President Jacob Zuma (centre rear) and other dignitaries observe a guard of honour at the opening of Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday.

Johannesburg - The honesty President Jacob Zuma displayed about South Africa's problems in his State of the Nation address was encouraging, Fedusa said on Thursday evening.

“We are positive about the president's honest reflection on the challenges faced by our beautiful country,” Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) president Koos Bezuidenhout said in a statement.

He said it was good that problems which needed to be fixed could be admitted to “even at a ceremonial level”.

“The president and his team did a good job at defining the problem, showing possible solutions, and reporting on progress made at various levels,” he said.

Bezuidenhout praised Zuma for encouraging adult education.

“However, we do not agree with the honourable president about the declaration of an essential service of the education sector.”

Fedusa considered this a “shot-gun approach”, and believed the problem lay in the state's performance management systems.

“We agree that the only sustainable approach could be a collaborative approach Ä between teachers, parents and learners Ä to solve these problems.”

On the health front, Fedusa did not share Zuma's enthusiasm about South Africa's average life expectancy.

Zuma said medical studies indicated that the average life expectancy was 60 years in 2011, up from 56 years in 2009.

“We think these figures are rather uninspiring,” said Bezuidenhout.

“However, we welcome the progress in testing the National Health Insurance proposals.”

He welcomed the respect for the Constitution and the rule of law displayed in Zuma's references to the matter of land reform.

“We agree that redistribution must be accelerated, but experience has taught us that it must be circumspect, and that all boxes must be crossed.”

While Fedusa welcomed the establishment of the National Council on Gender-Based Violence, in August, it remained to be seen whether it had been allocated sufficient budget.

“Only with a dedicated budget and adequate human resources can such a council promise any sort of respite from the rape and violence that plagues our country.”

Bezuidenhout described Fedusa's overall impression of the State of the Nation speech as “overly positive”.

“We believe that there is sufficient goodwill in government to take hands with us to address the challenges we face,” he said. - Sapa