Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma has blamed the global economic meltdown for his failure, so far, to fulfil his promise to create 500 000 jobs every year for the next 10 years.
“To reach the target of five million jobs over 10 years, we would have needed to create half a million jobs every year between 2010 and 2020. This has not happened thus far as the world economy has not recovered from the global financial crisis,” Zuma said on Wednesday.
He was replying to a question from the DA’s MJR de Villiers in Parliament.
Zuma had made his job-creation promise during his 2009 State of the Nation address.
“We must act now to minimise the impact of this downturn on those most vulnerable… Between now and December 2009, we plan to create about 500 000 job opportunities,” he said at the time, also promising that his government would create a further four million jobs by 2014.
On Wednesday, the president set new job-creation targets with an extended deadline.
“The New Growth Path, which the government adopted in October 2010, set a target of five million new jobs by 2020.
“The National Development Plan takes this target over a longer period by calling for the creation of 11 million new jobs by 2030.”
Last month, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko stopped short of calling Zuma’s promise a pipe dream, saying the economic outlook looked bleak.
“South Africa’s economic growth prospects now fall in the bottom three in Africa, ahead of only Swaziland and Equatorial Guinea,” Mazibuko said, referring to the African Economic Outlook 2013 report.
The report forecast South Africa’s gross domestic product would grow 2.8 percent.
“Lower growth means the economy cannot create the millions of jobs needed to eliminate poverty and unemployment. Since President Zuma took office in 2009, 1.45 million more South Africans have joined the unemployed,” Mazibuko said.
On Wednesday, Zuma sought to absolve his government from blame, saying his statements had not meant that his job-creation targets were necessarily restricted to government-initiated projects.
“Let me clarify… that the targets set… do not reflect government creating jobs within the public service, but total jobs that could be created in the economy, including jobs in the private sector,” he said.
The president said he had set his targets merely as a guideline for job-creation objectives.
These targets had been affected by “tough economic conditions” that were “outside the control of government”.
Zuma said that the signs of recovery in the US and for South Africa’s other trading partners gave him hope, however.
He added that employment had increased by 750 000 since the adoption of the New Growth Path.
Just under half of these jobs, he said, had been generated in the public service, especially among the ranks of health workers, teachers and the police.
Zuma said employment in the core productive sectors of mining, agriculture and manufacturing had also risen by more than a million.
In reply to another question, the president said the Department of Human Settlements had set aside R1.1 billion to transform living and working conditions of mineworkers.
He said mining companies were converting single-sex hostels to family units. The government had appointed a task team to ensure:
* Decent human settlements in mining towns for workers.
* Improved conditions in mining communities.
* Improved labour relations.