The president will speak to his parliament and his citizens, telling us where the country is, and mapping out the government’s plans for the next year.
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma is expected to cast the spotlight on the primary tenets of the government’s New Growth Path, which provide impetus for job creation and economic growth, when he delivers his State of the Nation Address on Thursday, 9 February.
Research indicates that through the New Growth Path, jobs could be created in six priority areas, namely infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, green economy, and tourism.
Zuma will deliver his third state of the nation in front of a joint sitting of parliament in the National Assembly in Cape Town at 7pm.
Each year the president uses the speech, an annual event in the parliamentary and political calendar, to tell citizens and parliamentarians about the government’s performance over the past year and to outline its plans for the current year.
The presidential spokesman, Mac Maharaj, says Zuma’s speech will be largely informed by the annual cabinet lekgotla, which was held last month to assess the impact of government programmes.
In light of the eurozone debt crisis, Maharaj says the president is likely to focus on “the critical need for our country to move decisively and systematically in the implementation of policies and programmes that so far have helped us withstand the impact of the externally generated impediments to our development agenda”.
In last year’s state of the nation, Zuma spoke of the government’s five essential priorities, which covered job creation, health, rural development, human settlements, land reform, crime, and repairing the country’s volatile education system.
He also announced a R9-billion job fund, designed to finance job-creation initiatives over the next three years. The fund would provide up to R900-million in tax deductible allowances for new investors and R550-million for upgrades and expansions.
Giving an update on his government’s key priorities, Zuma said the government would continue investing in teacher training, especially in mathematics and science and the training of principals, particularly in underperforming schools. The focus on higher education would be on expanding access to disadvantaged students.
Zuma promised a tougher stance on crime, noting that the government was dedicated to improving the capacity and effectiveness of the police, particularly in detective services, forensic analysis and crime intelligence.
On health, the president outlined the government’s plan to improve its health care system through building and upgrading hospitals and clinics, and improving the working conditions of health care workers. His government was making interventions to lower maternal mortality rates, to reduce new HIV infections and to treat HIV and tuberculosis effectively.
His government would steer a comprehensive Rural Development Programme designed to revive land reform projects and irrigation schemes in former homelands and distressed farms owned by individuals.
The state-owned Industrial Development Corporation, he said, had set aside R10-billion over the next five years for investment in economic activities with a high job-creation potential. The state would continue to provide financial and non-financial support to small, medium and micro enterprises, small scale agriculture and co-operatives.
Zuma announced that television and radio signals would be adapted from analogue to digital, to provide quality sound and picture. This was viewed as a job creation strategy to benefit people in manufacturing, packaging, distribution and installation during the migration process.
He also said the government was committed to renewable energy measures, and it would start procuring power from renewable energy power producers. To ensure the security of the electricity supply, Eskom had invested more than R75-billion.
There were about 1,2 million households living in South Africa’s 2 700 informal settlements, 180 of which are in Joburg. By 2014, Zuma said, 400 000 households living in those settlements should have security of tenure and access to basic services.
The state would spend R2,6-billion on improving access to water services, especially in poverty-stricken communities.
South Africa was bidding to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, in a move to enhance innovation in science and technology and create further jobs, Zuma said last year.
“We hope to know before the end of April if we have been successful to host the SKA in Africa. This high-tech facility will help us to answer fundamental questions in the fields of astronomy, physics and cosmology and may even detect intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. The president will mobilise the country to support the bid,” Maharaj points out of this year’s speech.
Also speaking last year, the president said the government’s job creation drive would enhance youth development. He is expected to expound these and other issues germane to his government’s programme of action in this week’s state of the nation.
Opening of parliament
The speech coincides with the opening of parliament for the year, before a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.
As usual, the evening will be a glitzy and fashionable affair, preceded by a procession of the nine premiers, Speakers of legislatures and judge presidents, followed by the deputy president and the president.
There will be a military parade and a red-carpet reception for members of parliament, a 21-gun salute by the South African National Defence Force, the national anthem will be played by the Navy Band and SAA jets will fly past.
In keeping with the new time he has established, Zuma will deliver his State of the Nation Address in the evening, so that all citizens, including students and those who work during the day, can watch the proceedings.
The speech will be broadcast live on SABC 2 at 7pm, on Etv and on national radio.
“Again, this year President Zuma invites South Africans to submit comments that they’d like the president to consider mentioning in his State of the Nation Address. Submit your comments to the president’s personal Twitter account @SAPresident or by using #PresidentSona or via the Presidency’s Facebook page. Emails can also be sent to email@example.com.”
Maharaj says Zuma is still working on his speech and “continues to contact ministers from time to time to clarify and outline inputs from their departments that are aimed at taking forward the programme of action for the year”.
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