14 February 2014
President Jacob Zuma used his sixth State of the Nation address on Thursday night to highlight South Africa’s achievements over the past five years, while acknowledging that more needs to be done to tackle growing youth unemployment.
As expected, Zuma reported at length on progress in the country’s infrastructure programme since 2009.
Among the completed projects he highlighted were the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit system in Johannesburg, which is now used by more than 100 000 people a month, with similar systems under construction in Cape Town, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Rustenburg.
The country’s harbours and ports have been improved, 1 500 kilometres of new roads and road lanes lanes have been built countrywide, construction of new rail lines is under way in Mpumalanga, and a 700-kilometre fuel pipeline has been built between Durban to Gauteng to transport four-billion cubic litres of petrol, diesel and jet fuel a year.
The Gautrain rapid rail link between Johannesburg, Pretoria and OR Tambo International Airport carries over 1.2-million passengers a month, and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa will spend over R120-billion over the next 10 years on buying new trains and further improving the country’s transport system.
Transnet, meanwhile, will be spending R300-billion on transport infrastructure under its market demand strategy, which it has begun implementing.
To realise the economic potential of the Western Cape and the West Coast, the government had launched the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone and opened two new factories in Atlantis outside Cape Town.
To improve the water supply, two large new dams, the De Hoop dam in Limpopo province and the Spring Grove dam in KwaZulu-Natal, had been completed, while phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project was expected to be launched soon.
Construction was also continuing on the country’s new power stations, Medupi in Limpopo, Kusile in Mpumalanga and Ingula near Ladysmith, together employing more than 30 000 workers.
“We continue to explore other sources of energy, in line with the Integrated Resource Plan for Energy,” Zuma said. “The development of petroleum, especially shale gas, will be a game-changer for the Karoo region and the South African economy.”
Zuma said that on average the economy had grown at 3.2 percent a year from 1994 to 2012, despite a global recession which had cost the country a million jobs.
South Africa’s national wealth, measured in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), had grown to more than R3.5-trillion. There were now 15-million South Africans with jobs, the highest in the country’s history, with over 650 000 jobs created in 2013.
“This is still not good enough,” Zuma said. “The unemployment rate still remains high. Youth unemployment in South Africa continues to be of concern, as it is throughout the world.”
The government would have to work together with business and labour to grow the economy at rates above five percent to be able to create the jobs the country needed.
South Africa continued to face the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment, Zuma said, and tackling these challenges had become a central focus of all democratic administrations.
Zuma said the National Development Plan (NDP) was a viable plan for driving South Africa’s socio-economic development, eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030.
According to the plan, South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.