State of the Nation: all eyes on Zuma

13 February 2014

All eyes will be on President Jacob Zuma on Thursday night as he delivers the sixth and final State of the Nation address of the current administration. The speech will be delivered to a joint sitting of Parliament in Cape Town at 7pm, and broadcast live on national radio and television.

SAnews features editor Chris Bathembu takes a glance at the highlights of Zuma’s previous five addresses.

2009

It was a cold winter afternoon on 3 June 2009 when Zuma delivered his first State of the Nation speech following the elections of that year. The world economy was reeling from the effects of the recession. More than 900 000 South Africans had lost their jobs between 2008 and 2009, while some companies continued to cut staff due to rising costs of oil and energy.

It was not going to be an easy speech for Zuma. Some cringed when he announced that between June and December 2009, the economy would have created about 500 000 job opportunities. The key element to the jobs drive would be the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), which had achieved an initial target of one-million jobs by 2009.

Zuma also knew that something needed to be done fast to cushion the poor from the aftermath of the most devastating economic crisis since the great depression. He announced the introduction of the training layoff scheme. Though it was met with opposition from Cosatu and the National Youth Development Agency, the plan would help to protect workers who would ordinarily have faced retrenchment. Companies in distress would also be assisted to train inexperienced workers. In the end, these workers would, instead of being retrenched, be kept in employment for a period of time and re-skilled.

Zuma also announced that a scaled-up Industrial Policy Action Plan would be developed. The lead sectors in this were to be the automotive, chemicals, metal fabrication, tourism, clothing and textiles, and forestry sectors.

This paved the way for the development of the New Growth Path (NGP) a year later. The NGP identified five key priorities, namely education, health, the fight against crime, creating decent work, and rural development and land reform, which would form the focal point for the rest of the five-year term of the current administration.

Zuma ended that speech by saying: “Since the implementation of our programme will take place in the face of the economic downturn, we will have to act prudently. No wastage, no rollovers of funds – every cent must be spent wisely and fruitfully. We must cut our cloth according to our size.”

2010

It was 11 February, and this speech was to be delivered in the evening and broadcast on national television, to allow working people to follow it from home. There was much hype around it, as the date coincided with the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990.

As expected, Zuma began his address by reminding South Africans of Mandela’s release, a watershed moment in the country’s history. Then it was down to the business of the day.

Zuma reminded the nation that the global economic crisis had cost the economy about 900 000 jobs. He announced that to provide a safety cushion for the poor, the government would extend its child support grant to children over 14 years of age, and over the following three years to children aged 15 to 18 years.

More than 480 000 public works job opportunities had been created, he said, which was 97% of the target set the previous year. The jobs were in construction, home and community-based care, and environmental projects.

Zuma’s major announcement for 2010 was the R846-billion he said the government would spend on public infrastructure. The New Growth Path, he added, had been adopted as the official framework for economic policy and the driver of the country’s jobs strategy.

Zuma also announced that all grade 3, 6 and 9 pupils would henceforth write literacy and numeracy tests that were independently moderated. The government had set a target of increasing the number of matric students who were eligible for university admission to 175 000 a year by 2014.

Zuma wrapped up that speech by saying: “Inspired by our icon Madiba, it is my honour to dedicate this 2010 State of the Nation address to all our heroes and heroines, sung and unsung, known and unknown. Let us work together to make this year of action a successful one for our country.”

2011

This speech, delivered on 10 February, was all about jobs. Zuma announced the establishment of a Jobs Fund to the tune of R9-billion over three years to finance new job-creation initiatives. The Industrial Development Corporation had set aside R10-billion over five years for investment in economic activities with high job potential. Up to R20-billion was to go towards tax allowances or tax breaks to promote investments, expansions and upgrades in the manufacturing sector.

Zuma also announced that South Africa had joined the Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRIC) grouping of influential emerging economies.

He noted that more than 400 000 additional people had been connected to the country’s water supply the previous year, while about 81% of the country was now electrified, compared to 63% in the year 2000.

About R44-million had been recovered from public servants illegally benefiting from housing subsidies. Just over 5-million HIV tests have been conducted since the launch of the testing campaign the previous April.

Zuma concluded that speech by saying: “We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.”

2012

This speech, delivered on 9 February, focused on several key things that government would have to do to grow the economy, introducing the National Development Plan (NDP) as key to the elimination of poverty and inequality over the next two decades.

Zuma used this speech to report back on a number of issues. The Jobs Fund, which was announced in 2011, had begun operating and 2 500 applications had been received in the first round. Project allocations of over R1-billion had been committed. In addition, seven projects with an investment value of R8.4-billion had been approved for the R20-billion tax incentive announced in 2011.

Transnet would invest R300-billion over seven years in capital projects. Of this amount, R200-billion had been allocated to rail projects and the balance to projects in the ports.

Zuma said the state would develop a major new south-eastern node to improve the industrial and agricultural development and export capacity of the Eastern Cape and expand the province’s linkages with the Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. In the former Transkei, part of the Eastern Cape, a dam would be built using the Umzimvubu River as the source in order to expand agricultural production.

More than 220 000 solar geysers had installed in homes nationwide. The target was one-million solar geysers by 2014-2015.

Zuma wrapped up that speech with these words: “I would like to appeal to all our people to join hands as they always do, as we deal decisively with the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality. Nobody will do this for us, it is in our hands. And we are all equal to the task.”

2013

Zuma began this speech by referring to the crisis in the Eurozone, which is South Africa’s major trading partner, accounting for around 21 percent of the country’s exports.

He also spoke at length about the National Development Plan (NDP), which outlines interventions to put the economy on a better footing. The speech set the target for job creation at 11-million by 2030 – while noting that the economy needed to grow threefold to create the desired jobs. Zuma said that the government would have spent about R860-billion rand on infrastructure since 2009. Various projects were being implemented around the country.

The Judicial Commission of Inquiry, led by Judge Ian Farlam, had been appointed to probe the tragedy in Marikana, where more than 44 people were killed during a strike by miners.

Investments amounting to R400-million in green economy projects had been approved for municipalities, other organs of state, community organisations and the private sector across all provinces.

The Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units had secured over 363 life sentences, with a conviction rate of 73%, for crimes against women above 18 years old and 70% for crimes against children under 18 years of age.

Zuma ended the speech by saying: “As South Africans, we should continue to have one primary goal – to make our country a truly great and prosperous nation.”

Source: SAnews.gov.za