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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs