President Jacob Zuma has in his State of the Nation Address on Thursday highlighted various infrastructure projects that have already kicked off and also announced several new measures to speed up land reform.
Delivering his address, during a joint sitting of Parliament, Zuma gave an update on various infrastructure projects, and also announced that a study on the country’s tax policies would be launched later this year and that rural youth hubs would be rolled out in the countryside this year.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is planning nine Rural Youth Hubs per province, including in the 23 poorest districts in the country.
The government will also use the Expanded Public Works Programme and the Community Work programme to absorb young people, he said.
Business, labour and the government also will sign an accord on youth employment later this month.
The tax policies study will evaluate the current mining royalties regime, with regard to its ability to suitably serve South Africans.
Zuma said a Presidential Remuneration Commission will be set up to investigate the appropriateness of the remuneration and conditions of service provided by the state to all its employees.
Turning to infrastructure projects, he said by the end of next month and starting from 2009, the government will have spent about R860 billion on infrastructure.
Various projects having started across the country, he said.
These include the start of construction of the first phase of the Mokolo and Crocodile River Water Augmentation which will provide water required for the Matimba and the Medupi power stations.
The construction of the bulk water distribution system for the De Hoop Dam also began in October last year, to supply water to the Greater Sekhukhune, Waterberg and Capricorn district municipalities.
Work is now under way to develop the City Deep inland terminal in Gauteng.
Initial work has commenced in the expansion of the Pier 2 in the Durban Port.
Construction is also under way at the Port of Ngqura to develop a new transshipment hub.
Preparatory work has started on the Umzimvubu Dam in the Eastern Cape
Construction work is taking place in five cities – Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Rustenburg, eThekwini, Tshwane to integrate the different modes of transport – bus, taxi and train.
675km of electricity lines have been laid to economic centres and also to bring power to rural areas, while the government signed contracts to the value of R47 billion in the renewable energy programme.
98 new schools will have been built by the end of next month, of which more than 40 are in the Eastern Cape that are replacing mud schools.
He said construction is expected to begin in September at the sites of two new universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.
With 2013 set to mark the centenary of the 1913 Land Act, Zuma said the government would take a number of steps to speed up land reform.
These include shortening the time it takes to finalise a claim while proposed amendments had been made to the Restitution of Land Rights Act to provide for the re-opening of the lodgement of restitution claims, by people who missed the deadline of 31 December 1998, he said.
“Also to be explored, are exceptions to the June 1913 cut-off date to accommodate claims by the descendants of the Khoi and San as well as heritage sites and historical landmarks,” he said.
However, he said, government would continue to pursue the “just and equitable” principle for compensation, as set out in the constitution instead of the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle, which forces the state to pay more for land than the actual value.
He said government would also need to provide better incentives for commercial farmers that are willing and capable of mentoring smallholder farmers.
On small business support, he said a key project for the Presidency currently is to get government departments to pay small business within 30 days.
“Departments are required to submit monthly reports so that we can monitor progress in this regard,” he said, adding that accounting officers who fail to execute this directive, should face consequences.
The government will also prioritise the development of black owned enterprises and black industrialists, said Zuma, adding that the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act and codes are being finalised.
Turning to mining, he said, the government, labour in the form of Cosatu, Nactu and Fedusa, Business Unity SA (Busa), the Black Business Council and the community sector met in October and reached an agreement which laid the basis for a return to work across the mining industry.
He said work is under way and the team will report in due course with specific plans for Rustenburg, Lephalale, Emalahleni, West Rand, Welkom, Klerksdorp, Burgersfort, Carletonville and Madibeng.
“We believe that at a policy level we have managed to bring about certainty in the mining sector. The nationalisation debate was laid to rest in December at the ruling party’s national conference,” he said.
Turning to education, he said the Department of Basic Education was to establish a national task team to strengthen the implementation of the Mathematics, Science and Technology Strategy.
He reassured teachers unions that the constitutional rights of teachers to strike will not be taken away.
Turning to health, the President said next year government would create the National Health Insurance (NHI) Fund, adding that the Department of Health will accelerate and intensify progress in the pilot districts.
He said from April the first group of about 600 private medical practitioners will be contracted to provide medical services at 533 clinics within villages and townships in 10 of the pilot districts.
The brutal gang rape and murder of Anene Booysen and other women and girls in recent times has brought into sharp focus the need for unity in action to eradicate violence against women.
The National Council on Gender Based Violence set up last year and comprised of members of the government, non-governmental organizations, community-based organisations, faith-based organisations, academia, research institutions, government, men’s groupings, and representation from women, children and persons with disabilities.
“We urge this coordinating structure to make the campaign of fighting violence against women an everyday campaign,” he said.
“I have directed law enforcement agencies to treat these cases with the utmost urgency and importance.
“The Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units, which were re-established in 2010, have increased personnel,” Zuma said.
During the last financial year, the Units secured over 363 life sentences, with a conviction rate of 73% for crimes against women above 18 years old and 70% for crimes against children under 18 years of age.
To boost the fight against corruption, all vacant posts at the upper echelons of the criminal justice system will be filled, he said.
Tere were lessons from Marikana and other incidents that South Africa cannot allow to reoccur in South Africa, said Zuma, adding that he had instructed the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster to put measures in place, with immediate effect, to ensure that any incidents of violent protest are acted upon, investigated and prosecuted.
“Courts will be allocated to deal with such cases on a prioritised roll. The law must be enforced and it must be seen to be enforced fairly, effectively and expeditiously,” he said.