Ramaphosa: Zuma serious about Sona plans

The deputy president says Zuma is committed to holding ministers accountable like never before.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Sapa.

CAPE TOWN - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa has made tremendous progress and should not be shy about its good story.

Ramaphosa spoke at a New Age briefing earlier this morning on President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address (Sona) last night.

Ramaphosa stood in for the president this morning, amid questions about his health but he said Zuma is fully rested after taking a break from work and is in good health.

He said government is aware of the economic challenges it's facing and is determined to work with all sectors to address them.

Ramaphosa said Zuma is committed to holding ministers accountable like never before.

"Watch this space there is going to be clear performance. I have never seen the president more serious than this."

Ramaphosa also said government is focusing on developing skills among young South Africans.

"This is the future of our country. We have young people who are determined to learn, to get skills and to contribute meaningfully to the future of our country. Let us give them the opportunity to do so."

He said the state is committed to implementing the National Development Plan which is meant to address these challenges.

ZUMA FOCUSES ON ECONOMY

Zuma's Sona moved to reassure investors at home and abroad that the government will get to grips with two big threats to the economy - labour strife on the mines and the electricity supply crunch.

"We will embark on various mergers and interventions to jumpstart the economy."

He said a strong emphasis will be placed on mining companies to improve the living conditions of workers.

The president has committed the government to an ambitious five per cent growth target by 2019 and says the economy will take centre stage in government's plan over the next five years.

But as Zuma delivered his address, Eskom was already engaged in another round of load shedding, while a settlement in the marathon platinum miners' strike was yet to be finalised.

The president said he will personally drive plans to improve miners' living conditions while Ramaphosa leads talks to improve relations in the sector.

The president said the government plans to fast-track sourcing new energy supplies to power the economy. It will be looking at nuclear and shale gas as well as coal and renewable energy options.

Zuma also revealed government aims to create a million jobs in the agriculture sector by 2030.

He promised the state will provide more support to small-scale farmers.

"Support will be provided to communities as well to engage in food production and subsistence farming to promote food security."

SONA GETS THUMBS DOWN

Political parties have criticised Zuma's address, saying it falls short of what's needed to grow the economy, create jobs and mend the mining sector.

Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane says the president has lost touch with the people.

"President Zuma is living in one space while South Africans are living in a very difficult space."

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder says the president was subdued.

"The gas is out of the bottle and there were no real original proposals. How are we going to get the country out of the economic crisis?"

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema says African National Congress Members of Parliament who applauded Zuma's speech were supporting mediocrity.

"We should be told today how many mines have been closed down for not complying with the charter and not to repeat what the charter says and create an impression that it's a new thing."

The African Christian Democratic Party says Zuma's address was full of promises but lacked substance.

Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions has accused government of back-tracking on its election promises.

In his Sona, the president committed government to looking at the possibility of a national minimum wage to reduce the wage gap.

But Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says the ANC's election manifesto committed to exploring how a national minimum wage could be implemented.

"The manifesto of the ANC says the government shall investigate the modalities. Suddenly now, the speech says we will investigate the possibilities. Those are two different things."

Vavi has also told Eyewitness News he was disappointed that Zuma's speech didn't address e-tolls.

"There was no mentioning of the e-tolls, meaning that the government plans to expand that programme beyond Gauteng. This is something that is reality, which we must say upfront we will continue to resist."

For more on Sona, click here.