasdorp Zuma devoted a significant part of his speech to the protection of women and children.

“Improving the status of women remains a critical priority for this government. The Bill on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment has been approved by Cabinet for public comment. The Bill criminalises practices that have adverse effects on women and girls,” he said.

In an act that will enrage the Democratic Alliance, he announced the bill will also legislate the 50/50 policy position with regard to the representation of women in decision making structures.

The meritocratic DA feels women should not be promoted because they are women, but because of their competency.

Zuma also announced action would be taken against people who stalk others via cellphones and the internet.

He vowed to fill the vacancies in the security cluster, some of which have been empty for 18 months, like that of the head of the Special Investigating Unit.

“To further boost the fight against corruption, we will fill all vacant posts at the upper echelons of the criminal justice system,” Zuma said.

He also seemed to have lost patience with strikes that turn violent.

“For this reason, I have instructed the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster to put measures in place, with immediate effect, to ensure that any incidents of violent protest are acted upon, investigated and prosecuted. Courts will be allocated to deal with such cases on a prioritised roll. The law must be enforced and it must be seen to be enforced – fairly, effectively and expeditiously,” Zuma said.

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