Deputy Minister Bheki Cele and his wife Thandeka Cele arriving at the red carpet during the State of the Nation Address in Parliament, Cape Town .GCIS Kopano Tlape 17/06/2014.GCIS

Cape Town - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has come out to bat for his boss, Jacob Zuma, saying that he believes South Africa’s economy will reach 5% growth by 2019.

Zuma, who delivered his State of the Nation Address on Tuesday night, has been criticised by opposition parties and civil society for providing no new plans to grow the economy and repeating old promises.

However, Ramaphosa said on Wednesday morning that all the plans highlighted in Zuma’s speech would serve the purpose of creating jobs and expanding the economy.

“We believe a combination of these things are sufficient to lead to a 5% growth rate,” he told a post-SONA breakfast briefing in Cape Town.

The president was also criticised for lack of implementation, but Ramaphosa said this was about to change.

Zuma and Ramaphosa would be meeting ministers and deputy ministers to discuss detailed implementation for each department. And they would all have to sign performance agreements.

“This time round the president is deadly serious to see there is performance from the men and women he appointed as his cabinet,” the deputy president said.

The government has highlighted constraints in the energy sector and infrastructure, as well as a shortage of skills and a low investment environment as reasons for poor economic growth.

Ramaphosa reiterated that the National Development Plan (NDP), which he will be key in implementing over the next five years, was South Africa’s answer to expanding the economy.

“It is so overarching, it addresses many aspects of South Africa’s life,” he said.

Zuma was also criticised for not saying much about the NDP nor recent downgrades of the economy by international rating agencies. However, Ramaphosa spoke about both as well as the platinum strike, saying the country was deeply concerned about growth.

“We are not sitting on our laurels or hiding our heads in the sand like ostriches,” he said.

Ramaphosa also said Zuma would meet the private sector soon to address the so-called trust deficit it had concerning investing in the economy.

The private sector creates up to 70% of the jobs in South Africa. But government wants it too do more to open up the job market for youngsters, including offering more internships and bursaries.

“We have to give them the tools to make sure they get these skills so that they contribute to the economy,” Ramaphosa said.

He emphasised that the next five years would be a period of great economic growth, as South Africans deserved good performance and good delivery.

The Star