13 June 2013
The Presidency will be taking a hands-on approach and working closely with its social partners and government departments to boost confidence in South Africa’s economy, President Jacob Zuma told Parliament on Wednesday.
Presenting the Presidency’s budget vote in Cape Town, Zuma stressed that in addressing the country’s labour issues, the government would not be taking sides or favouring any labour union over others in the mining industry.
“Our interest is in finding solutions,” he said.
Zuma said he had recently tasked Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe with leading a ministerial team to help the country’s mining sector to stabilise.
Motlanthe had over the past two weeks been holding discussions with trade unions, labour federations and the Chamber of Mines, and would meet with all stakeholders in the sector on Friday to find a broad consensus to ensure stability.
With the wage bargaining season set to start soon, he urged business and labour to ensure a speedier resolution of wage negotiations, adding that the country’s law enforcement agencies had been instructed not to tolerate crimes committed in the name of labour relations.
National Development Plan
Zuma said the root of the problems in South Africa’s mining sector dated back to apartheid, where cheap labour was provided to mines and farms.
He said the National Development Plan (NDP), approved by the Cabinet last year, would help South Africa address these and other problems, adding: “While there may be differences of opinion on specific details, there is general acceptance of the broad thrust of the National Development Plan.”
The Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and the National Planning Commission secretariat in The Presidency are busy converting the NDP’s proposals into a medium-term strategic framework.
Economic growth, infrastructure
Zuma noted that South Africa’s economy had grown by 83% between 1994 and 2012, with per capita income increasing by 40% from R27 500 a year in 1993 to R38 500 last year.
Over the last 19 years, disposable income had increased by 43%, while employment had grown by 3.5-million jobs and social grants from 2.5-million in 1994 to 16-million to date.
On the government’s infrastructure drive, which aims to boost industrialisation, economic growth and job creation, Zuma said a large part of the infrastructure expenditure of R827-billion over the next three years would be on projects that were already in progress, and for which tenders had already been issued.
However, weaknesses in planning and capacity continued to delay the implementation of some projects – an issue that would be addressed by the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission.
BEE, youth development
Zuma said that while over R600-billion in black economic empowerment (BEE) transactions had been recorded since 1995, direct black ownership on the JSE remained at less than five percent, while the Department of Labour’s annual Employment Equity report indicated that white males still owned and managed the economy.
To address some of these challenges the government was amending the BEE law, he said.
The government was also strengthening its support for youth development, following the signing in April of a Youth Employment Accord.
The accord supports “second chance” matric programmes as well as other interventions at Further Education and Training (FET) college level to improve young people’s skills levels.
New job opportunities would be identified for the youth in areas such as the green economy and infrastructure projects as well as in business process services, while the Expanded Public Works Programme and related public sector job initiatives were now increasingly targeting the youth.