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Cape Town - The urgent need to revitalise South Africa’s economy was highlighted by President Jacob Zuma in a business-like State of the Nation address in Parliament on Thursday night.
Zuma said the country needed a Herculean effort, with the different sectors pulling together to turn the economy around and create jobs.
Zuma, stricken by flu, outlined the government’s programme of action for the year in terms of its five priorities – education, health, the fight against crime, creating work, and rural development and land reform.
Zuma emphasised the need for the country to take action to eradicate the “scourge” of violence against women, saying this had been brought into sharp focus by the rape and murder of Booysen.
He directed law enforcement agencies to treat such cases with urgency.
He added that all vacant posts in the upper echelons of the criminal justice system would be filled. The government also intended prioritising the investigation and prosecution of cases arising from violent protests.
He also announced:
* A review of the country’s tax policies, including the mining tax regime.
* A review of the remuneration and conditions of service for teachers and other civil servants.
* Plans to address what he termed the “crisis of youth unemployment”.
* That developing black-owned enterprises and black industrialists would be prioritised.
* That law enforcement agencies had been instructed to fast track cases involving violence against women and violent protests.
Zuma emphasised that the National Development Plan (NDP) – government’s agreed vision for the country for the next 20 years – was the “roadmap” to a better South Africa and said the work of departments would have to be aligned with the NDP.
He pointed out that the country was off target in economic growth, which was expected to average 2.5 percent this year, but needed to be in excess of 5 percent to create more jobs, and appealed to the different interest groups to co-operate in pursuit of solutions.
“The target for job creation is set at 11 million by 2030 and the economy needs to grow threefold to create the desired jobs,” Zuma said.
He urged an increase in the number of apprenticeships and learnerships at state-owned companies and appealed to the private sector to absorb 11 000 Further Education and Training graduates awaiting placements
He said the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was planning nine rural youth hubs in each province and added that the expanded public works programme and the community work programme would also serve to absorb youths.
“Working together we will find a solution to youth unemployment.”
Turning to the turbulence in the mining sector, Zuma pointed out that nationalisation was firmly off the table.
He announced that later this year Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan would be commissioning a study of current tax policies to ensure the country had “an appropriate revenue base to support public spending”.
Zuma devoted a sizeable portion of his speech to the importance of improving education.
He said the Department of Basic Education would establish a national task team to strengthen teaching of maths, science and technology and appealed to the private sector to assist in improving results in these subjects.
He said decent salaries and conditions of service were critical and a presidential remuneration commission would be established.
“We want to see an improvement in the quality of learning and teaching and the management of schools. We want to see an improvement in attitudes, posture and outcomes.”
Outlining the extent to which South Africa is winning the war against HIV and Aids, Zuma warned against complacency. He reiterated government’s commitment to setting up a National Health Insurance Fund next year.
Zuma said the land question was a “highly emotive matter” which needed to be resolved “amicably within the framework of the constitution and the law”.
The government would pursue the “just and equitable” principle for compensation, instead of the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle, which forced the state to pay more for land than the actual value. Given the rapid rate of urbanisation, it was urgent that the country developed a national integrated urban development framework to assist municipalities.