Zuma announced the government’s investment plans for the next seven years, which will span the provinces.
The plans include:
- R300-billion in capital projects investment by Transnet, of which R200-billion will go to rail projects and the rest to the improvement of ports;
- Expanded rail network in Mpumalanga and Limpopo to take the transportation of coal off the roads and onto rail;
- An R83000 subsidy to help low-income earners qualify for home loans from banks;
- Spending R300-million on the building of two universities, in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape;
- The implementation, in April, of a R1-billion fund to promote access to home loans; and
- The phased development of a 16million-tons-a-year manganese export channel through the Port of Ngqura in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Zuma said this would include developing the Durban-FreeState-Gauteng industrial corridor, which will promote the movement of goods between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
“The market demand strategy will result in the creation of more jobs in the South African economy, as well as increased localisation and black economic empowerment. It will also position South Africa as a regional trans-shipment hub for sub-Saharan Africa and deliver on NEPAD’s regional integration agenda,” he said.
The projects, said Zuma, would drive job creation.
“The massive investment in infrastructure must leave more than just power stations. It must industrialise the country, generate skills and boost much-needed job creation,” he said.
He announced plans to integrate rail, road and water infrastructure in Limpopo to promote mining and unlock the province’s rich mineral belt of chrome, platinum and coal. In Mpumalanga, coalfields will be connected to power stations, and the iron ore railway between Sishen, in Northern Cape, and Saldanha Bay, in Western Cape, will be improved. North West will benefit from the improvement of 10 priority roads and a dam will be built in the former Transkei to expand agricultural production.
He said the port regulator and Transnet had agreed to an arrangement that would give exporters of manufactured goods reduced port charges to the tune of about R1-billion.
“We have also been looking at the necessity of reducing port charges, as part of reducing the costs of doing business. The issue of high port charges was one of those raised sharply by the automotive sector in Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage during my performance-monitoring visit to the sector last year.”
Though admitting that his plan for creating half a million jobs a year had failed, he said that 365000 jobs had been created last year – resulting in the reduction of the unemployment rate from 25% to 23.9%.
“This is the country’s best performance since the recession in 2008,” he said to applause from the benches.
Zuma said most of the new jobs were in the formal sector, such as mining, transport, community services and trade.
Of the R9-billion jobs fund announced last year, Zuma said over R1-billion had been committed to businesses.
He said R1.5-billion was approved for 60 companies to promote job creation, through the Industrial Development Corporation.
Zuma seemed more confident delivering his fourth State of the Nation address. Previously he hardly digressed from the written text. But last night he appeared to be having fun as he cracked jokes about Bafana Bafana’s woeful performance and the need to keep fit through regular exercise.
Low-income earners, between R5000 and R15000, struggling to get home loans will benefit from a fund from which they will receive an R83000 subsidy from provincial governments to help them get a home loan.
This would cater for a significant number of citizens who do not qualify for RDP houses to qualify for home loans from banks.
“This fund will start its operations in April, managed by the National Housing Finance Corporation,” said Zuma.
Zuma did not say when the construction of the new universities in the two provinces would begin.
Security was extra tight for the speech, with hundreds of policemen and task force members stationed around parliament.
Several streets adjoining the parliamentary precinct were closed to traffic as early as 11am and barriers were set up along Plein, Roeland, Spin and Adderley streets.
Zuma’s procession started from the heart of Cape Town in Adderley Street, proceeding up Parliament Street into the precinct.
It involved a mounted police escort and a military ceremonial guard. The route to parliament was lined by the defence force.
The red carpet stretched from the Slave Lodge to the National Assembly building.
The president was received by an imbongi (praise singer) at the gates of parliament and by another at the entrance to the National Assembly chamber.
There was a national salute by the ceremonial guard of the SANDF, a military band, an air force fly-past and a 21-gun salute.
There was civilian participation in the walk by the president, who was accompanied by parliament’s presiding officers and the secretary to parliament, from the Slave Lodge to the saluting podium in front of the National Assembly building.