State of the Nation Address
President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address has been received with enthusiasm by a number of Ministers, who will now set out to deliver on the President’s promises.
Ministers who spoke to Vuk’uzenzele said they were happy with the issues emphasised by the President, saying the address highlighted what needs to be done to deal with the problems facing South Africa 20 years into democracy.
Newly appointed Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who was previously the Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, welcomed President Zuma’s pledge that government would build houses and provide other services to revitalise mining towns.
President Zuma announced that mining companies would soon be expected to convert or upgrade their hostels into family units and facilitate home ownership options for mine workers.
Government was also monitoring the compliance of mining companies with Mining Charter targets, relating to improving the living conditions of workers.
To assist the monitoring process, President Zuma said an Inter-Ministerial Committee had been established, chaired by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, and tasked with the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Com- munities.
Members of the committee include the Ministers of Mineral Resources, Water and Sanitation, Trade and Industry, Social Development, Labour, Human Settlements, Health, Economic Development and Finance.
“We need to address the socio-economic challenges faced by mining towns and mining workers themselves, that is where the root of problems lies, ” said Minister Ramatlhodi
He added that he was working with a team of Ministers to bring about stability in mining sector and improve the quality of life for miners. “What the President’s speech did was to emphasise on certain actions that will have to be done,” Minister Ramatlhodi said. President Zuma also said that given the impact of the labour relations environment on the economy, it was critical that social partners met to deliberate on the violent nature and the duration of the strikes.
“We believe labour relations need to be strengthened. We have sound labour relations practices in this country and we will continue to ensure that relations between workers and employers and indeed government are continuously improved,” said Minister Ramatlhodi.
In his State of the Nation Address President Zuma also unveiled government's plan of action to revitalise local government. He said all municipalities had been evaluated and inspected on all aspects from finance to service delivery rollouts.
Despite the successes in many municipalities, others faced many challenges, said President Zuma. He pointed out that 11 municipalities received good performance audits on expenditure and service delivery.
However, five district municipalities and eight local municipalities would receive extra support from government in areas where they were most needed. These include infrastructure development, water, sanitation and electrification.
Work was also underway to eradicate the bucket system throughout the country. To help local government, an Inter-Ministerial Task team on service delivery, led by newly appointed Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan, had been established.
He said his department would pull out all the stops to ensure that local government worked more efficiently.
“Municipalities need to listen to the people more and respond to challenges quicker,” he pointed out.
In light of recent municipal protests that have turned violent, Minister Gordhan said: “Municipalities need to respond to people by listening carefully and responding with a greater sense of urgency and making sure that when they raise a problem, we go sort it out instead of allowing it to accumulate over time.”
He added that municipalities needed to govern better and follow the rules.
“We need to make sure that we have competent officials and technical capabilities. In smaller municipalities and districts, we have to make a greater effort to get people like engineers and planners - particularly at district level - so that smaller municipalities can access those services,” said Minister Gordhan.
Science and technology
Government has, in the past fi years, invested a trillion rand on new infrastructure to provide water, energy, transport, sanitation, schools, clinics and internet connections for South Africans, President Zuma said.
He announced that an additional R847 billion rand would be spent on the completion of several infrastructure project over the next three years. One such project is the Square Kilometre Array telescope, overseen by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). “In the next five years we will finish building more than 60 MeerKat dishes and start building the first 100 Square Kilometre Array dish antennas,” the President said.
Recently appointed Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor will oversee these projects. After serving a stint as Minister of Home Affairs from 2012 to 2014, she returns to the DST, which she previously headed up. Minister Pandor recently stressed her department plans to implement government’s mandate through the National Development Plan.
“Government’s priorities with regard to growing the economy are tackling unemployment, inequality and poverty. We will continue to focus on overcoming the challenges facing the South African science, technology and innovation sector, including human capital development and continue modernising scientific infrastructure such as laboratories and IT equipment, so that we can unlock the potential of science, technology and innovation to contribute to economic growth.”
She said the DST would focus on skills development, knowledge generation, providing access to research and development infrastructure and encourage the advancement of international cooperation in science, technology and innovation in Africa and the rest of the world.
Through its workplace preparation programmes the DST creates opportunities for 700 youth each year. This number will soon grow to 1 000 with the department investing R400 million rand per year, said Minister Pandor.
“It is important that we transform the science, technology and innovation sector so that we can tap the potential of all South Africans. We need to attract and retain research excellence and create career pathways for highly skilled young researchers, particularly black and women scientists,” she added.
President Zuma also highlighted that South Africa was becoming an urban country and that by 2011 almost 63 per cent of the population were living in towns and cities.
Tackling the process of urbanisation is the task of Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti.
Reacting to President Zuma’s address, the Minister said that revamping rural areas and towns would ease pressures associated with rapid urbanisation, where people leave rural areas to go to urban cities to seek economic opportunities.
“Urbanisation is an international phenomenon and is not something that can be easily stopped. We have a good relationship with China and they have a programme called Township and Village Enterprises, where they actually create industries in rural areas,” he said.
Minister Nkwinti said a team from his department was recently sent on a learning mission to China to see first hand how the Chinese do it and return to implement their ideas. “We are considering the options that they brought back because we want to learn from young people,” he added.
The Minister said his department would create mega cooperatives for young people from rural areas to do construction and transform them into a class of black industrialists to create more jobs and build social infrastructure.