Citizens must play part in moving SA forward

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

By Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe

This year’s State of the Nation Address will go down in history as one of the most highly anticipated. The anticipation reminded me of the events that took place 25 years ago when our founding father, former President Nelson Mandela was released from prison and made his way to the City Hall in Cape Town to deliver his iconic speech from the balcony of the building.

South Africans wanted to know what he would say, specifically how he would lift the spirit of a people who had been oppressed for many years. This was also true with President Jacob Zuma’s speech two weeks ago. South Africans looked up to him to lift their spirits with hope by giving direction in terms of how his administration would deal with the socio-economic challenges facing the country. More importantly how he would build on the many achievements that we have recorded over the past twenty one years of our democracy.

Regrettably, others tried to divert attention away from the pressing issues of the nation by disrupting the State of the Nation Address.  It is important that all of us set time aside to engage with the content of the President’s speech.

It covers a range of significant policy and programmatic issues that require the support and active participation of all South Africans so that we are able to move towards a better life for all.  

We have made progress in growing the economy and the creation of much needed jobs. To support this, the President cited the findings of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the last quarter of 2014, which showed “there are now 15.3 million people who are employed in South Africa” and that “jobs grew by two hundred and three thousand (203 000)”.

Furthermore, he announced that government was poised to meet the annual target of a million work opportunities. He said 850 000 work opportunities had been created thus far, with environmental programmes such as Working on Waste, Working for Wetlands, Working for Water and Working on Fire having created more than 30 000 work opportunities and aiming to create more than 60 000 during the next financial year.

The President also provided details on a nine point economic intervention plan his administration was embarking on to ignite economic growth and create jobs. These include among others resolving our energy challenges; revitalising the agricultural sector; unlocking the potential of SMMEs, cooperatives, township and rural enterprises and Operation Phakisa aimed at growing the ocean economy and other sectors.

On youth employment, he highlighted that investments were paying off. “The Employment Tax Incentive which was introduced last year directed mainly at the youth is progressing very well. Two billion rand has been claimed to date by some twenty nine thousand employers, who have claimed for at least two hundred and seventy thousand young people”, he said. 

President Zuma gave a frank assessment on whether an economic growth target of 5 per cent by 2019 would be met: “Our ambition of achieving a growth target of 5 per cent by 2019 is at risk, because of the slow global growth as well as domestic constraints in energy, skills, transport and logistics amongst others.”

In addition, he provided clarity on the challenges facing the country. He acknowledged that the energy crisis has an impact on economic growth and inconveniences all South Africans.

He elaborated on the range of plans to resolve our energy challenges, saying the short-and medium-term plan involves improved maintenance of Eskom power stations, enhancing the electricity generation capacity and managing the electricity demand. The long term plan involves finalising our long term energy security master plan.

Touching on Eskom’s financial situation, the President made the following point that, as a priority, government would stabilise Eskom’s finances to enable the utility to manage the current period and honour its commitment to give Eskom around R23 billion in the next fiscal year.

This underscored the priority government attaches to addressing the country’s immediate and longer term energy requirements, and the fact that it is steadfast in its resolve to ensure that South Africans and the business community are able to go about their daily tasks without any hindrance, or concern about the potential impact of power outages.

The overall picture that emerged during the 2015 State of the Nation Address is that a lot has so far been achieved by this administration, and that it will not shy away from facing challenges head on. However, as active citizens we need to play our part and assist government to move our country forward.