SA must pull together to grow: Zuma

30 May 2013

It is imperative that the government, business and labour work together to strengthen South Africa’s economic performance and increase the rate of investment if the country is to succeed in reducing poverty, unemployment and inequality, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

Addressing a special media briefing in Pretoria, Zuma noted that South Africa’s economy was among few to recover quickly from the 2008-09 global financial crisis, after gross domestic product (GDP) growth contracted by 1.9 percent in 2009.

However, the domestic recovery had not been as strong as the country needed to address its social challenges. Statistics South Africa’s latest GDP figures, released on Monday, show that the economy grew at a rate of only 0.9 percent in the first quarter of 2013.

“Growth in the remaining three quarters of the year will have to be much higher for us to achieve the projected annual growth of 2.7 percent,” Zuma said. “Without faster growth, we cannot succeed in reducing unemployment, poverty and inequality.”

The government’s long-term development blueprint, the National Development Plan (NDP), calls for annual growth rates of above 3.5 percent to put the economy on the right footing.

‘All South Africans must play their part’

The government would therefore redouble its efforts to support the economy, Zuma said.

“We are implementing our plans and are working harder to boost performance in the six job drivers namely, mining, agriculture, tourism, infrastructure development, the green economy and manufacturing.”

But the business, labour and community sectors would also have to play their part.

“More importantly, we need all South Africans to play their part. We must all promote our country, and promote activities that enhance economic growth, in every possible way.”

It was particularly important that South Africa had a stable and growing mining industry Zuma said, noting that the industry remained the cornerstone of the country’s economy.

Supporting the mining industry

Against a background of global and domestic economic and social pressures, the government had embarked on various initiatives to stabilise and strengthen the embattled mining industry, and to improve living conditions in the country’s mining towns, the President said.

As part of this, various Cabinet ministers had been engaging with business and labour to restore workplace stability following heightened tensions at a number of the country’s mines, while Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had been using every opportunity to reassure investors of the government’s commitment to the sector.

Zuma stressed the fact that South Africa was blessed “with an excellent legal framework governing industrial relations.

“Given the beginning of the collective bargaining season in both mining and other industries, we call on parties to recognise the impact of the industrial relations environment on jobs and development.

“We call for fair and expeditious settlements of wage negotiations that can contribute to the attainment of the country’s job creation and job retention goals.”

‘Help us to promote the country’

At the same time, the President urged South Africans to support the government, business and labour and to “complement our work by promoting the country in every possible way. This will help to boost confidence in our successful young democracy.”

Although the recent mining unrest had attracted the attention of the international media, Zuma said he was encouraged by the positive sentiment shown towards South Africa in recent investor surveys.

Earlier this month, Ernst & Young rated the country the most attractive on the continent for investors in its third Africa Attractiveness Survey, while the European Outsourcing Association chose South Africa as the Offshoring Destination of the Year for 2013.

There had also been an increase in tourist arrivals, the President added. The country’s tourist figures grew by 10.2% for 2012, beating the global average by 6.2 percentage points.

“I think people appreciate that there is a change in South Africa and that it is a place to go. I think we have a good story to tell.”

SAinfo reporter