By: Chris Bathembu
President Jacob Zuma began this year’s State Of the Nation Address in Parliament by reporting on the progress made by his administration – highlighting major milestones on key infrastructure projects crucial to the country’s New Growth Path strategy.
The strategy promotes inclusive growth and job creation in six job drivers. These include infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism.
Zuma said expansion in the port of Ngqura, which he launched last year, was well underway to develop a major new transhipment hub. The port is the deepest container terminal in sub-Saharan Africa, and will accommodate the new generation of giant container ships traversing Africa’s southern tip. Experts have said the port and its mega container terminal offer a solution to South Africa’s long-time shortage of container capacity, resulting from the growth in container traffic globally.
The speech, which the President delivered in the joint sitting of parliament, was the first to be delivered under the context of the National Development Plan, which Cabinet adopted recently. The plan is critical of the country’s infrastructure and calls for major steps to be taken to build and infrastructure that can support economic growth in rural areas.
Zuma said preparatory work has commenced for the construction of the Umzimvubu Dam which is he said was critical for rural livelihoods.
He reported that the upgrading of Mthatha airport runway and terminal and the construction of the Nkosi Dalibhunga Mandela Legacy Road and Bridge are currently underway. The bridge is crucial to the Eastern Cape’s wider economic development and will reduce the distance between Mvezo and East London, Mthatha and Idutywa by more than 50 kilometres. Last year the Presidency said the R120 million project would also provide work to more than 300 people.
He outlined progress on the work to improve the transportation of iron-ore and open up the west coast of the country by announcing that a decision was taken to expand the country’s rail capacity through the delivery of 11 locomotives.
“The first phase of the expansion – to increase iron ore port capacity at Saldanha to 60 million tons per annum – was officially completed in September last year”.
Construction work was taking place in five cities – Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Rustenburg, eThekwini and Tshwane to integrate the different modes of transport.
In the energy sector, Zuma said Eskom has put in place 675 kilometres of electricity transmission lines to connect fast-growing economic centres and also to bring power to rural areas. More than 200 000 households have been connected to the national electricity grid in 2012.
In addition, government signed contracts to the value of R47 billion in the renewable energy programme.
The Energy Department announced introduced Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme in August 2011, with the first bid submission for Window 1 scheduled ending in November of that year. According to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2010) – which is a 20-year projection on electricity supply and demand – about 42% of electricity generated in South Africa is required to come from renewable resources.
On Thursday Zuma said the move to clean energy programme involved 28 projects in wind, solar and small hydro technologies, to be developed in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape and in the Free State.
Government had also established an R800 million national green fund last year. To date, over R400 million investments in green economy projects has already been approved for municipalities, other organs of state, community organisations and the private sector across all provinces.
“We have also rolled out 315 000 solar water geysers as of January this year, most of which were given to poor households, many of whom had never had running hot water before,” said Zuma.