Address to the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre, Durban
25 July 2009The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, the Honourable Dr Zweli Mkhize,
Mayor of e-Thekwini, councillor Obed Mlaba,
Deputy Mayor, Logie Naidoo,
Clive Manci, President of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
Durban and KZN Captains of Industry,
Good evening to you all and thank you for inviting us to share this occasion with you.
We have been in office for almost three months, and we appreciate this opportunity to update you on some of the work we have been doing thus far.
Informed by an intensive listening campaign during the elections, we have since the inauguration invested time and resources on establishing the new administration.
During the intensive election campaign, the multitudes we met told us what our priorities should be.
The five priorities of the ruling party, which have now formed government’s programme of action, are health, education, the fight against crime, rural development and land reform and creating decent work. These have since been converted into a 10 point programme of action of government.
Other than telling us what we should focus on in terms of high-level issues, people also emphasised that we needed to improve the public service ethos, and make our public servants to work faster, harder and smarter, and be courteous towards the public.
To achieve our service delivery improvement goals, we introduced a reconfigured Cabinet structure in May. We have new Ministries, and others have been split to allow better focus, for example education, minerals and energy, agriculture and others.
The experience of the last two month demonstrates that the transition is being handled with care and dedication.
Ministers have settled into their posts and all seems to be going well. We are on track and are pleased with the progress made so far.
However, we are working in a difficult environment, given the global economic meltdown.
While South Africa has not been affected to the extent that a number of other countries have been, the effects of the meltdown are now being clearly seen in our economy as we have truly entered a recession.
The country’s framework to respond to this crisis was concluded by government, labour and business in February this year and teams were established to work on this.
I will be meeting with the various teams in a week’s time to obtain feedback on work done thus far.
Some of the immediate actions were to be the introduction of a training layoff. Workers who would ordinarily be facing retrenchments due to economic difficulties would be re-trained and kept in employment for a period of time.
The Industrial Development Corporation has also developed a programme to fund companies in distress. We also have to ensure that government buys more goods and services locally, without undermining our global competitiveness or pushing up costs beyond acceptable levels.
We stated earlier this week that South Africans will have to wait longer for the recovery and the creation of decent jobs in the private sector.
Employment creation in the short term will come from activities that depend largely on government spending. This include especially public-employment schemes based in infrastructure construction programmes and government-supported community service and cultural activities.
We have to ensure that the R787 billion-infrastructure expenditure as provided for in the budget earlier this year is properly planned for and executed.
Let me emphasise that we remain committed to our successful Expanded Public Works Programme. There appears to be constant confusion in the media about the 500 000 job opportunities we spoke about in the State of the Nation address.
These are not the permanent jobs that the economy should create, but opportunities that will help our people to survive in the short-term.
Going forward, in our long term macro-economic planning, our industrial policy must recognise a number of factors to ensure growth. Firstly, for the foreseeable future, the mining value chain, including heavy chemicals, will remain critical for exports.
We must therefore continue to support our mining sector, including its expansion and diversification.
Secondly, we must promote those industries that can competitively meet the needs of South Africa and the region, and to some extent that can compete in the global market.
These industries include agriculture; tourism and public services such as health and education. It also comprises industries such as light manufacturing, including food processing, plastics production, the wood value chain and targeted consumer products which might include, for example, consumer electronics and clothing.
The economic downturn will no doubt affect the pace at which our country is able to address the socio-economic challenges it faces, and will slow down the creation of decent jobs.
But, as we said in the State of the Nation address, it will not alter the direction of our development.
The policy priorities that we have identified, and the plans that we placed before the electorate, will not change.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have recently returned from three international summits, the G8 and G5 in Italy, the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Egypt and the African Union in Libya.
The summits were naturally dominated by discussions on how to effectively respond to the global economic crisis.
The message we gave to the developed world is that the international community should:
- place Africa’s development higher on the agenda;
- resist protectionist trade measures;
- increase aid for Africa;
- finalise the Doha trade negotiations;
- and ensure that international financial institutions receive additional resources to assist African countries.
Our view is that the capacity of the international financial institutions to respond to the crisis has been inadequate.
We have therefore called for a significant increase in resources for these institutions, and for an increase in the representation of developing countries.
Our argument is that a global plan to restore global growth and development should be based on four pillars:
- stabilising global finance;
- countering the global recession;
- deploying resources to support demand and sustain investment in developing countries;
- laying the foundation for a sustainable recovery.
