President Jacob Zuma has welcomed the progress made in the health and education sectors but called for more to be done to fight violence against women, create jobs and speed up land redistribution.
Delivering the 2013 State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma said he was pleased with the 2012 matric pass rate, growth of early childhood education programmes and the adult education programme, Kha Ri Gude, which reached more than 2.2 million people between 2008 and 2011.
While the President welcomed the improvement in the Annual National Assessment results each year, he urged more action to improve mathematics, science and technology results.
He said that to improve these results, the Department of Basic Education would establish a national task team to make sure the Mathematics, Science and Technology Strategy succeeds.
“We urge the private sector to partner government through establishing, adopting or sponsoring maths and science academies or Saturday schools.”
Reporting on progress in health, the President said the National Health Insurance Fund would be created by next year and the Department of Health would speed up and and intensify progress in the pilot districts. From next month, the first group of approximately 600 private medical practitioners will be contracted to provide medical services at 533 clinics within villages and townships in 10 of the pilot districts. President Zuma welcomed studies that reported a dramatic increase in life expectancy from an average baseline of 56 years in 2009 to 60 years in 2011.
“Increased life expectancy is a key to the country’s development. People are returning to work, they are being productive, economically and socially. The family structure is increasingly stable and parents live longer and are able to take care of their children.” President Zuma also expressed concern about the “alarming increase” in lifestyle diseases.
The country needed to combat and lower the levels of smoking, harmful effects of alcohol, poor diets and obesity, he noted.
Turning to job creation, the President said jobs would be created for millions of South Africans over the coming years.
“The National Development Plan outlines interventions that can put the economy on a better footing. The target for job creation is set at 11 million by 2030.”
There would be discussions with business, labour and other social partners in an effort to deal with the problems that need to be addressed so that the economy can grow and create these jobs, he added.
President Zuma also spoke out against rape and violence against women, saying strong action would be taken to tackle these crimes.
He directed law enforcement agencies to treat these cases with the utmost urgency and importance.
“The brutality and cruelty meted out to defenceless women is unacceptable and has no place in our country,” the President stressed.
He called for unity from different sectors to help fight the scourge and urged the coordinating structure of the National Council on Gender Based Violence to make the campaign aimed at fighting violence against women an everyday campaign.
On land redistribution, President Zuma said government would now pursue the ‘just and equitable’ principle for compensation, as set out in the Constitution instead of the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle, which forces the state to pay more for land than the actual value.
There were also proposed amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Act, 1994 to provide for the re-opening of the lodging of restitution claims by people who missed the deadline of 31 December 1998.
“Also to be explored, are exceptions to the June 1913 cut-off date to accommodate claims by the descendants of the Khoi and San as well as heritage sites and historical landmarks,” he said.
For more details on the State of the Nation Address see our special supplement.