Zuma's upbeat address

By Drum Digital
14 February 2014

President Jacob Zuma on Thursday tempered warnings on the economy with reflections on the gains of a 20-year democracy in an upbeat State of the Nation address, ahead of the 7 May general elections.

Zuma veered off his scripted address to warn that the strife besetting the mining industry should not be allowed to destroy the country's biggest foreign exchange earner.

"In no way can we have conflict that destroys the economy," he told MPs during a joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

Zuma said while mine owners sought to keep their mines running, unions, representing workers, sought to ensure good working conditions, decent wages and secure jobs for their members.

Zuma began his address by paying tribute to former president Nelson Mandela whose death on the eve of two decades of political freedom, he said, had caused the nation and many outside its borders untold pain.

"We have a duty to take his legacy forward," he added, before making a rallying cry for different sectors of society to work together to overcome unemployment, poverty, and inequality.

The president acknowledged it was an uphill battle, saying pressure on the rand, which had seen it weaken by 17.6% against the dollar, would make government's infrastructure programme more expensive.

However, exporters, particularly in manufacturing, should take advantage of the weaker rand and the stronger global recovery.

"While we have these difficulties, we know that we can cope with this period of turbulence. We have done so before in the past five years. We will, in fact, emerge stronger if we do the right things."

Zuma enumerated the achievements of two decades of majority rule, ranging from better social services to economic stability and the recent record figure of 15 million people in jobs for the first time.

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