As President Jacob Zuma prepares to deliver his 2016 State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday, below are highlights of his 2015 SONA.

Employment

Two days prior to SONA, StatsSA released the employment figures for the last quarter of 2014.

The report shows that there are now 15.3 million people who are employed in South Africa. This shows that jobs grew by 203 000.

A target of 6 million work opportunities over five years in 2014 for the programme was announced.

More than 850 000 work opportunities have been created. This means that government is poised to meet the annual target of 1 million job opportunities.

Environmental programmes such as Working on Waste, Working for Wetlands, Working for Water and Working on Fire have created more than 30 000 work opportunities and aim to create more than 60 000 during the next financial year.

President Zuma shared a nine point plan to ignite growth and create jobs.

1. Resolving the energy challenge.
2. Revitalizing agriculture and the agro-processing value chain.
3. Advancing beneficiation or adding value to our mineral wealth.
4. More effective implementation of a higher impact Industrial Policy Action Plan.
5. Encouraging private sector investment.
6. Moderating workplace conflict.
7. Unlocking the potential of SMMEs, cooperatives, township and rural enterprises.
8. State reform and boosting the role of state owned companies, ICT infrastructure or broadband roll out, water, sanitation and transport infrastructure as well as
9. Operation Phakisa aimed growing the ocean economy and other sectors.

President Zuma says that investment in youth employment is also paying off. The Employment Tax Incentive which was introduced last year directed mainly at the youth is progressing very well.

R2 billion has been claimed to date by some 29 000 employers, who have claimed for at least 270 000 young people.

Energy

The President outlines that the country is experiencing serious energy constraints which are an impediment to economic growth and is a major inconvenience to everyone in the country.

He says government is doing everything they can to resolve the energy challenge.

A plan has been developed which involves both short, medium term and long term responses.

• 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.

As a priority government is going to stabilize Eskom’s finances to enable the utility to manage the current period. In this regard, Government will honour its commitment to give Eskom around R23 billion 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. During this period, we have to work together to find solutions.

Individuals, households, industries and government departments are urged to save electricity in order to reduce the need for load shedding.

Given the high cost of diesel, Eskom has been directed to switch from diesel to gas as a source of energy for the utility’s generators.
Households are also being encouraged to switch from electricity to gas for cooking, heating and other uses.

The construction of the three new power stations Kusile, Medupi and Ingula, will add 10 000 megawatts of capacity to the national grid.

The quest for alternative energy sources is also ongoing. To date government has procured 4000 megawatts from Independent Power Producers, using renewable sources.

The first three bid windows of the renewable energy procurement process attracted more than 140 billion rand from private investors.
A total of 3900 megawatts of renewable energy has also been sourced, with 32 projects with a capacity of just over 1500 megawatts completed and connected to the grid.

Eskom itself has completed the construction of the Sere Wind Farm, which is already delivering 100 megawatts to the grid, well ahead of its intended launch in March this year.

Government also began procurement in December 2014, of 2400 megawatts of new coal fired power generation capacity, from Independent Power Producers.

The procurement process for 2400 megawatts of new gas fired generation will commence in the first quarter of the new financial year.
A total of 2 600 megawatts of hydro-electric capacity will be sourced from the SADC region.

Land Reform

More than 36 000 land claims have been lodged nationally and the cut-off date is 2019.

The fifty/fifty policy framework is also being explored, which proposes relative rights for people who live and work on farms.

Fifty farming enterprises will be identified as a pilot project.

In terms of new proposed laws, a ceiling of land ownership will be set at a maximum of 12 000 hectares.

Foreign nationals will not be allowed to own land in South Africa but will be eligible for long term lease.

In this regard, the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill will be submitted to Parliament this year.

Through the Land Reform Programme, more than 90 000 hectares of land have been allocated to small holder farmers, farm dwellers and labour tenants.

The process of establishing the Office of the Valuer-General is underway, which is established in terms of the Property Valuation Act.
Once implemented the law will stop the reliance on the Willing Buyer-Willing Seller method in respect of land acquisition by the state.

Agriculture

Government is working with the private sector to develop an Agricultural Policy Action Plan which will bring one million hectares of under-utilised land into full production over the next three years.

Among key interventions this year, we will promote the establishment of agri-parks or cooperatives and clusters in each of the 27 poorest district municipalities to transform rural economies.

An initial funding of R2 billion has been made available for the Agri-Park initiative.

The Agro-processing exports which have been growing rapidly especially to new markets in Africa and China will be further enhanced.

The export of apples alone is projected to generate R500 million in foreign exchange over three years.

In the Vhembe District Municipality in Musina, the Limpopo Government has supported the Nwanedi Cluster comprising 300 farmers growing vegetables on just over 1,300 hectares for commercial purposes.

The Cluster has already created more than 2,500 jobs as vegetable farming is highly labour-intensive.

