Promises, promises – were the boxes ticked?

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gordhan oct 24 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will make his annual budget speech to parliament this week. File photo: Courtney Africa

Part of the art of the State of the Nation address is for the president to serve up a healthy diet of “sitters” for his cabinet to club out of the park – making the whole team look good when the time comes to report back on progress the following year.

Especially in the year before elections, it is wise to avoid extravagant promises that are unlikely to be met.

On this score, Zuma did a credible job last year.

Target set in State of the Nation address: Gross domestic product (GDP) growth expected to average 2.5 percent for last year.

Status – not achieved:

Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus, in the latest statement of the Monetary Policy Committee, estimated growth for last year at about 1.9 percent.

IOL Mxolisi Nxasana In August, Zuma announced the appointment of Mxolisi Nxasana to head the National Prosecuting Authority. GCIS

Target: Construction of the Majuba Rail coal line in Mpumalanga to begin soon.

Status – achieved:

Eskom has reported that the first coal-loaded train is scheduled to begin operating on the R5.2 billion, 68km railway corridor being built to link the coal mines of Mpumalanga with the Majuba power station in 2016. The main civil construction and earthworks were expected to be completed by the end of last October.

Target: Preparatory work on the Umzimvubu Dam in the Eastern Cape, a project in the pipeline for six years, had begun, Zuma said, and construction was to begin this year.

Status – achieved

An update from the Department of Water Affairs said it expected water delivery by early 2018 from this project. Detailed feasibility investigations continued after the preliminary phase was completed in May last year.

Target: Government departments were to pay small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) within 30 days and accounting officers who failed to do so should face consequences.

Status: not achieved

According to a report from the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, which assessed the management performance of government departments in the previous year, 56 percent of departments met the legal/regulatory requirements for payment of suppliers within 30 days. The national treasury’s local government revenue and expenditure report for the third quarter of last year showed that fewer municipalities paid on time compared with a year before.

Target: Zuma said he had asked constituencies at Nedlac to discuss youth employment incentives. Discussions had been concluded and agreement reached on key principles. Parties would sign an accord later the same month.

Status – achieved

The Youth Employment Accord was signed two months later and an Employment Tax Incentive Bill, essentially the long-awaited youth wage subsidy, was signed into law on December 18. However, the incentive is being challenged by Nedlac.

Target: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan would be commissioning a study of tax policies to ensure there was an appropriate revenue base to support public spending. It would evaluate the mining royalties regime with regard to the ability to serve the people.

Status – achieved

Gordhan announced the members of the tax review committee, to be chaired by Judge Dennis Davis, and the committee’s terms of reference, in July.

Target: Zuma said he would establish a presidential remuneration commission to investigate the appropriateness of remuneration and conditions of service provided by the state. The first priority would be the teaching profession, and Zuma indicated that in return the government would be expecting improved “attitudes, posture and outcomes”.

Status – achieved

After some delay in the face of resistance from teachers’ union Sadtu, the commission’s terms of reference were gazetted in August. It is headed by retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo. It was expected to complete its work in eight months.

Target: Zuma said the National Health Insurance fund would be established this year. From April last year, 600 private practitioners would be contracted to provide medical services at 533 clinics in the 10 pilot districts.

Status – partially achieved.

The Health Department’s annual report showed it was struggling to spend the conditional grant for the pilot NHI project, having disbursed just 52 percent of the R150m. The department attributed this to delays in approving business plans, slow procurement of goods and services, and delays in appointing key staff. Health ministry spokesman Joe Maila said an audit of facilities and equipment had been completed and the department now knew “exactly where we’re at”.

Target: Zuma said the government would pursue the “just and equitable” compensation principle instead of the willing buyer, willing seller model for land reform

Status – partially achieved

A draft Expropriation Bill was released for public comment in March and is to be approved by the cabinet again before it will be formally introduced in Parliament.

Target: Zuma promised amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994 to provide for the reopening of claims by people who missed the deadline of December 31, 1998. The government would also explore exceptions to the June 1913 cut-off date for land claims to accommodate descendants of the Khoi and San, who lost their land before then.

Status – partially achieved

Public hearings on the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill have been concluded and the bill has been prioritised by the ANC in Parliament among the legislation to be passed before the end of this term. The office of ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said the bill sought to extend the date for lodging a claim for restitution to December 31, 2018. However, challenges in the application of restitution programmes had resulted in the exclusion of certain categories of claimants, such as those who could not lodge claims by the 1998 cut-off and those whose land was dispossessed before 1913.

Target: Zuma said the Bill on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment had been approved by the cabinet for public comment.

Status – achieved

The bill was tabled in November last year and Parliament has been holding public hearings.

Target: To boost the fight against corruption, Zuma promised to fill vacant posts in the upper echelons of the criminal justice system.

Status – achieved

In August, Zuma announced the appointment of Mxolisi Nxasana to head the National Prosecuting Authority and Vas Soni to head the Special Investigating Unit.

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