Growing the economy, improving local government, transforming the energy sector and creating jobs are some of the priorities government will focus its attention on over the next five years.
Delivering his seventh State of the Nation Address in Parliament recently, President Jacob Zuma outlined a number of measures to deal with the challenges facing the country.
Growing the economy
Expanding the economy would take centre stage, as the most effective way to fight poverty was to create jobs. Creating jobs required faster economic growth, he noted.
“We have set a growth target of 5 per cent by 2019. To achieve this, we will embark on various measures and interventions to jump-start the economy,” President Zuma said.
The mining sector, which plays a significant role in the economy, will receive closer attention from government.
As part of the October 2012 agreement between government, business and labour, President Zuma said government would fast- track the building of houses in mining towns across the country.
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe will lead a committee on the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities.
The committee will focus on various towns across the country, including Matlosana (North West), Emalahleni (Mpumalanga), Sekhukhune and Lephalale (Limpopo), West Rand (Gauteng) and Matjhabeng (Free State).
President Zuma said government had listened to the complaints of South Africans and a plan to improve local government would be put in place to make people’s experience of local government more pleasant.
Help would be given to a number of municipalities, especially with regards to water and sanitation.
Sharing government’s plan of action to revitalise local government, President Zuma noted that all municipalities had been evaluated.
He detailed the municiplaities where support would be proivded.
In the Amathole District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, the Development Bank of South- ern Africa has approved funding to develop infrastructure.
In Umzinyathi District Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, funding will be provided to develop infrastructure projects covering mainly the electrification of households. The local municipalities to be serviced include Msinga, Umvoti and Nqutu.
In Alfred Nzo District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, funding will be provided for infrastructure development projects covering water provision, sanitation, and electrification. Local municipalities involved include Mbizana and Ntabankulu, catering for a population of about one million people.
In Lukhanji Local Municipality, government will reorganise its administration and implement support plans for the provision of water and electricity.
In OR Tambo District Municipality, government will stabilise the administration and organisational structure and fast-track the implementation of the Presidential Intervention Plans.
In Mbashe Local Municipality, government will implement waste management plans and address ground water contamination issues.
In Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality in the North West, national government will provide support and work with the Development Bank of Southern Africa to resolve financing for water and sanitation infrastructure.
The City of Joburg in Gauteng will be assisted to resolve problems with the billing system. In Moqhaka Local Municipality in the Free State, government will help with the eradication of the bucket system and open toilets.
Tackling energy constraints
President Zuma also highlighted the need to address to the country’s energy constraints in order to create an environment that allows for growth.
In March, the country experienced its first incident of load shedding in six years. Earlier this month, two units at Duvha and Kendal power stations tripped and a portion of the capacity normally imported from Cahora Bassa became unavailable leading to power cuts.
“We are in the process of converting the National Nuclear and Energy Executive Coordinating Committee of Cabinet, into the Energy Security Cabinet Sub-committee. The sub-committee will be responsible for the over- sight, coordination and direction of activities for the energy sector,” he said.
The sub-committee will also give Eskom the support it needs to do its job properly.
Medupi power station
Another intervention government is putting in place is the completion of the Medupi Power Station in Lephalale, Limpopo. The power station will have six units and the first unit is expected to be operational by early next year.
“Progress at Medupi power station construction site will be accelerated,” said President Zuma.
In February the Department of Mineral Re- sources announced that the country will soon start fracking - a method of gas extraction - in the Karoo.
The country would pursue the shale gas option within the framework of its good environmental laws, noted the President.
“Nuclear has the possibility of generating well over 9000 megawatts, while shale gas is recognised as a game changer for our economy,” he said.
President Zuma added that South Africa’s slow economic growth had been caused in part by the shortage of energy.
“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 also said government was looking beyond the country’s border for energy security.
“In October last year we signed the Grand Inga Hydro Power Project Treaty with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“This massive and strategic project has the potential to generate 40 000 megawatts of hydro-electricity. Our country will benefit enormously from this milestone project,” he said.
With regards to job creation, the President noted that since 2004 government has run the successful Expanded Public Works Programme, which provides work opportunities and training for the unemployed.
The new phase is expected provide six million work opportunities by 2019. "We are building on the success of the past few years. We created around four million work opportunities in the past five years.
The Expanded Public Works programme environmental initiatives such as Working on Waste, Working on Wetlands, Working for Water, Working on Fire and the Environmental Youth Services programme would also be upscaled up to 2019, in support of youth development.
The President also identified agriculture as a key job driver saying the target was for the agricultural sector to create a million jobs by 2030.