Our president and the promises he's made

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REUTERS

President Jacob Zuma. File photo: Reuters

Cape Town - The State of the Nation address sets the official tone for the government’s year ahead. It’s an undertaking to citizens on what the government is to do and an account of what it has done in the past 12 months.

A look at last year’s promises, which in many cases were based on the State of the Nation undertakings of 2011, reveals some progress, but also much that has not been done.

Infrastructure

This featured large last year - the year of infrastructure delivery - as Zuma identified projects, including a Durban-Gauteng rail corridor, an iron-ore rail line between Sishen in the Northern Cape and Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape, a manganese export channel to Ngqura near Nelson Mandela Bay, and linking of the coalfields of Mpumalanga to power stations old and new, including Kusile and Medupi.

Umzimvubu Dam in the Eastern Cape was again identified as key - as it was in 2011. It appears while it was costed at around R470 million last year, construction has yet to start.

Late last year 18 turnkey projects were said to have been financed by the presidential infrastructure co-ordinating commission, driven by state-owned public enterprises like Eskom and Transnet. So work is in progress, and perhaps there will be an announcement on construction time frames tomorrow.

Electricity

Zuma said last year he’d asked Eskom to reduce the price increases over the next few years “in support of economic growth and job creation”.

After several years of tariff hikes averaging 25 percent, Eskom tabled a request for a 16 percent increase for each of the next five years. This sparked an outcry at public hearings by regulator Nersa. Eskom insists the hikes are needed to ensure supply.

Education

The government budgeted R300m for the building of two universities, in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.

Kimberley and Mpumalanga’s Lowveld Agricultural College, near Nelspruit, have been identified as sites for the universities. While the process continues in what appears to have become a R2 billion project, there has yet to be a sod-turning, although opening is envisaged for next year.

Housing

Zuma announced a housing bridging subsidy of R83 000 for those earning between R3 500 and R15 000 a month, or too much for a government subsidy and too little for commercial bank loans.

He had announced in 2010 that there was R1bn in the kitty to promote access to loans, and last year he reported that the National Housing Finance Corporation (NHFC) would manage this funding. The corporation’s website features no details of numbers, only an entry under frequently asked questions: “Any homeseeker from a household with a monthly income between R1 500 and R15 000 can apply for finance from an NHFC accredited lender.”

Legislation

Amendments to the broad-based black economic empowerment regime were promised last year, and an amendment bill hit Parliament last month.

Ditto the Gender Equality Bill, which seeks to hold the private sector, like the public sector, to account on gender equality. Although the government indicated during Women’s Month the bill was at an advanced stage, it has yet to reach Parliament.

An infrastructure development bill, building on the lessons learnt in bringing everyone around the table for the 2010 World Cup, was talked about in 2011, but has yet to be delivered to Parliament.

Other

As promised, the presidential residence in Durban, Kings House, was renamed after former ANC president John Dube. The presidential guest house in Pretoria is now known as Sefako Makgatho House.

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