President Jacob Zuma has praised the role of the South African National Defence in supporting foreign policy through its active participation in United Nations peacekeeping.
Zuma, in his inaugural State of the Nation Address, following his election in April, also committed his government to fighting poverty and crime.
He further recommitted SA to work for the entrenchment of democracy and “the respect for human rights on the African continent” through continental and regional bodies.
Zuma set out 10 priorities for government under a five-year Medium Term Strategic Framework. They are:
· speeding up economic growth, transforming the economy and creating “decent work” and sustainable livelihoods,
· developing and implementing a comprehensive rural development strategy linked to land and agrarian reform as well as food security,
· strengthening the skills and human resource base,
· improving “the health profile of all South Africans”,
· intensifying the fight against crime and corruption,
· pursuing African advancement and enhanced international co-operation,
· ensuring sustainable resource management and use,
· building a “developmental state”,
· improving public services
· strengthening democratic institutions.
“The creation of decent work will be at the centre of our economic policies and will influence our investment attraction and job-creation initiatives,” Zuma said, adding that the programme takes into account the constraints posed by the current global economic crisis.
“We will reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses. The matter of being stifled by regulations has been raised by the sector several times,” he said. “In another intervention to create an enabling environment for investment, government will move towards a single integrated business registration system. This will improve customer service and reduce the cost of doing business in South Africa.
“Another important element of our drive to create job opportunities is the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). The initial target of one million jobs has been achieved. The second phase of the programme aims to create about four million job opportunities by 2014. Between now and December 2009, we plan to create about 500 000 job opportunities,” the president added.
“While creating an environment for jobs and business opportunities, government recognises that some citizens will continue to require state social assistance. Social grants remain the most effective form of poverty alleviation. As of 31 March 2009, more than 13 million people received social grants, more than 8 million of whom are children.
We are mindful of the need to link the social grants to jobs or economic activity in order to encourage self-reliance amongst the able-bodied,” he noted.
Crime and corruption
Zuma also made several references to fighting crime and corruption – both in government and in society-at-large.
“Our aim is to establish a transformed, integrated, modernised, properly-resourced and well-managed criminal justice system,” he said.
“It is also critically important to improve the efficiency of the courts and the performance of prosecutors and to enhance detective, forensic and intelligence services. This work has started in earnest, and it will be undertaken with new energy and vigour.
“Among the immediate targets is to ensure that we increase the number of prosecutors and Legal Aid Board personnel. We will do the same with police detectives.
“We changed the name of the relevant Ministry from Safety and Security to Police to emphasise that we want real operational energy in police work,” Zuma said.
“This will contribute to the reduction of serious and violent crimes by the set target of 7% to 10% per annum.
“The most serious attention will also be given to combating organised crime, as well as crimes against women and children.”
Other key initiatives include setting up a Border Management Agency and intensifying “our efforts against cyber crime and identity theft” and improving “systems in our jails to reduce repeat offending.”
Zuma also announced changes for the private security industry, saying that while “appreciating the investment of the private sector in the security industry, we will improve the regulation of this industry.”
Turning to corruption in the public service, Zuma said his administration “will pay particular attention to combating corruption and fraud in procurement and tender processes, application for drivers` licences, social grants, IDs, and theft of police case dockets.”
Zuma was himself until recently pending trial on corruption charges related to defence tenders, but these were controversially withdrawn.
The president added that everyone has “a role to play in this war against crime. We must actively participate in Community Policing Forums,” he said. We must stop buying stolen goods, which encourages crime.
“We must report crime and assist the police with information to catch wrongdoers. In this way, we will move forward towards a crime-free society.”
Foreign policy – and praise for the SANDF
Zuma also addressed foreign policy summing up SA`s efforts in that field as contributing “to building a better Africa and a better world.”
He says the “main goal of government for the medium term is to ensure that our foreign relations contribute to the creation of an environment conducive to sustainable economic growth and development.”
To this effect, he adds, SA will continue to prioritise the African continent by strengthening the African Union and its structures, and give special focus to the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa`s Development.
“Equally important, and closer to home, is the strengthening of regional integration with particular emphasis on improving the political and economic integration of SADC, towards the AU goal of a Union government.
“We will establish a South African Development Partnership Agency to promote developmental partnerships with other countries on the continent.
“South Africa will continue to assist in the reconstruction and development of the African continent especially in post-conflict situations.
“We will continue to encourage a peaceful and sustainable settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-state solution.
“We will support the peace efforts of the African Union and the United Nations on the African continent, including in the Saharawi Arab Republic and Darfur in Sudan.
“As the Chairperson of SADC and Facilitator, we will participate in promoting inclusive government until free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe.
“The plight of the Zimbabwean people has had a negative impact on the SADC region, especially South Africa. We call upon all peace-loving countries in the world to support the inclusive government to achieve economic recovery,” Zuma averred.
“We will support efforts of the SADC region to resolve the situation in Madagascar.
“Allow me, distinguished guests, to pay tribute to the SA National Defence Force for their sterling role in peace building in the continent.
“Through continental and regional bodies, we will work towards the entrenchment of democracy and the respect for human rights on the African continent.
“We will contribute to the strengthening of South-South relations and pursue mutually beneficial agreements with key countries of the South.
“We will continue to enhance relations with the developed North including the G8, and our strategic partnership with the European Union.
“We will continue to play an active role in ensuring the conclusion of the WTO Doha Development round of negotiations.”