#SONA2014: Zuma focuses on economy

The president said government does have interventions in place to jump-start the ailing economy.

President Jacob Zuma and his wife Nompumelelo Ntuli at the State of the Nation Address on 17 June 2014. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday focused on the ailing economy during his seventh State of the Nation Address (Sona) in Parliament, Cape Town.

He started off by paying tribute to the secretary of Parliament Michael Coetzee who passed away on Friday after a long battle with cancer.

"His contribution to the struggle for freedom and democracy will never be forgotten."

He also paid tribute to former president Thabo Mbeki's mother, Epainette, who passed away on 7 June at the age of 98.

"Her guidance and wisdom will be sorely missed. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Mbeki family," he added.

Mandla Mandela and Thando Mabunu arrive at the 2014 State of the Nation Address. Picture: GCIS.

Zuma said the ANC has set a strong target of five percent growth by 2019.

Through his speech, he tried to allay fears about the economy, which contracted in the first quarter of 2014 largely due to the crippling wage strike on the platinum belt.

He also blamed the slow economic growth of the past three years on by the global economic slowdown and a shortage of energy supply.

"We have interventions to jump-start the economy," Zuma told the National Assembly.

He also touched on the National Development Plan (NDP) and the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

"We have put in place a programme of action based on the ANC manifesto and the NDP.

"It remains our strong belief that the most effective weapon in the campaign against poverty, is the creation of decent work and that creating work requires faster economic growth."

Zuma said over the past three years, South African households have been battling.

"The low level of investments is a key constraint to economic growth. We are determined to work with the private sector to remove obstacles to investment."

He said government identified agriculture as a key job driver.

"Our target is for the agricultural sector to create a million jobs by 2030. Government will provide comprehensive support to smallholder farmers by speeding up land reform and providing technical, infrastructural and financial support.

The sun sets over Table Mountain before President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address. Rene de Villiers/EWN.

This is Zuma's second Sona for 2014.

The president has been under enormous pressure from tripartite alliance partners, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), a labour partner.

Earlier on Tuesday, the trade union federation said it was waiting to hear how government intends to bring about radical economic transformation.