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Posted on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 15:33

South Africa: Zuma delivers State of the Nation address

By Crystal Oderson in Cape Town

South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday made his first public appearance since falling ill earlier this month to deliver his seventh State of the Nation address in Parliament.

 

Zuma's address, which came amid a crippling mining strike, has been criticised by opposition members as uninspiring.

it is critical for social partners to meet and deliberate on the violent nature and duration of the strikes

On Tuesday evening, it was Zuma's first time in the public eye in over a week after the presidency and his party, the African National Congress, said he was fatigued and had to rest.

Zuma said the country needed to "radically" transform the economy to create the much-needed jobs and growth the country needs.

"The economy takes center stage in this programme. It remains our strong belief that the most effective weapon in the campaign against poverty, is the creation of decent work, and that creating work requires faster economic growth," he said.

Zuma also focused on getting the mining sector to play a bigger role in the economy.

A crippling five month platinum strike has rattled government and investors.

An agreement with the warring parties - the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and platinum producers – has been announced but no date was set for the 70 000 workforce to return to the mines.

In its latest quarterly assessment on the economy, South Africa's central bank on Wednesday revealed that the country's "annualised growth in real gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2014 could have been closer to 1.6 percent had industrial action not taken place, in contrast to the contraction of 0.6 percent which materialized".

"Given the impact of the untenable labour relations environment on the economy, it is critical for social partners to meet and deliberate on the violent nature and duration of the strikes" Zuma said.

He added that the 'social partners will also need to deliberate on wage inequality."

"On our side as government we will during this term investigate the possibility of a national minimum wage as one of the key mechanisms to reduce the income inequality," he said.

Although opposition leaders described it as "mediocre" and "muted", the ruling party had high praise for the address with ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe saying t it was "covering the ANC's election manifesto into a plan of action."

"It is giving you step by step guide as to what should be done especially in the economy to achieve a 5% growth by 2019," he told The Africa Report.

Mantashe said there were also clear steps as to what needs to be done in the energy sector like nuclear and new renewable energy sources.

The Economic Freedom Fighters' Julius Malema told The Africa Report, t the ANC's targets were 'unrealistic' and it was to create an impression about the 2016 local government election.

"When you check most of these things were said before and playing with people's feelings and emotions" Malema insisted, adding that Zuma was playing to the gallery and was 'sounding' nice.

The DA's new parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane said while Zuma spoke to the problems facing the economy it was a case of "too little, too late".

"I'm concerned that President Zuma is living in one space while South Africans are living in very, very difficult space," Maimane said.

"The president had the opportunity to bring strong ideas, some very bold steps, and I didn't see that forthcoming."

Meanwhile, speaking at a business breakfast briefing in Cape Town, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said the government had been told by ratings agencies that its National Development Plan was wonderful, "but we want to see whether you are indeed going to implement it".



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