Ministers react to SONA

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cape Town – Some of the Ministers in government's Economic Cluster have said President Jacob Zuma’s frank assessment of the economy and his interventions have signalled decisive leadership.

The Ministers said this when reacting to the President’s State of the Nation Address outside the National Assembly on Thursday night.

In his speech, President Zuma emphasised the importance of business partnerships with government - the recent agreements reached between government and CEOs of top companies during a high-level meeting in Cape Town on Tuesday – saying these partnerships were the key to unlocking the potential of the economy.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who is set to deliver the Budget Speech later this month, said the President had placed a lot of emphasis on government working together with all sectors of the economy.

“The important signal is that over the past few weeks, before Davos and after Davos, we are making every effort to partner with the business sector, to get an understanding with trade unions as well, and basically send a message to all of South Africa we are in this together - it is not just government’s job to save the ratings.

“If you want to improve the investment climate, all of us need to talk positively about South Africa and work as one team. I think the President gave important leadership today,” he said.

The President also announced austerity measures in the public sector and added that there was a need to curb spending in non-essential areas like entertainment.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said: “I think the President painted the picture of the headwinds that we are going to face.  He also said we have to build on the things we can fix and can influence.

“So first of all, I think it was a fairly substantial programme of cuts, frills and wasteful expenditure that was announced that will be elaborated on in the budget.”

The Minister said progress has been made with regards to the 9-point plan which was announced last year.

“And then on the other hand, I think in the 9-point plan, there was progress; progress in some of the value-added activities, progress in the mineral beneficiation … and progress in the agriculture and processing value chain.

“This all has to be built on and we have to take our people along with us and make sure that we prioritise things that will create jobs, things that will support empowerment because empowerment and bringing about a more inclusive economy is the most critical part of the picture as well.

“He covered all the basics that are required and I think it is up to us to implement and it will be elaborated further in the weeks ahead,” the Minister said.

Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said government has for years worked hard to achieve radical economic transformation in a bid to empower the previously disadvantaged black majority.

She said government hoped that the meeting with big business would bear some fruit and that the private sector would prioritise empowerment.

"What is important is that we are prepared to engage because as you saw before Davos, government had a meeting with big business...and just before the State of the Nation Address, the President again called for a meeting and thank God it was the big business that were around the table and so hopefully, we will be able to address the issues." –