Siyabonga Mkhwanazi and ANA
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma, in his State of the Nation address (Sona) on Thursday, indicated strongly Parliament may finally move from Cape Town to Pretoria.
Zuma said it would reduce the administrative costs of government.
‘‘A big expenditure item that we would like to persuade Parliament to consider is the maintenance of two capitals, Pretoria as the administrative one and Cape Town as the legislative capital. We believe that the matter requires the attention of Parliament soon,” Zuma said.
‘‘We all have a lot to do to turn the economy around and to cut wastage. We will go through a difficult period for a while, but when the economy recovers, we will be proud of ourselves for having done the right thing.
“The executive has looked into this matter and the cost is too big… because it means, particularly the executive, we must have two houses – one in Pretoria, one in Cape Town. We must have two cars, one in Pretoria, one in Cape Town.”
Zuma bemoaned the fact that the government had to fork out money for the travelling costs of its officials between the two cities, and often had to put them up in hotels. “This is a matter to be considered on an urgent basis,” he added.
In 2013, then finance minister Pravin Gordhan said the cost of moving officials between the two cities was concerning, but the minister in the Presidency at the time, the late Collins Chabane, suggested his colleague’s concerns should not be seen as a firm commitment to move the national legislature.
The government had undertaken to spend public money wisely and cut wasteful expenditure without compromising the provision of services to people, Zuma said.
Excessive and wasteful expenditure had been reduced, but there was still more to be done to cut wastage.
overseas trips would be curtailed and those requesting permission would have to motivate strongly and prove the benefit to the country.
The sizes of delegations would be greatly reduced and standardised, and further restrictions on conferences, catering, entertainment and social functions would be instituted, Zuma said.
Another measure was that government departments’ Budget vote dinners for stakeholders would no longer take place, he said, and called on all premiers to help eliminate wasteful expenditure.
Zuma has sent a strong message to business that South Africa is committed to a sustainable fiscal path and will cut wastage in government.
In a bid to fix ailing state-owned entities (SOEs), Zuma appointed his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, to oversee the restructuring of SOEs.
Zuma told Parliament some of the non-performing SOEs would go.
Ramaphosa would ensure the implementation of the Presidential Review Commission’s recommendations that called for the harmonisation of SOEs.
The Shareholder Management Bill has been tabled in Parliament, which would allow the minister of Public Enterprises to put all SOEs under one roof with the same governance system.
Zuma admitted that the economy was under pressure and warned that a downgrade would send the country into a tailspin. He said the current situation required an effective turnaround plan.
To get things right, certain things need to be done, including attracting investment. In his meeting with chief executives of top companies in Cape Town this week, they agreed to create an investment climate. The government must also speak with one voice with business, he said.
There was a global slowdown in the economy, with South Africa’s partners in Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) going through a difficult economic situation, he said.
South Africa would have to remove domestic constraints to propel growth.
He admitted that South Africa would not achieve its target of growing the economy by 5 percent in 2019.
Zuma reiterated his earlier message regarding business, that “they need to speak the same language as government”.
Land reform also remained an important part of the government’s programme.
Zuma committed to the government’s plan to cap land ownership by foreigners. He said the Land Holdings Bill was on its way to Parliament to deal with this matter.