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

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    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.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora