Willing buyer, willing seller jettisoned

2013-02-15 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma had few surprises in his state of the nation address last night, and even if he had, it would probably have been overshadowed by the drama around Oscar Pistorius, more than 1 400 km away in Pretoria.

Even Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s attempts to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit by presenting women MPs with flowers did little to spice up what was largely a mundane opening of Parliament and a lacklustre speech by the president.

As predicted in yesterday’s Witness, Zuma announced the reopening of the period to lodge restitution claims by people who missed the December 31, 1998 deadline.

He repeated that the government would not be able to meet its land restitution targets and said the time to finalise a claim needed to be shortened.

To this end, the government would jettison the willing buyer, willing seller principle, which he said forced the state to pay more for land than the actual value.

It would now pursue the “just and equitable” principle for compensation provided for in the Constitution. Claims by the descendants of the Khoi and San that pre-dated the 1913 Land Act would also be explored.

Zuma said there would be “better incentives” for commercial farmers who were willing and capable of mentoring smallholder farmers.

On education as an essential service, he stressed that this was not taking away the constitutional rights of teachers as workers to strike.

All successful societies had one thing in common — they invested in education.

Decent salaries and conditions of service would play an important role in attracting motivating and retaining skilled teachers.

His administration would establish a presidential remuneration commission to “investigate the appropriateness of the remuneration and conditions of service by the state to all its employees”. The first priority would be teachers.

The president warned that the state would clamp down on violent protests and strikes through allocating specific courts to deal with those arrested and charged on a “prioritised roll”.

“The law must be enforced and it must be seen to be enforced — fairly, effectively and expeditiously.”

He urged citizens to exercise their constitutional right to protest in a peaceful and orderly manner.

“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.”

Citizens had a right to expect that their democratic state would exercise its authority “in defence of the Constitution that so many struggled so long and hard for”.

“ We cannot disappoint this expectation.”

On the national health insurance scheme, for which KwaZulu-Natal has three pilot sites, Zuma said that from April the first group of about 600 private medical practitioners would be contracted to provide services at 533 clinics in the pilot districts.

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