Zuma lays out plans in ‘muted’ speech

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Reuters

President Jacob Zuma. File picture: Sumaya Hisham

Cape Town -

The ruling party had high praise for President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address on Tuesday, but opposition leaders described it as “mediocre” and “muted”.

“What was important about the speech is that it is converting the manifesto of the ANC into a programme of action,” ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told reporters outside the National Assembly.

He described it as an “action-oriented” speech.

“It is giving you step-by-step of what should be done, starting with the economy.”

Mantashe said Zuma's intention to focus on the strife-ridden mining industry was key to achieving five-percent economic growth by 2019.

“The question of conditions in which our miners stay, the question of dealing with strikes that are too long - steps must be taken to ensure that after an X number of days, there must be a particular intervention,” Mantashe said.

He hinted that legislative changes were required.

“There would be nothing wrong with allowing a strike to go for two weeks and after two weeks you say there must be mediation... there must be arbitration to settle this strike so that a strike cannot be used to break the economy down and actually deepen the crisis,” Mantashe said.

Speaking on Zuma's health, which saw the president booked off for over a week, Mantashe said Zuma was recovering well.

“He is doing well. I saw him in the morning. I saw him in the evening. He is doing much better.”

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said while Zuma spoke to the problems facing the economy, it was a case of “too little, too late”.

“I'm concerned that President Zuma is living in one space while South Africans are living in very, very difficult space,” Maimane said.

“The president had the opportunity to bring strong ideas, some very bold steps, and I didn't see that forthcoming.”

The third-largest party in Parliament, the Economic Freedom Fighters, was equally critical of Zuma.

EFF leader Julius Malema went as far as saying ANC members were clapping for mediocrity.

“There is nothing exciting except a blowing of hot air and a repetition of the things that we have heard before,” Malema said.

“Sometimes Zuma is playing the gallery and not really meaning what he is saying.”

During his address, Zuma spoke about improving the housing and living conditions of miners, but Malema said that was already in the mining charter. Malema said Zuma was “plagiarising” the mining charter.

The mining industry, including the government, had failed the mining charter, he said.

National Freedom Party leader Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, who is also deputy science and technology minister, welcomed Zuma's focus on municipalities.

“We appreciate that municipalities will be getting assistance from government. We need competent people... a lot of the people come with no experience.”

KaMagwaza-Msibi was happy Zuma spoke about water and sanitation, because this was one of the main reasons for protests.

Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said Zuma's speech left him pessimistic.

“He was honest enough to say that the only thing that can really create jobs is economic growth and on this issue we are nowhere near our targets,” Buthelezi said.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder described Zuma's speech as “muted”.

“I think the gas is out of the bottle of the Zuma administration,” Mulder said.

“On the economy, we need something original and there was nothing original, just a rehash of all the old things.”

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi wanted to hear more about how the country's economy would be transformed to achieve five-percent growth.

“From a Cosatu perspective, we can never achieve the fundamental change we need in South Africa until we recognise that most of our wounds come from the fact that we inherited a growth path from the apartheid era,” he said.

“We need to change that structure, we need to move away from an economy which is dominated by mining, finance and heavy chemicals.”

More focus needed to be put on industrialisation.

He said Zuma did not go “far enough” in his address on industrialisation. Macro-economic policies needed to be changed, he said. - Sapa


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