Nationalisation is not govt policy, says Zuma

President Jacob Zuma repeated firmly on Tuesday that nationalisation is not government policy.

Replying to the debate on his State of the Nation address in the National Assembly, Zuma said: “We have noted that political formations, including the ruling party’s youth league, have decided to debate the matter. This is a democratic society, and as government, we cannot stop political formations from deciding to open a debate on this topic or any other.”

Departing from his prepared text, the president urged those who object to nationalisation to argue their case with the African National Congress Youth League, instead of asking the party leadership to silence Julius Malema.

He also told MPs that creating decent work remains at the centre of the government’s economic policies, and he pointed out that the short-term measures embarked on to assist people to survive the recession do not replace the jobs that must be created by the formal economy.

“In my address I said our long-term infrastructure investment programme will be one of the platforms that will underpin our growth in the next four years,” he said. “As we proceed with this programme, we will work to maximise industrial growth opportunities by promoting local manufacture of critical inputs for the infrastructure projects.

“This will have long-term benefits for our industrial capacity and boost job creation.”

He also spoke of a focus on maximising green jobs—as part of the state effort to tackle climate change.

He said he agreed with the chief whip of the Democratic Alliance, Ian Davidson, that his administration needs to “open the economy, promote opportunity, create competition and give choice”.

But he insisted: “This does not require the retreat of the state. Indeed, the resources and institutions of the state can be effectively used to promote conditions for even greater private-sector growth and development.”

Youthful population
The president pointed out that South Africa has a very youthful population. About one-third of all South Africans are under the age of 15. Half of all South Africans are under the age of 25. And nearly 70% of all South Africans are under the age of 35, according to Statistics South Africa.

Mindful of this, he said, there are several programmes that are specifically aimed at them. He mentioned the comprehensive social security system as a critical intervention to tackle the worst effects of poverty, and the school feeding scheme, which reaches more than six million primary school learners and another one million secondary school learners each day.

It helps to combat malnutrition and improve the capacity of poor children to learn, and to ensure that no child goes through the school day on an empty stomach. He noted that Enver Surty, Deputy Minister of Education, pointed out in Monday’s debate that the most critical and significant cognitive development of a child occurs from birth to four years.

“Clearly, honourable members, the quality and capabilities of our matriculants in 2025 is being determined today,” he said. “It is also for the same reason that we are focusing on health interventions in early childhood.”

Sneers
Despite the sneers from the opposition about his personal behaviour, he reiterated that in his efforts to ensure a better future for South Africa’s youth, the fight against HIV/Aids is crucial. “We remain fully committed to implement the measures [announced on December 1 last year] on schedule,” he said.

By contrast with developed countries with an ageing population, he said, South Africa is a country in which half its population still have their entire working lives ahead of them.

“Like many other developing countries, our most productive years are, potentially, yet to come,” he told MPs. “But we will only realise that potential if we pursue appropriate policies now, and if we pursue them with purpose and vigour. Critically, this means that we must focus on the education and training of our youth.

“That is possibly the single most important investment we can make in the future of this country.”—I-Net Bridge

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