"We have opted for continuity and change" - Jacob Zuma

Speech by the ANC President to an American Chamber of Commerce dinner, November 26 2008


Mr Roger Crawford, AmCham President,

Ms Helen La Lime, Acting Head of Mission at the Embassy of the United States of America,

Distinguished business leaders,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for this invitation for us to celebrate Thanksgiving with the American Chamber of Commerce.

This event is a wonderful and most welcome continuation of my encounter with the American business sector during my visit to the United States last month.

The American Ambassador to South Africa, His Excellency Eric Bost and his team worked tirelessly to help us organise the highly successful visit. Ambassador Bost also accompanied us on the visit, to personally ensure its success. That indicated his commitment to the need to further deepen the multifaceted relations between our two countries.

The United States is South Africa's key trading partner. Bilateral trade grew from R76 billion in 2006 to more than R95 billion in 2007. Relations at political and social development levels have also always been very warm and sound.

Our discussion with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington underscored the mutual interest to strengthen relations and cooperation in both bilateral and multilateral arenas.

Ladies and gentlemen, the election of President-elect Barack Obama has to a large extent set the tone of world politics in 2009. Change is the buzzword.

In our case, we have opted for continuity and change. We will continue those practices that have been successful, but we will change those that have not worked well in the implementation of our policies.

We will spend three days working on our Manifesto this coming weekend. It will outline our work to be done in five priority areas: crime, education, health, rural development and the creation of decent jobs.

We are proud of the fiscal discipline, sound macro-economic management and general manner in which the economy has been managed. That calls for continuity.

Through sound management, the economy has grown every year since 1994. The expanded public works programme has created one million work opportunities a year, ahead of its target.

The ANC government will invest nearly R500 billion in infrastructure between 2008 and 2011, which will further boost job creation.

We have managed to alleviate poverty through faster job creation, social grants, free basic services, the provision of housing, electricity and water for millions of our people.

However despite such achievements, unemployment and inequality still affects millions of our people.

This is a situation the ANC will address and the main 'weapon' in this regard will be employment creation. Polokwane resolutions state clearly that the creation of decent work must become the cornerstone of all economic measures and policies.

We must therefore look for ways of making economic growth to be accompanied by faster job creation.

Government will engage in a dialogue with business about how we can create an environment conducive to creating and retaining decent work opportunities, whilst at the same time pursuing profitability.

Social transformation will be a major area of focus, especially health and education. Our education road map commits us to 10 action points. These include improving teaching and learning, ensuring proper evaluation and training of teachers and improving schools management.

We will also need to increase the use of ICT in education, including audiovisual teaching materials in the classroom to supplement teaching and demonstrate quality teaching to learners and educators. Business can play an important role in this regard through your social investment budgets.

We must improve maths and science teaching as this affects our key economic skills such as engineering. South Africa has approximately 30 engineers per 100,000 people compared to 255 in the United States or 340 in Australia.

We must improve our output of artisans. From 2001-2006, South Africa has been producing on average 5,600 artisans per annum compared to the need for 12,500.

Government has put in place training routes such as apprenticeships, learnerships, internships and National certificate and recognition of prior learning as South Africa needs 50,000 more artisans by 2010.

Related to the above is the identification of skills for agriculture and rural development, which are also our focus areas from 2009.

Government has already started to promote skilled immigration. People with the required scarce skills are permitted to enter South Africa and get identified positions without going through a 'stringent' process.

Such professionals are still vetted, but this process is not as stringent as would normally be required in terms of immigration legislation.

We have done a lot to improve access to health care. As we speak, 95% of our people live within 5 kilometres of a clinic. We will look at improving the services at our hospitals and clinics, and also to improve the quality of the infrastructure.

We will in a few days' time mark World Aids Day. We invite the nation to heed the call of the South African National Aids Council and NEDLAC to join the 15-minute work stoppage on World Aids Day to reflect our collective and individual accountability for tackling HIV and AIDS.

As the ruling party we will show leadership and our government will do likewise. From now going forward, we should make each day one of action to be able to arrest this pandemic.

We have already made it known that we will be tough on crime. We are in the middle of an overhaul of the entire criminal justice system to ensure that it can respond quickly and effectively in investigating crimes and prosecuting and jailing criminals.

This is accompanied by the dedication of more resources to law enforcement agencies, and the establishment within the police of the directorate of priority crime investigation.

By working together we can build safer neighbourhoods and reduce the levels of crime.

The recent turmoil in world markets, and, before that, sharp rises in the cost of fuel and food, have had an effect on the South African economy and the lives of our people. The cost of living has increased dramatically, and we can expect that economic growth will slow down.

However, South Africa has not been as badly affected as many other countries both in the developed and developing world. Because of the policies we have adopted in the past, and the difficult decisions we have had to make, we are likely to weather this particular global economic storm to a certain extent.

Government, labour and industry will have to continue working together to develop practical solutions that will ensure that South Africa's economic prospects continue to improve despite the global challenges.

Ladies and gentlemen, I said earlier during some of my business meetings in the United States I encountered a common question, based on media reports back home.

There appeared to be a concern about the role played by the SA Communist Party in particular, and our Alliance partners in general in policy making.

ANC policies are formulated by the ANC. Our alliance partners participate in the process, and bring to the fore the interests of the constituencies they represent. This brings much-needed balance to the broad church.

However, they cannot and do not dictate to the ANC what its policy should be. We also cannot dictate their policies as well. We have a relationship based on mutual respect.

Yesterday marked the launch of the campaign of 16 Days of Activism to fight women and child abuse.

We were all distressed by the news of the man who has kept his eight-year-old son locked up since the child's birth in Johannesburg. There are many other cases.

As we mark the 16 days, let us commit ourselves to being observant neighbours. We should be able to detect and report such cases to social workers and the police before it is too late. We must commit ourselves to fight women and child abuse and make our country a much safer and more caring place for women and children.

Let me use this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation for the social investment programmes in our communities by American companies. We also congratulate all who will be proud recipients of the Stars of Africa awards tonight.

Government needs the support of the private sector in the enormous task of community development. Your contribution is much appreciated.

We look forward to continuous engagement with American business.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

I thank you

Issued by the African National Congress November 26 2008