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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs