Social justice can't be achieved if we allow status quo to persist - Jacob Zuma

President says black majority still remains largely outside of the mainstream economy

Address by President Jacob Zuma to Captains of Industry and Labour Leaders ahead of SONA2017

7 February 2017

Deputy President,

Ministers and Deputy Ministers

Captains of commerce and industry

Leadership of Labour Federations,

DGs and senior officials,

Good afternoon all and welcome to our second investor interaction ahead of the State of the Nation Address.

Let me extend a special welcome to those of you who are attending the Mining Indaba. I am informed that the attendance is one of the largest in the history of the event.

This demonstrates the importance of the mining sector to our economy and the significance of close cooperation between government, business and labour to make this industry thrive.

We have considered it prudent that we get together again in this manner, because we can only succeed as a nation if we work together.

We have declared 2017 the Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo and the year of deepening unity, because that was his legacy. He worked hard to achieve the unity of the oppressed and indeed all freedom loving people in our country and the world. In him we find inspiration to encourage the building of one South Africa, characterized by unity, equality and prosperity.

We meet this year under improved conditions economically. Following a period of low economic growth in the last few years, prospects have improved for the years ahead.  We expect economic growth of 1.3 per cent in 2017 following an estimated 0.5 per cent in 2016.

Improved commodity prices, and stronger global growth should encourage both investment and employment, and provide necessary support for exports.

Agriculture is expected to recover following improved weather conditions, while tourism and the manufacturing sector should be supported by the weaker rand and a recovery in economic activity in the region. We have reason to be optimistic.

Despite the improved outlook, we have to acknowledge that we are not growing fast enough to significantly reduce our triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Unemployment currently stands at 27.1%. This is the highest rate since June 2004. Our youth unemployment stands at 44% for 18 to 29 year olds.

In South Africa as in the rest of the world, the largest employers of unskilled workers are shrinking in importance. This puts more workers in the job market, being not only unemployed but also largely difficult to employ due to lack of skills.

Low economic growth and pressure on revenue suggest that the public sector can no longer be the main engine of jobs growth.

We used to rely on government to absorb the unemployed. The public service is also facing pressure.

A most important challenge we need to confront head on this year, is the scale of inequality and exclusion in this country. It needs urgent action. After two decades since democracy, the black majority still remains largely outside of the mainstream economy.

Social justice cannot be achieved if we allow the status quo to persist. Economic inclusion since 1994 demonstrated that we can grow the size of the economy. We have though, failed to ensure that the growth is shared. As we begin a new phase of economic recovery we have to make sure we take everyone along.  We have to rework and sharpen our transformation model and more importantly demonstrate commitment and empathy.

We should never rest until the vision for a better life for all is realised, all of us as labour, business, the community sector and government.  

One of the key issues we discussed the last time was the need to remove obstacles to doing business in our country. 

We established the InterMinisterial Committee on Investment which has been discussing the coordination and alignment of investment policy and regulation including the marketing of South Africa as a preferred investment destination.

A dedicated division in the dti, InvestSA, has been established which will focus on investment promotion, facilitation and aftercare.

The national One Stop Shop service for investors will be launched in March 2017 at the dti Campus in Pretoria and 3 Provincial One Stop Shops will be launched by mid-2017.

The One Stop Shops will be the focal point of contact in government for all investors to coordinate and facilitate with the relevant government departments involved in regulatory, registration, permits and licencing. InvestSA will provide specialist advisory, intergovernmental coordination, fast track unblocking and red tape reduction in Government. 

Ladies and Gentlemen

We meet under changed international conditions. Global protectionism appears to be on the rise – impacting trade negatively.

But there is more that we can do and opportunities that we can seize:

The European Partnership Agreement came into force in October 2016 with increased market access for certain products.

We must also be cognizant of the opportunities and challenges that BREXIT will bring.

Regional integration and trade with other countries in Africa is a key component of our trade policy and offers many opportunities.

We are making credible progress with the continental free trade area, with the first phase of negotiations to include goods and services to be completed in 2017. This will translate into increased commercial opportunities for South African companies. It is critical that Team SA remains focused and united to unlock these opportunities.

We are also pleased that the guidelines of good practice for South African companies operating on the continent is supported by African Union member states.

We encourage more South African companies to sign up to the guidelines. 

I am confident that working together as we are doing, we can achieve more in developing our economy and making it more attractive for foreign and domestic investment.

Let me emphasise that it is critical that we work together as business, labour and government. That is what we mean when we talk of unity in action as we move South Africa Forward.

I thank you

Issued by The Presidency, 7 February 2017