President Jacob Zuma. File photo: AFP

President Jacob Zuma - dubbed “Mr Action” by his ANC deputy Cyril Ramaphosa - has his work cut out this year in both party and government.

This is the last year before elections for the ANC to showcase delivery on its five priorities – jobs, education, health, crime and corruption, and land and rural reform.

But the president’s government was sucker-punched when Angloplat announced 14 000 retrenchments just days after Zuma called for a social compact, particularly in mining, where “the extraction of minerals should not disadvantage workers, local communities or the environment”, but “create safe and decent jobs”.

The ANC national executive committee (NEC) lekgotla at the end of the month is to put the finishing touches to a political programme expected to pull together concrete deliverables, while also pointing to the 2014 election campaign.

Mobilisation for this will fall to NEC member and Gauteng premier Nomvula “Mama Action” Mokonyane, after Zuma sets the tone in his state-of-the-nation address on Valentine’s Day.

A delivery jamboree this year would make the 2014 national election campaign so much easier for the ANC, which despite being by far the biggest party has expressed concern over its stagnant electoral performance in all provinces but KwaZulu-Natal.

So the pressure is on.

Having publicly promised the implementation of legislative changes to South Africa’s land restitution and ownership regime before the year is out, Zuma must now ensure ANC MPs in Parliament pick up the pace to make it happen in the centenary year of the 1913 Natives Land Act.

If legislative changes to replace the willing seller, willing buyer approach with the just and equitable principle, and reopen the process for land claims stemming from before the 1913 cut-off date are not submitted by mid-year, it is unlikely they will be finalised before the house rises at the end of the year.

Resuscitating the Expropriation Bill, first published in 2007 for public comment, could be a shortcut.

Pressure to deliver and implement is not only on the emotive and sensitive land matter, but also in the R800 billion infrastructure programme.

With all pupils back in class this week, several storm-damaged schools were found to have been left unrepaired in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, where the eradication of almost 500 mud schools remains elusive despite such talk since early 2011.

Further action is under way to set right ANC structures in at least two provinces – Limpopo and the North West– and in relations with the ANC Youth League to ensure it acts as the champion of youth issues, not as a political kingmaker in the ruling party.

Clearly this will not be the year to rest on the laurels of Mangaung, where Zuma and his team were returned in a show of overwhelming support. However, it remains to be seen if Mr Action lives up to the spin.

Saturday Star