President Jacob Zuma has addressed crime and given a nod to the South African National Defence Force in his third annual State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“We applaud the work of the South African National Defence Force, which has on average deployed over 2000 military personnel in peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudan and the Central African Republic, Zuma said in a single sentence towards the end of his address in a paragraph titled “Building a better Africa and a better world.”
In the paragraph, the president noted the “African agenda remains our key policy focus.” He noted
“South Africa is serving a two year term on the African Union Peace and Security Council. The country will chair the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security from August. In this role, we will continue to engage the parties in the implementation of the Global Political Agreement in Zimbabwe and the development of a roadman to elections. We will also promote the resolution of the Malagasy conflict. We will monitor and assist where possible to ensure that the political and security situation in the DRC is conducive to elections. We are also honoured to participate in finding solutions to the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, as a member of the African Union High Level Panel chosen to help resolve the challenges in that country.”
On the international front, Zuma noted South Africa was “greatly honoured to join the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) forum. It is an important bloc of emerging economies. We look forward to the inaugural meeting of BRICS in April in China. We have taken up our non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, which we will use to promote the African agenda as well as peace and security in Africa and the world.”
Earlier, he said “crime statistics show a decrease in most crimes, particularly armed robberies, housebreakings and business robberies as well as contact crimes, for example, the murder rate declined by 8.6% in the past year.
“We are continuing to improve the capacity and effectiveness of the police in particular the detective services, forensic analysts and crime intelligence. We have increased visible policing and patrols in identified hotspots. We are making visible progress in reducing the proliferation of illegal and legal firearms. Our courts continue to function better, and the backlog reduction programmes at district and regional levels are proceeding well.
“We will work with communities and other key stakeholders to deal with drug peddling and drug abuse which are tearing some communities apart. My visit to a drug rehabilitation centre in Mitchells Plain on Tuesday convinced me that we need more energy in the fight against drug abuse and drug peddling in our communities. I have directed our police force to deal decisively with people who sell drugs to children in Cape Town and other areas. We will also not tolerate tavern owners who sell alcohol to children.
“The fight against corruption also continues. A Special Anti-Corruption Unit has been established in the Department of Public Service and Administration to handle corruption-related disciplinary cases involving public servants. Progress is being made in many ongoing investigations. About R44 million has been recovered from public servants who are illegally benefiting from housing subsidies, while the cleaning of the social grants system of fraud is also continuing.
We have directed the Special Investigating Unit to probe alleged maladministration or corruption in various government departments, municipalities and institutions. While not pre-judging the investigations, they prove our resolve to combat corruption at all levels of Government and the public service. The Multi-Agency Working Group on procurement led by National Treasury, SARS and the Financial Intelligence Centre is reviewing the entire state procurement system to ensure better value for money from state spending.”
As was widely expected and advertised, the main thrust of Zuma’s address was tackling unemployment. “…we have declared 2011 a year of job creation through meaningful economic transformation and inclusive growth. We have introduced a New Growth Path that will guide our work in achieving these goals, working within the premise that the creation of decent work is at the centre of our economic policies.
“We urge every sector and every business entity, regardless of size, to focus on job creation. Every contribution counts in this national effort. I will provide just a broad outline of our programme of action in this address. Ministers will announce their jobs targets and more specific details per sector, in their forthcoming budget vote speeches. All government departments will align their programmes with the job creation imperative. The provincial and local government spheres have also been requested to do the same. The programmes of State Owned Enterprises and development finance institutions should also be more strongly aligned to the job creation agenda.
“Honourable Members, research has indicated that we can create jobs in six priority areas. These are infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism. We cannot create these jobs alone. We have to work with business, labour and the community constituencies. Experience shows that we succeed when we work together.
“One key example is the work done by the Presidential Framework Response to the International Economic Crisis team, comprising government, business, labour and community sectors.
Amongst the key achievements of the team, South Africa introduced its first ever training layoff scheme to provide alternatives to retrenchments. Another intervention included financial support for firms in distress, which saved about seven thousand jobs. We thank the team for their sterling work, and look forward to ongoing collaboration.
“While looking to the private sector in particular to help us create most of the jobs, government will certainly play its part. We are pleased to announce the establishment of a jobs fund of R9 billion over the next three years to finance new job-creation initiatives. In addition, the Industrial Development Corporation has set aside R10 billion over the next five years for investment in such economic activities with a high jobs potential.
“It is also my pleasure Honourable Members, to announce R20 billion in tax allowances or tax breaks to promote investments, expansions and upgrades in the manufacturing sector. For a project to qualify, the minimum investment must be R200 million for new projects, and R30 million for expansion and upgrades. The programme will provide an allowance of up to R900 million in tax deductible allowances rand for new investors and R550 million for upgrades and expansions.
“Compatriots, The small business sector is a critical component of the job creation drive. We will continue to provide financial and non-financial support to small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs), small scale agriculture as well as cooperatives. We need to cut administrative costs, avoid duplication and direct more resources to small business. We are therefore considering merging the three agencies Khula, the SA Micro-Finance Apex Fund and the IDC’s small business funding into a single unit. The campaign to pay SMMEs on time, within 30 days, is proceeding well. The Department of Trade and Industry payment hotline received about 20 000 calls in the last financial year, and the value of payments facilitated was R210 million.
“Other departments have launched their own initiatives, for example the Re Ya Patala (We Pay) initiative of the Department of Public Works. We are continuing with legislative reforms to make it easier to register businesses and also to strengthen the Competition Act to open the market to new participants.”