Sona: Economic transformation a priority

Photo: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS President Jacob Zuma delivers his State of the Nation Address on 9 February and highlights that economic transformation must be addressed urgently.

During his State of the Nation (Sona) address on 9 February in parliament, President Jacob Zuma highlighted that radical economic transformation must be urgently addressed.

“Twenty-two years into our freedom and democracy, the majority of black people are still economically disempowered. They are dissatisfied with the economic gains from liberation,” Zuma said.

He mentioned that government should move beyond words to practical programmes in dealing with economic transformation. The president said the State would play a role in the economy to drive that transformation. “In this regard, government will utilise, to the maximum, the strategic levers that are available to the State.”

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He said the government would use legislation, regulations, licensing, budget and procurement as well as Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Charters to influence the behaviour of the private sector and drive transformation.

The president said radical economic transformation should mean moving beyond share ownership schemes only, adding that government would like to see black people involved directly in business and owning factories.

On a concerning note, Zuma said the gap between the annual average household incomes of black-headed households and their white counterparts remains shockingly huge. “White households earn at least five times more than black households, according to Statistics SA.”

On land claims, Zuma discouraged land claimants on taking financial compensation instead of land. “More than 90 per cent of claims are currently settled through financial compensation, which does not help the process at all. It perpetuates dispossession. It also undermines economic empowerment.”

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He also spoke about education and said the government would prioritise maths and science, even more this year, in memory and honour of late ANC president, Oliver Tambo, who was a teacher in that field.

Zuma also highlighted government’s efforts in alleviating poverty. He said social grants now reach close to 17 million people, mainly older persons and children. “Many families would not be able to put food on the table if it were not for social grants.”

He also pointed out that the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) has, since 2014, created more than two million work opportunities towards the attainment of the target of six million work opportunities by the end of March 2019.

Photo: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS President Jacob Zuma on arrival at parliament with speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, and centre back, first lady, Makhumalo.

Photo: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS
President Jacob Zuma on arrival at parliament with speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, and centre back, first lady, Makhumalo.

Zuma also said the government is working with society in fighting social ills that are tearing communities apart such as drugs and substance abuse, mentioning that communities in areas such as Rosettenville are in difficulty because of drugs. He also said other than law enforcement, the provision of treatment for addiction and prevention services are also critical.

Regarding higher education, the president pointed out that government has provided funds to ensure that no student whose combined family income of up to R600 000 per annum would face fee increases at universities and TVET colleges for this year. “We are ensuring that our deserving students can study without fearing that past debts will prevent them from finishing their studies.”

The president also pleaded with citizens to help police fight crime in their communities.

What important issues did the Sona fail to address? Join our WhatsApp group on 079 439 5345 to comment.

Belinda Pheto

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