Zuma steps up affirmative action promises

Responding to criticism of his State of the Nation address in Parliament, Zuma promised 'radical' policies.

President Jacob Zuma delivers his reply to the debate on the State of the Nation in Parliament. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - President Jacob Zuma says his government will intensify its affirmative action policies.

Speaking during his reply to the Parliamentary debate on last week's State of the Nation Address, the president addressed criticism, clarified certain points, and revealed further announcements.

He told Members of Parliament that critics of affirmative action failed to understand how apartheid legislated against black people in business.

Zuma promised radical new policies on economic transformation that he says will come after the 7 May elections.

Speaking directly to the poor and working class, Zuma pledged a "new radical phase" after elections, with policies that he promised would offer meaningful economic change.

He says employment equity reports each year show whites still hold most top management positions.

"We must therefore intensify the implementation of affirmative action policies in order to deepen reconciliation and social cohesion."

He says the economy has to become more inclusive and cannot be run by a minority in perpetuity.

Zuma says affirmative action will bring those who were previously left out in the cold into the economy.

GOVERNMENT DEBT TO RISE

During his address, the president also announced that government's debts are expected rise to 45 percent of the country's gross domestic product by 2015.

In 1994, it was 48 percent and, at its lowest, it reached 27 percent in 2008.

Zuma argues an increase is necessary to support spending on infrastructure and social welfare.

He argued the rate would be nothing unusual, saying, "This is still relatively low compared to some developed and other emerging market countries."