Linked to the economic crisis ladies and gentlemen, is the global food crisis, which threatens millions of the poor and vulnerable.
Food insecurity is mostly caused by underdevelopment, poverty, drought, natural disasters, and conflict. It is also the result of trade rules that discriminate against developing countries, economic inequality, and rising fuel and energy prices.
The AU heads of state and government summit took a number of important resolutions on food security in Africa.
This includes the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Plan, which provides a roadmap for cooperation among African countries towards a ‘green revolution’ on the continent.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Some of you may be worried about the current protests around the country. We are paying serious attention to the protests.
We are sympathetic to the concerns of people who have genuine grievances; for we know what it is like to live in conditions of squalor without water, basic sanitation or electricity.
We meant what we said during the election that for as long as our people lived in such conditions, we would not rest. We are working hard to improve the situation throughout the country.
We also understand and accept the right of our people to take to the streets in protest if they are unhappy, that is part of our democratic culture.
However, they lose our support if the protests are accompanied by violence. We are a listening government and working with our people, we will put in mechanisms of responding faster and effectively.
Our police have been instructed to respond with sensitivity towards protesters who act within the confines of the law and the Constitution, but to take swift action against those who break the law.
The July bargaining season has also as usual brought about disagreement and strikes in some industries.
We urge employers and workers to negotiate in good faith and try to finalise the discussions speedily and amicably so that all sectors can get back to work.
Ladies and gentlemen, we will focus intensively on the local government sphere during the term of this administration. It is tempting to shout at colleagues in local government and say they are not doing their work.
But we need to go deeper than that and check what kind of support government provides provincially and nationally to local government, especially in the very rural municipalities with no resources.
I intend to have an intensive interaction with local government colleagues to hear first hand from them what the challenges are, so that working together we can look for solutions.
As businesspeople, we urge you to form partnerships with municipalities in surrounding areas and see what kind of support you can provide in terms of skills development and even infrastructure.
It will be a worthwhile investment, which should not be left to government alone.
Ladies and gentlemen, we must not forget that our country remains a vibrant multiparty democracy. Within the ANC you get even more energy as the Alliance partners or the Leagues of the ANC express themselves regularly on any matter they deem fit.
The commentators and journalists need to become accustomed to that culture of the ANC.
We expect them to know certain basics, for example the ANC policymaking process. Nobody just stands up and declares new policy. It is a long, inclusive and intensive process, which takes place over a period of time from branch level to the national conference.
The next policy changes should therefore be expected at the 53rd national conference in Mangaung in Bloemfontein in 2012, which will also mark the movement’s centenary celebrations.
That is why we said the nationalisation of mines debate did not provide any reason for anyone to be alarmed.
Ladies and gentlemen, earlier today I had the pleasure of visiting the magnificent Moses Mabhida stadium. It showcases the excellence that the province is known for, and is a fine example of the developmental benefits of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.
It inspires one to look forward to the tournament next year.
It reminded me that during this global economic recession we must strengthen our money-spinners such as tourism.
Sports tourism will bring in billions to our country due to the world cup. Tourism has an unrivalled potential to create sustainable jobs and grow the economy faster than any other sector.
More than 9 million people visited South Africa last year. KwaZulu-Natal receives a large share of this number, given the various attractions of the province.
We want world soccer fans to fall in love with our country and its people and to return as tourists after the World Cup.
We therefore urge all captains of the tourism industry and ordinary South Africans to be fully involved in the preparations for this world acclaimed event.
Compatriots, let me use this opportunity to thank you and all South Africans for participating in the Nelson Mandela Day community service on the 18th of July. Our icon and first President of a free and democratic South Africa deserves no less.
The world rallied around this day and made it extra special. We have indeed taken too long to celebrate this gold that is Madiba and we must make up for lost time.
He is an asset to this nation. As government; we will always recognize that and celebrate his life and contribution as much as we can.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have heard some encouraging news that there are moves to get the Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Zululand Chambers to unite and form the KZN Business Chambers Council.
We would welcome such a move as it is important for business to engage other stakeholders such as government as a united voice. It is certainly a step in the right direction.
I wish you all the best in your programmes as the chamber movement.
Working together we can do more to make South Africa more successful and prosperous.
I thank you.