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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid