Ministers react to Zuma’s speech

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma’s sixth State of the Nation Address was widely welcomed on Thursday night, with several cabinet ministers saying his focus on jobs and infrastructure gave a good account of how far the country has come since 1994.

For Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti, Zuma’s commitment to the reopening of land claims was critical.

“We hope that moving forward into the next window of land claims, people will opt for land rather than money. During the first 15 years in both restitution and redistribution, we have not done as badly as many would lead you to believe," Nkwinti told SAnews.

Since 1994, nearly 5000 farms, comprising 4.2 million hectares, have been transferred to black people, benefiting over 200 000 families. Nearly 80 000 land claims, totalling 3.4 million hectares, have been settled and 1.8 million people have benefited.

In his address, Zuma said the next administration would need to take forward a number of policy, legislative and practical interventions, to further redress the dispossession of people of their land.

“There are positive stories to tell. If you go to the Free State, there are farmers there that we have given land to and they are quite successful,” said Nkwinti.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa reiterated Zuma’s call for an end to violent protests which have taken place in some parts of the country in recent months.

“We have said that people have a right to protest and democracy made room for people to air their views - but people should do that within the confines of the law. We don’t understand why people are armed during these protests,”  Mthethwa told SAnews.

Speaking shortly after the President concluded his address, Mthethwa said it was also important for the police to protect the rights of citizens and uphold the rule of law.

“What the President has said was spot on, violence can never be condoned and that is what we are saying and nothing else.”

Zuma had said it was worrying that some of the violence appeared to be premeditated as was the case with the use of petrol bombs and other weapons during protests. He said the democratic government supported the right of citizens to express themselves.

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba told SAnews the speech had “galvanised” the nation into celebrating past successes while calling for more action.

“The clear message from the President is that South Africa has a good story to tell on all fronts, economic, social and fighting crime and corruption. I am very excited about the speech.”

Gigaba said he was looking forward to the plans government would put in place for the next five years when the new administration takes office in May.

“We remain ready to serve our nation and that is what we will continue to do. Infrastructure will still be critical moving forward and we have done well in the past five years and we will build from that as the President has said.”

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, whose department assisted in the intervention in the Madibeng municipality in the North West, told SAnews there were challenges with the delivery of water to all South Africans, but added that government was investing in water infrastructure.

Zuma said earlier in the evening that 95% of households in South Africa had access to water.

“We have a clear plan in all the municipalities. We have meetings at the Government Communciation and Information System (GCIS) every day to see where our attention is needed. When a problem rears its ugly head - we are on it. We are now focusing on services and that is really what the President was saying.

“Where people don’t have water that’s where the riots take place. The whole of South Africa has seen how we have reacted in Mothutlung, and in three days we managed to turn the situation around,” said Molewa.

Energy Minister Ben Martins told SAnews the construction of the two power stations Medupi and Kusile was critical if the government was to achieve its infrastructure goals. 

“We work very closely with the Minister of Public Enterprises as a collective in government and our approach is that for the infrastructure build programme to succeed, we will need enough energy.

“We are confident the National Development Plan recommendations in this regard will help us have an energy secure future,” said Martins.

Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Obed Bapela, also described the President’s speech as a good account of the last five years of the current administration.

“There are many good stories we can tell and the President could only go as far as he could. But individually, each and every one can stand up and tell you how life was before 1994 and how it is today…those stories must be told because they are important for the country to move forward,” Bapela told SAnews. –