Controversy, electricity & economic challenges dominate SONA 2015 - CNBC Africa

Controversy, electricity & economic challenges dominate SONA 2015

Southern Africa

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Zuma highlighted the slow global growth as well as the domestic constraints. PHOTO: eNCA

This was following the forced removal of opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and a walkout by another opposition party – the Democratic Alliance (DA), after the concerns that they raised were, according to them, not adequately answered by the speaker and Zuma.

(READ MORE: S.African security officers remove opposition lawmakers during Zuma speech)

Subsequent to the commotion, which covered everything from a lack of cell phone signal in parliament and the Nkandla controversy, to the reasons behind the fact that the security forces were armed, Zuma sought to highlight the difficult economic climate that the country currently faces. 

“We meet yet again during a difficult economic climate. This week, the IMF revised down to 3.5 per cent the GDP growth forecast for global economic growth in 2015,” he said.

“Our ambition of achieving a growth target of five per cent by 2019 is at risk because of the slow global growth as well as domestic constraints in energy, skills, transport and logistics, amongst others.”

He added that the situation is more promising on the jobs front and that the country’s investment in youth employment is paying off.

However, he also stated that the South African economy is in need of a major push forward.

“We would like to share with you our nine point plan to ignite growth and create jobs. These are resolving the energy challenge, revitalising agriculture and the agro-processing value chain, advancing beneficiation or adding value to our mineral wealth, more effective implementation of a higher impact Industrial Policy Action Plan,” Zuma said.

“Encouraging private sector investment, moderating workplace conflict, unlocking the potential of SMMEs, cooperatives, township and rural enterprises, state reform and boosting the role of state owned companies, ICT infrastructure or broadband roll out, water, sanitation and transport infrastructure as well as Operation Phakisa aimed growing the ocean economy and other sectors.”

Zuma also shed light on the serious energy constraints that the country is currently experiencing, adding that it is an impediment to economic growth.

(READ MORE: SACCI says SONA must address electricity supply deficit)

“Overcoming the challenge is uppermost in our programme. We are doing everything we can to resolve the energy challenge. We have developed a plan which involves both short, medium term and long term responses,” Zuma added.

“The short and medium term plan involves improved maintenance of Eskom power stations, enhancing the electricity generation capacity and managing the electricity demand. The long term plan involves finalising our long term energy security master plan.”

He further stated that as a priority, government is going to stabilise Eskom’s finances to enable the utility to manage the current period.

“In this regard, government will honour its commitment to give Eskom around 23 billion rand in the next fiscal year. The 'War Room' established by Cabinet in December is working diligently around the clock with Eskom, to stabilize the electricity supply system and contain the load shedding,” Zuma said.

“During this period, we have to work together to find solutions. We urge all individuals, households, industries and government departments to save electricity in order to reduce the need for load shedding.”