13 February 2015
President Jacob Zuma delivered the State Of the Nation Address on Thursday night, declaring that, while there were challenges, South Africa was on solid footing.
He delivered the address during the joint sitting of parliament and listed not only the good progress South Africa has made in the past few years of his presidency, but also outlined government’s plans to keep the country moving in the right direction.
The speech, which came as South Africa enters the third decade of freedom and in an era of the National Development Plan (NDP), addressed a wide range of issues, including the economy, energy constraints and job creation.
The address came amid growing concerns over Eskom’s challenges to keep up with the demand for energy and against a backdrop of sluggish economic growth and high levels of unemployment.
Zuma reminded the House that this week the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised down the GDP growth forecasts for global economic growth in 2015 to 3.5%.
Slow global growth, as well as domestic constraints in energy, skills, transport and logistics, among others, meant the government’s ambition of achieving a growth target of 5% by 2019 was at risk.
But in his speech, Zuma listed numerous actions the government was embarking on to address some of the challenges – including announcing a nine point plan to ignite growth and create jobs.
The plan, Zuma said, will include:
- Resolving the energy challenge.
- Revitalizing agriculture and the agro-processing value chain.
- Advancing beneficiation or adding value to our mineral wealth.
- More effective implementation of a higher impact Industrial Policy Action Plan.
- Encouraging private sector investment.
- Moderating workplace conflict.
- Unlocking the potential of SMMEs, cooperatives, township and rural enterprises.
- State reform and boosting the role of state owned companies, ICT infrastructure or broadband roll out, water, sanitation and transport infrastructure as well as well as Operation Phakisa aimed growing the ocean economy and other sectors.
Zuma said he was confident the plan would help the economy which he said “needs a major push forward.”
‘Overcoming the challenge’
Moving to energy, he said government was doing everything it can to assist Eskom keep the lights on and acknowledged that the current energy constraints were an impediment to economic growth and a major inconvenience to everyone in the country.
“Overcoming the challenge is uppermost in our programme. We are doing everything we can to resolve the energy challenge,” he said.
“We have developed a plan which involves both short, medium term and long term responses. The short and medium term plan involves improved maintenance of Eskom power stations, enhancing the electricity generation capacity and managing the electricity demand.”
While the president focused the bulk of his speech on energy, he did dedicate time to highlight some of the infrastructure programmes that the government has been embarking on to stimulate economic growth.
He said the National Infrastructure Development programme continues to be a key job driver and catalyst for economic growth.
In 2012, Zuma announced that South Africa would spend R4-trillion on infrastructure over 15 years, as part of a broad plan to boost economic development and growth. The spending would focus on building rail, road, and economic links in five regions in the country and building new universities and refurbishing hospitals.
He highlighted, among others, several infrastructure projects that he said would unlock the economic potential of various sectors, including oceans, mining and agriculture.
Operation Phakisa, a results-driven approach, introduced last year, would aim at unlocking opportunities in the shipping, fisheries, aquaculture, mining, oil and gas, bio- technology and tourism sectors.
“We have committed 9.2 billion rand investment in gas and oil exploration in the port of Saldanha as part of the Operation Phakisa initiative. Operation Phakisa on Scaling Up the Ideal Clinic Initiative is aimed at promoting efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism in clinics,” said Zuma.
He several water infrastructure projects have been delivered and these will provide water for industrial and household – and most of these are in the implementation or planning phases around the country.
Major projects include Umzimvubu Water project in the Eastern Cape, Jozini Dam in Umkhanyakude in KwaZulu-Natal and projects in Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga and phase one of the Mokolo Crocodile Water Augmentation in Limpopo.
Progress was being made to improve the water supply to areas that had been affected by shortages, such as Makana District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality in North West and Giyani in Limpopo where we celebrated the delivery of water to 55 villages in October last year.
Zuma further noted that the infrastructure programme continues to expand transport networks and to improve roads which augurs well for economic growth.
“The Department of Transport will spend about nine billion rand on the Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant or the Sihamba Sonke Programme and 11 billion rand on upgrading and maintaining roads which are not tolled.
“Over R6-billion will be spent in 13 cities on planning, building and operating integrated public transport networks during this financial year. We will also continue to improve the infrastructure in schools and higher education institutions to create a conducive environment for learning and teaching.”
Through the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative which is part of the national infrastructure plan, 92 new schools have been completed to date and 108 are under construction.
About 342 schools have received water for the first time.
Fight against corruption
On the subject of corruption, the president highlighted some of the steps that were being taken to fight corruption.
He said government has in place seven anti-corruption institutions and 17 pieces of legislation that are intended to combat corruption.
“This demonstrates a concerted effort by government to break the back of this scourge in the country.”
In the 2013/14 financial year, 52 persons were convicted in cases involving more than R5 million.
Thirty one public servants were convicted in the first quarter of 2014/15 and freezing orders to the value of R430-million were obtained.
“To prevent corruption and promote ethical governance, in December I signed into law the Public Administration and Management Act which amongst others prohibits public servants from doing business with the State,” said Zuma.
As in previous years, the speech listed suggestions and inputs from SA citizens who highlighted particular issues ranging from crime, access to education, water, electricity and support for small business.
Those who wrote to the president did so via social networking platforms and thousands of suggestions and inputs were received.