Zuma highlights successes in SONA

CAPE TOWN - President Jacob Zuma on Thursday highlighted the government's successes over the past 20 years but said his administration would work harder to improve the lives of South Africans. 

Zuma said the post-election government would tackle service delivery issues highlighted by widespread protests in recent years. 

Still, Zuma said the use of violence in protests was unacceptable.

"A decision has been taken to improve functioning of local government. The amendment of the Municipal Systems Act is intended to improve the capacity of municipalities to deliver services. Qualified and experienced personnel must be deployed in municipalities," he said during the State of the Nation Address. 

"We also need to strengthen existing forums of people’s participation and enable our people to play a greater role in development. The fight against corruption must be intensified as well, especially given reports that some services are interrupted or stopped, so that certain people could provide those services at cost to the state. These matters are being prioritised for the next administration."

Zuma also tried to allay fears around the economy and said particular focus would be given to the mining industry, which has been grappling with wage disputes. 

"We have built strong instituions of democracy. We buried the undemocratic, unrepresentative, oppressive and corrupt state that was serving a minority," Zuma said in his State of the Nation Address.

"On average the economy has grown at 3.2 percent a year from 1994 to 2012. There are now 15-million people with jobs in our country, the highest ever in our history and over 650,000 jobs were created last year, according to StatsSA. This is still not good enough. The unemployment rate still remains high."

Zuma said talks between mining bosses and unions was making progress.

"The Deputy President of the Republic continues to facilitate discussions between government, mining companies and labour. The purpose is to stabilise industrial relations in this very important sector of our economy. The process is yielding results," Zuma said.

"Strikes in the sector were fewer and shorter last year. And, more importantly, industrial relations processes are taking place in a manner consistent with the law. We have intervened in mining because it is one of our key job drivers. We need a mining sector that works. Mining employs over half a million people. It is the biggest earner of foreign exchange in our country. It also contributes about R20-billion directly to the tax revenue."

Zuma said the domestic economy would survive the current strain resulting from global pressures.

"We are still going through a difficult period. Developments in the United States economy have led to a rapid depreciation in the emerging market currencies, including the rand. During the course of 2013, the rand depreciated by 17.6 per cent against the US dollar. The weaker exchange rate poses a significant risk to inflation and will also make our infrastructure programme more expensive."

"However, export companies, particularly in the manufacturing sector, should take advantage of the weaker rand and the stronger global recovery. While we have these difficulties, we know that we can cope with this period of turbulence."

"We have done so before in the past five years. We will, in fact, emerge stronger if we do the right things."

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