South African President Kgalema
Motlanthe gave his State of the Nation address Friday to parliament. He said
the “global economic meltdown poses serious dangers for the South African
economy” and that economic growth forecasts have been scaled down.
reporter Delia Robertson is following the story from Johannesburg.
was really more of a stump speech than it was a State of the Nation address. He
spent a lot of time extolling the virtues of the (ruling) African National
Congress Party and government. Although he did mention that there were
challenging areas that need attention. But it was a speech more of somebody who
is a caretaker, as he is,” she says.
will only remain in office for another few months. Then elections will be held.
“Last September, the African National Congress ousted President Thabo Mbeki as
leader of the country and of the government and installed Mr. Motlanthe in his
place. So, he’s had just a few months in office. But on top of that, we are to
have elections this year, probably around the middle of April. And then we are
likely to have a new president entirely,” she says.
President Jacob Zuma appears mostly like to be the next president, although he
faces corruption charges. Zuma took over as ANC leader in the intra-party power
struggle with Mbeki.
Motlanthe did speak to the problems created by the global economic crisis. “What
he basically did is he reiterated an existing government program that would
entail government spending, about $70 billion in the coming three years…(for)
infrastructure development and things of that nature in which they would target
job creation in the hopes that this reduces poverty and cushions the impact of
the global financial crisis,” she says.
estimates put South Africa’s unemployment rate at over 23 percent. Unemployment
has been a problem for the ANC government since it took power in multi-racial,
democratic elections in 1994. But Robertson says that the ANC could not give
its full attention to the jobless problem right away.
be honest, they have in very recent years started getting on top of that. One
of the big problems, of course, was when the African National Congress
government came to power they inherited a huge amount of debt, which they were
determined to pay off and put behind them. And then it was a case of rebuilding
and stabilizing the economy after years of international sanctions…. Sort of
bringing stability, getting the economy running on a fairly equitable basis,
opening up the economy to blacks,” Robertson says.
Critics, however, say despite the
problems the ANC faced when it came to power, it should have done more to create
jobs. Some say that, despite debts, the ANC government should have gone into
deficit even more to create jobs.