The Presidency would this year take a hands-on approach and work closely with social partners and departments to boost confidence in the economy, President Jacob Zuma told Parliament today.
Presenting the Budget Vote Speech of The Presidency, Zuma also announced that former president Nelson Mandela is making good progress, adding that the nation's thoughts were with Madiba, who 49 years to the day was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Zuma stressed that in addressing the country's labour issues the government does not take sides and does not favour any labour union over others in the mining industry.
"Our interest is in finding solutions," he said.
Zuma said he had recently requested Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to lead a ministerial team to work with social partners to assist the mining sector to normalise the situation.
Motlanthe had over the past two weeks been holding discussions with trade unions, labour federations and the Chamber of Mines.
He told the National Assembly today that The Presidency would this Friday meet with all stakeholders in the mining sector to find a broad consensus to ensure stability.
SA economy increased
Zuma stressed that between 1994 and last year the SA economy increased by 83%, with per capita income increasing from R27 500 a year in 1993 to R38 500 last year – an increase of 40%, said Zuma.
Over the last 19 years, disposable income had increased by 43%, while employment had grown by 3.5 million jobs and social grants from 2.5 million in 1994 to 16 million to date.
With the wage bargaining season set to start soon, he urged business and labour to ensure a speedier resolution of wage negotiations, adding that law enforcement agencies had been instructed not to tolerate those who commit crime in the name of labour relations.
Zuma said the foundation of the current problems in the mining sector dated back to apartheid, where cheap labour was provided to mines and farms with cheap labour.
National Development Plan
He pointed out that the National Development Plan (NDP), approved by the cabinet last year, would help South Africa address these and other problems.
"While there may be differences of opinion on specific details, there is general acceptance of the broad thrust of the National Development Plan," he said.
The Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and the National Planning Commission secretariat in The Presidency, are busy converting the NDP proposals into a Medium Term Strategic Framework.
Zuma said much of the infrastructure expenditure of R827 billion over the next three years would be on projects that are already in progress – for which tenders have already been issued.
But, he said, weaknesses in planning and capacity continue to delay the implementation of some projects and pointed out that the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission (PICC) would address these.
He said while over R600 billion in Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) transactions had been recorded since 1995, direct black ownership on the JSE remain at less than five percent, while the Department of Labour's annual Employment Equity reports indicate that white males still own and manage the economy.
To address some of these challenges the government is amending the BEE law, he said.
Strengthening support for youth
The government is also strengthening support for youth, following the signing in April of the Youth Employment Accord that was signed at the Hector Petersen Memorial in April.
Among other things, the accord supports second chance matric programmes as well as other interventions at Further Education and Training (FET) college level to improve the capacity and capabilities of young people, adding that a number of public entities had adopted FET colleges.
New job opportunities will be identified for youth in areas such as the green economy and infrastructure projects as well as in business process services, he said.
The Expanded Public Works Programme, as well as related public sector job initiatives, now had to target youth in increasing numbers.
Fight against drugs, substance abuse
Zuma also said the government had also accelerated the fight against social ills such as drugs and substance abuse.
In Eldorado Park, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies, a total of 20 drug dens had been closed down and four addicted children, including an eight-year-old have been taken to a place of safety, he said.
The departments of Social Development, Women, Children and Persons with Disability and the police would also prioritise Lusikisiki and other areas particularly affected by violence against women and children.
"Domestic violence or any form of gender violence is unacceptable and has no place in our country," said Zuma, adding that the government is re-establishing sexual offences courts.
He said the naming and shaming by the Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) of 42 persons, against whom action has been taken by the JCPS Anti-Corruption task team, demonstrated that the government is taking action against corruption.
Peacekeeping efforts in Africa
Zuma also commended the government and the people of Zimbabwe for finalising the Constitution-making process.
He said South Africa would also continue to play a role in peacekeeping on the continent, said Zuma, who added that SANDF members had in the past financial year run mission in Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan in support of the UN – AU hybrid operation in Darfur. – SAnews.gov.za