MAN OF THE HOUR: President Jacob Zuma delivers the State of the Nation Address at Parliament in Cape Town last night l See also pages 2 and 6
Picture: MATTHEW JORDAAN
THE Eastern Cape will be a major beneficiary of plans announced by President Jacob Zuma last night to grow jobs by boosting infrastructure development.
In the only specific project he announced to help individuals, Zuma introduced a subsidy for home buyers currently in the dead zone between RDP grants and the private banking sector’s minimum requirement for mortgage finance.
He said in his State of the Nation Address to Parliament that families earning between R3500 and R15000 would qualify for a subsidy of up to R83000 to help them get a mortgage from a commercial bank.
Zuma said his government had made steady progress in the first half of its term, but that the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality still needed urgent action.
“The solution for the country therefore is higher growth and job creation to reduce and ultimately eradicate poverty and inequality,” he said.
Lindiwe Mazibuko, parliamentary leader of the Democratic Alliance, criticised Zuma’s focus on state-driven growth.
“There was quite a lot missing from his speech,” she said, including any reference at all to the fight against crime.
The cornerstone of Zuma’s plan is a further increase in the government’s existing infrastructure programme.
“The massive investment in infrastructure must leave more than just power stations, rail-lines, dams and roads,” he told a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.
“It must industrialise the country, generate skills and boost much needed job creation,” he said.
He said a new Eastern Cape development plan would be one of five regional programmes to drive growth in the region.
“We will develop a major new South Eastern node that will improve the industrial and agricultural development and export capacity of the Eastern Cape region, and expand the province’s economic and logistics linkages with the Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal,” said Zuma.
Reviving a plan first announced by former Eastern Cape premier Nosimo Balindlela in 2007, he said: “In the former Transkei part of the Eastern Cape, we are committed to building a dam using the Umzimvubu River as the source, in order to expand agricultural production.”
He gave no details or timetable and did not say whether it would include a hydro-electric power station, which was part of the original R60-billion plan five years ago.
Zuma said the government would allocate R350-billion over the next seven years to what he called a market demand strategy for Transnet.
Part of this programme would include a significant reduction in port charges to promote exports and the development of a manganese export channel through the Ngqura port development near Port Elizabeth.
Zuma said the reduction in port charges would save South African industry a combined R1-billion a year.
Reacting to Zuma’s announcement on port charges, East London Industrial Development Zone (ELIDZ) board chairman Zolile Tini said “it really makes sense and is music to our ears.
“It would attract more investors and thus development to our shores”.
Tini said many investors around the world complained about the cost of doing business in South Africa.
“This is great for the city and the province at large, as that would mean that costs of doing business here would be affordable and cost-effective, leading to many investors flocking to our region,” said Tini.
He said ELIDZ and with other business stakeholders would meet Transnet and the National Port Authority in East London on Monday to engage on issues including offering cheaper charges.
Zuma said a programme to revitalise Mthatha would continue with further improvements planned in water, sanitation, electricity distribution, roads and housing.
Zuma renewed the government’s commitment to the national intervention in Eastern Cape education, but dodged the controversies it has spawned and said only that it was going well and would continue.
Other areas set to benefit from the five-point infrastructure plan are Limpopo, an industrial corridor from Durban through the Free State to Gauteng, roads in North West province and the Sishen-Saldanha iron ore link on the West Coast.
Zuma shied from some of the country’s more controversial policy debates.
“We remain committed to the creation of a favourable and globally competitive mining sector and to promote the industry to attract investment and achieve both industrial growth and much-needed transformation,” was all he said on the issue of nationalisation of mines.
He appeared to rule out legislation sought by the Cosatu labour federation to outlaw labour brokers, but said the government would try to “eliminate all forms of abusive practices inherent in labour broking”.
Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of Cosatu said he was broadly pleased with the speech, but criticised the President’s failure to address the controversy over proposed toll charges on Gauteng highways.
“It was quite disappointing that there was no mention whatsoever of public transport,” he said.
Zuma’s housing subsidy announcement will help millions of families who cannot afford a home.
The South African Institute of Race Relations said this week that 83% of households fall into the gap between housing subsidies and bank loans.
Article source: http://www.dispatch.co.za/news/article/2862