State of the Land Act

2013-02-14 00:00

LAND and rain — these are the issues that are expected to make or break President Jacob Zuma’s fifth state of the nation address tonight.

Unlike 2010, when he was mauled by opposition parties and where ruling party MPs failed to come to his defence, today’s speech will be made by an emboldened Zuma.

He will address a joint sitting of Parliament buoyed by his landslide victory at Mangaung, where he and his allies entrenched their power in the ANC, as well as a likely second term as head of state after next year’s general election.

This time around, opposition parties won’t have Zuma’s love-child with Sonono Khoza as ammunition, although the millions in taxpayers’ money spent on his Nkandla home will be part of their arsenal.

While Zuma will be expected to try and rally a battered nation, given the increase in social and labour unrest and economic pessimism, opposition MPs will highlight these as his administration’s failures.

Zuma is expected to use the centenary of the Native Land Act of 1913 to make far-reaching announcements today about land reform as well as foreign ownership of land.

Although the latter was discussed at the ANC’s recent Mangaung conference, it has been on the agenda from the days when Thabo Mbeki was president.

The expectation is that Zuma will announce an extension of the 1998 cut-off date for communities who were dispossessed of their land but had not submitted their land claims on time. However, it is likely that those who were unsuccessful in their land claims first time around will not be allowed a second bite at the cherry.

Earlier this year, Zuma announced that land claims by descendants of the Khoisan, whose land was taken from them before 1913, would also be addressed.

It is not clear how such a process, which would require a constitutional amendment, would work.

The recent labour unrest in the agriculture and mining sectors are also likely to be featured in the address, while more clarity is expected on progress in implementing the national health insurance scheme.

Zuma will have a tough time trying to convince investors and the international community that South Africa in 2013 is the land of milk and honey it was supposed to be during the first flush of democratic rule.

The president is expected to offer some clarity of how Pretoria plans to overcome the challenges posed to South Africa’s economy by the recession in other parts of the world.

While Zuma was putting last-minute touches to his speech, it was the weather that appeared to concern Parliament, amid fears that the president’s parade would literally be rained on.

The prediction of heavy downpours has seen Parliament planning a rain route through various parliamentary corridors leading to the National Assembly, in case it gets too wet outside for the traditional pomp and ceremony.

For Democratic Alliance MP Annette Steyn, the rain is always a blessing. “Look, I am a farm woman. We are crazy about the rain. I won’t change my outfit because it may rain. If it could snow, I would probably make another plan, but not for rain.”

ANC MP Pinky Mncube, who last year kept the fashion police abreast of the latest trends with her ample cleavage on show, also has no plans to change her outfit if the weather plays up. “If it rains, you put on a raincoat or use an umbrella.” Her outfit would not disappoint this year, she said.

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