The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) is very pleased with the President Jacob Zuma’s commitment to infrastructure and development. We are however unsure of where this additional money is going to come from and over what time frames the implementation will take place. I am also worried that job creation appears to have taken a back seat and hardly any emphasis was placed on education in the State of the Nation Address.
Fedusa was hoping that clear strategies to tackle poverty, unemployment and access to basic services would be outlined. Another puzzling issue was the impression given to the public that the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) process on the atypical forms of employment and labour broking has been completed. Negotiations reached a deadlock last year and while Fedusa is reassured by Government’s promise to end abusive labour practises, the question of labour brokering regulation is far from over.
Fedusa is cautiously optimistic regarding the announcement that Transnet under its Market Demand Strategy will be investing R300 billion in capital projects, over the next seven years. The R200 billion allocated to rail and port infrastructure could be a major driver of employment creation and improve public transport. Increasing the scope of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to assist with the creation of new infrastructure and the maintenance of existing facilities, with a specific focus on youth unemployment, will go a long way to addressing the concerns of poor infrastructure, skills shortages and unemployment.
We have repeatedly called for increased rail infrastructure, taking a resolution at our 5th National Congress to call on Government for the expansion of passenger rail commuting services in and around metropolitan areas. Depending on the province in question, Fedusa proposes that there should be speed trains linking major centres and bordering towns within a 200km radius. This would increase the employment generation in the cities while regenerating investment in the local economies of rural communities, ultimately creating more jobs and lessening the burden on cities’ roads and infrastructure.
Infrastructure investment in our roads, rail, ports and water will unblock the rich mineral resources of platinum, palladium, chrome and other minerals to increase South Africa’s mining potential and beneficiation programme. Infrastructure investment is a critical component of strong economic growth, which will also facilitate and integrate other economic activities and Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME) development. As previously raised, we are however not sure where the funds for this investment will come from and what time frame will be allocated, questions which we look forward to debating at the upcoming Presidential Infrastructure Summit.
South Africans already feel that we are not receiving a fair return on the investment that we make in education
Fedusa is disappointed that the President did not address the indiscipline in schools and tertiary institutions more directly. It is of no use to repeat the same call year after year for teachers to be in class, on time and teaching at least seven hours a day. South Africans already feel that we are not receiving a fair return on the investment that we make in education. The high drop-out rate in grade 10 is a major concern and we need to drastically improve the quality and pass rate in our schools and universities. We need more learners to pass matric with subjects such as maths and science.

Fedusa is fully supportive of the proposal to refurbish hospitals and nursing colleges, infrastructure and skills development will assist in raising of standards in the public healthcare system.

Some of our provincial education departments are totally incompetent to manage our education systems, each year we are faced with the same problems such as non-delivery of textbooks, non-payment of scholar transport, excess teachers and a general poor culture of learning and teaching, however each year the perpetrators are allowed to stay in the education system, it is time to root out the rotten apples. Fedusa is fully supportive of the proposal to refurbish hospitals and nursing colleges, infrastructure and skills development will assist in raising of standards in the public healthcare system to ensure that South Africa have access to world-class public healthcare. These processes could create a strong base from which to start Government’s National Health Insurance (NHI), but we would caution Government that the process should be an all encompassing consultation process on policy direction as well as what is needed to make an NHI with tangible policy interventions. Fedusa welcomes the R20 billion set aside in incentives earmarked to support new industrial projects and manufacturing as well as commitments to extend of basic services and intensifying the fight against corruption. Of particular significance was the President’s reference to subsidies for workers to enable them to obtain housing finance from an accredited Bank. Furthermore we were also pleased to hear of the establishment of the Multi-Agency Working Group on procurement, led by the National Treasury, South African Reserve Bank (SARS) and the Financial Intelligence Centre. We hope this venture will ensure the elimination of wasteful expenditure and lax financial controls within the public sector. In conclusion it is important to take cognisance of what has been achieved to date and ensure that concrete proposals are implemented going forward.
Dennis George is The Federation of Unions of South Africa’s Secretary General.

– By COMMENT: FEDUSA Secretary General, Dennis George