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Manufacturing

The Automotive Investment Scheme has unlocked private-sector investment of R24.5 billion, and generated exports of automotive and components of R103 billion in 2013.

A world-class auto sector on the African continent exporting to over 152 countries has been built.

The leather and footwear sector has also grown to 60 million pairs of shoes, and exports grew by 18% with significant benefit to the balance of trade.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development shows that South Africa doubled its Foreign Direct Investment inflows to R88 billion in 2013 while 2014 projections are also positive.

The Manufacturing sector was hit hard by the Global Financial Crisis.

Government committed more than R2.8 billion to companies in the sector, through the Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme.

Mining

The implementation of a number of programmes under the Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry, has caused relative stability and optimism in the mining sector, which is the backbone of SA’s economy.

Mine Crime Combating Forums have been established in the North West, Limpopo, Free State, Mpumalanga, and Gauteng provinces.

Government will implement the agreements reached with Business and Labour, including the consideration of a national minimum wage.

A total of R2.1 billion has been ring-fenced to revitalize distressed mining towns with R290 million approved for Informal Settlement Upgrading in Mpumalanga, North West, Gauteng, Northern Cape, Limpopo and the Free State.

One hundred and thirty three (133) informal settlements are being assessed or prepared for upgrading through the National Upgrade Support Programme.

Thirty two (32) settlements are being upgraded and 87 housing projects are being implemented across the prioritised mining towns.
Importantly, Government, the mining sector and the Banking Association of South Africa signed a Social Contract for the development of sustainable human settlements.

Government also continues to provide social development support within mining communities. Other support includes technical expertise with regards to Integrated Development Plans and the development of Special Economic Zones.

Labour Relations

The year 2015 will see further improvements in labour legislation to further promote worker rights.

The Labour Department will review the sectoral determinations of agriculture, forestry, private security, wholesale and retail sectors.
Government expects that the finalization of the Employment Services Act of 2014 which formally establishes a public employment service.

The legislation also formally regulates the practices of private employment agencies and temporary employment services, to prevent the abuse of unsuspecting work seekers.

In addition, the Unemployment Insurance Act of 2001 will be amended to improve benefits to beneficiaries and include public servants in the application of the Act.

Small Business

Government will set-aside 30% of appropriate categories of State procurement for purchasing from SMMEs, co-operatives as well as township and rural enterprises.

Opportunities for the youth will also be promoted.

The National Youth Development Agency has disbursed R25 million to 765 youth owned micro enterprises in the last financial year nationally.

The Agency has also partnered with the IDC and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency in a three-way partnership that has resulted in a R2.7 billion fund for young people.

Broadband

The year 2015 will mark the beginning of the first phase of broadband roll out. Government will connect offices in eight district municipalities.

These are Dr Kenneth Kaunda in North West, Gert Sibande in Mpumalanga, O.R. Tambo in the Eastern Cape, Pixley ka Seme in the Northern Cape, Thabo Mofutsanyane in the Free State, Umgungundlovu and Umzinyathi in KwaZulu-Natal, and Vhembe in Limpopo.

Government has also decided to designate Telkom as the lead agency to assist with broadband roll out.

As part of further igniting growth, through supporting state owned companies, processes are underway to implement a 90-day turnaround strategy aimed at stabilizing the finances of South African Airways.

Accordingly, some of the loss making international routes will be phased out.

Infrastructure

The National Infrastructure Development programme continues to be a key job driver and catalyst for economic growth.

Water is a critical resource for economic growth and a better life. Several projects aimed at providing water for industrial and household use are in the implementation or planning phases around the country.

Major projects include Umzimvubu Water project in the Eastern Cape, Jozini Dam in Umkhanyakude in KwaZulu-Natal and projects in Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga and phase one of the Mokolo Crocodile Water Augmentation in Limpopo.

Progress is being made to improve the water supply to areas that had been affected by shortages, such as Makana District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality in North West and Giyani in Limpopo where we celebrated the delivery of water to 55 villages in October last year.

Water and Sanitation

The country loses R7 billion a year to water losses.

To mitigate this challenge, government through the Department of Water and Sanitation will train 15 000 artisans or plumbers who will fix leaking taps in their local communities.

The infrastructure programme continues to expand transport networks and to improve roads which augurs well for economic growth.

Government will also continue to improve the infrastructure in schools and higher education institutions to create a conducive environment for learning and teaching.

Through the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative which is part of the national infrastructure plan, 92 new schools have been completed to date and 108 are under construction.

About 342 schools have received water for the first time.

Three hundred and fifty one (351) schools have received decent sanitation while two hundred and eighty eight (288) have been connected to electricity.

Transport

The Department of Transport will spend about R9 billion on the Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant or the Sihamba Sonke Programme and R11 billion on upgrading and maintaining roads which are not tolled.

Over R6 billion will be spent in 13 cities on planning, building and operating integrated public transport networks during this financial year.

Education and Training

Government has identified 16 sites for the construction of 12 new Technical and Vocational Education and Training College campuses and the refurbishment of two existing campuses.

Work is also continuing to establish the three brand new universities, Sol Plaatjie in the Northern Cape, the University of Mpumalanga and the Sefako Makgatho Allied and Health Sciences University.

Housing

By 30 September 2014, a total number of more than 50 000 houses were delivered in the subsidy and affordable housing segments.

Government will also provide 5000 housing opportunities for Military veterans. Government will also work to eradicate the backlog of title deeds for pre and post 1994 housing stock. Operation Phakisa

Last year (2014) Operation Phakisa was launched, a results-driven laboratory approach to planning and execution of programmes.

Operation Phakisa on the ocean economy is aimed at unlocking opportunities in the shipping, fisheries, and agriculture, mining, oil and gas, bio-technology and tourism sectors.

R9.2 billion has been committeed in investment in gas and oil exploration in the port of Saldanha as part of the Operation Phakisa initiative.

Operation Phakisa on Scaling Up the Ideal Clinic Initiative is aimed at promoting efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism in clinics.

Operation Phakisa will be explored in the mining sector.

Healthcare

Over the past five years, government has scored significant gains in health care.

In 2015, we are going to launch a massive programme to turn the tide against tuberculosis (TB), with a special focus on three communities, offenders at Correctional Services facilities, mineworkers and communities in mining towns.

In fighting the scourge of HIV and AIDS, the state-owned pharmaceutical company, Ketlaphela, has been established and will participate in the supply of anti-retrovirals to the Department of Health.

Crime

Government continues in working hard to fight crime and to create safer communities.

Progress is being made in fighting crimes against women and children.

The SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Investigation Unit has secured 659 life sentences against perpetrators of crimes against women and children.

As a democratic state government recognizes the community’s right to protest. However protests should be within the ambit of the law and must be peaceful as stated in the Constitution.

The police successfully brought under control 13 575 recorded public order incidents, comprising 1 907 unrest-related and 11 668 peaceful incidents.

The fight against corruption continues to be taken forward by the Anti-Corruption Inter-Ministerial Committee.

Government has in place seven anti-corruption institutions and 17 pieces of legislation which are intended to combat corruption. This demonstrates a concerted effort by government to break the back of this scourge in the country.

In the 2013/14 financial year, 52 persons were convicted in cases involving more than R5 million.

Thirty one public servants were convicted in the first quarter of 2014/15 and freezing orders to the value of R430 million were obtained.

Rhino poaching

Cabinet has adopted vigorous and integrated interventions to combat the vicious rhino poaching in the country.

The interventions include continuous joint operations with key neighbouring countries, improved intelligence gathering as well as enhancing protection in parks and provincial reserves where rhino are present.

Government has also made substantial progress in establishing a Border Management Agency, to manage all ports of entry and improve security.

To further improve access to identity documents, citizens will from this year be able to apply for the new Smart ID Card at their local bank due to partnership between the Department of Home Affairs and some banks in the country.

Back to Basics

A Back to Basics programme has been launched to promote good governance and effective administration through cutting wastage, spending public funds prudently, hiring competent staff, and ensure transparency and accountability in municipalities.

The Integrated Urban Development Framework announced in the SONA last June, has been approved by Cabinet.
A number of key outcomes have resulted.

• The African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC), of which South Africa is a contributing and founding member has been operationalised.

• The South African National Defence Force and SA Police Service continued to participate diligently in the conflict prevention and peacekeeping in the continent.

• South Africa also continued to support conflict resolution initiatives in Lesotho, Sri Lanka and South Sudan, led by the Deputy President. SA Partners

Economic cooperation with BRICS partners was strengthened when the first two intergovernmental agreements were concluded on the occasion of the sixth BRICS Summit.

This was the Agreement on the New Development Bank and the Treaty Establishing a Contingent Reserve Arrangement.

Countries of the developed North remain important strategic partners for South Africa through which the country is able to advance its national and foreign policy.

SA has a valuable partnership with the European Union in amongst others, the infrastructure Investment Programme for South Africa valued at approximately R1,5 billion.

The renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act beyond September 2015 and a pledge to support African-led peace initiatives in the continent are among the significant outcomes of the United States-Africa leadership Summit held in the US last year.

UN

At a multilateral level, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations which brings into sharp focus the need to transform the UN Security Council and other international institutions.

Reburial of national heroes

National liberation heroes, Moses Kotane and JB Marks will be reburied in South Africa in March. We thank the government and people of the Russian Federation for looking after the remains of our heroes with dignity for so many decades.

Sport

Government will continue to promote healthy lifestyles and to urge citizens to refrain from smoking and the abuse of alcohol and drugs.

In this regard, on May 10, the Move for Health Day will be launched, an international event promoted by the World Health Organisation.

The day also coincides with the anniversary of the inauguration of former President Nelson Mandela.

– By Luvuyo Mdeni