News / Africa

South Africa's Zuma Puts Economy Center Stage in Policy Speech

South African President Jacob Zuma,  gives the State of the Nation address at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, June 17, 2014.
South African President Jacob Zuma, gives the State of the Nation address at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, June 17, 2014.
Reuters
South African President Jacob Zuma put the need to boost the economy at the center of the first major policy speech of his second term on Tuesday, saying he hoped to lift annual growth to 5 percent by 2019.
 
Promising “radical socio-economic transformation” 20 years after the end of apartheid, Zuma also said he would take direct responsibility for improving conditions in the mining industry, which has been beset by two years of crippling strikes.
 
“We have set this target during a difficult period. The economy has grown below its potential over the last three years and many households are going through difficulties,” he said in his first State of the Nation address since a May election.
 
“The slow growth has been caused in part by the global economic slowdown and secondly by domestic conditions, such as the prolonged and at times violent strikes, and also the shortage of energy,” he said.
 
Zuma's focus on growth and tackling 25 percent unemployment followed a double blow last week from credit-rating agencies that underlined the precarious health of Africa's most advanced economy, which contracted in the first quarter.
 
South Africa had long been the continent's biggest economy, but Nigeria claimed that title earlier this year.
 
The rand firmed slightly after Zuma spoke. Although the 72-year-old's delivery was at times faltering, it was no worse than usual, allaying concerns about his health after being hospitalized this month with fatigue.
 
Zuma was quickly discharged after “routine tests”, his office said a week ago. However, he handed over the reins to his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, for five days to give himself time to recover from the rigors of preparing for the May 7 election.
 
The African National Congress (ANC) won a 62 percent majority in the vote, its fifth but also its narrowest victory since the end of white-minority government in 1994.
 
A five-month platinum strike is dragging the economy towards recession and the impact on broader growth and government finances prompted Fitch to put South Africa on a negative outlook and Standard & Poor's to cut its credit rating on Friday.
 
Zuma, whose new mining minister stepped in to mediate wage talks, said he would take personal charge of efforts to address poor living conditions in the mines, one of the more acute legacies of white-minority rule.
 
“The process will now be led by the president. We will implement the undertaking to build housing and other services to revitalize mining towns, as part of the October 2012 agreement between business, government and labor,” he said.
 
Open for Business?
 
Overall, the speech expanded on Zuma's previous reliance on a National Development Plan (NDP) drawn up in his first term as South Africa's sole blue-print for broad long-term growth.
 
His comments about economic growth are likely to encourage those who had been waiting for signs that the ANC would try to ease the mistrust between the government, unions and private sector that are threatening the plan's success.
 
“Does the government want to bargain with the business sector and other interests to chart a new path for the economy, or does it believe it can fix its problems on its own?” political analyst Stephen Friedman wrote in the Business Day newspaper ahead of the speech.
 
Standard & Poor's downgrade means South Africa could even lose its coveted investment grade credit rating if growth fails to pick up.
 
Its outlook is stable for now, indicating the agency is not looking at cutting its rating again soon but investors will want reassurance the government is committed to steering the economy back to health.
 
The economy has been further strained by a cold snap at the start of the southern hemisphere winter and outages at some power generation units, which led to temporary rolling blackouts to prevent the already stretched national grid from collapsing.

You May Like

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: nobubele from: Nongoma
June 19, 2014 6:26 AM
President Jacob Zuma did something that is very important by taking the our economy growth as the first problem that need to be solved, since we know we can not survive if our economy growth is low.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid