State of the Nation: Zuma's jobs focus brings sighs of relief in South Africa
South Africa President Jacob Zuma promised a $1.2 billion fund to create jobs, but critics and supporters alike question whether his government has the capacity or will to deliver.
(Page 2 of 2)
“We cannot create these jobs alone,” Mr. Zuma said, reading his speech from an iPad. “We have to work with business, labour and community constituencies. Experience shows that we succeed when we work together.”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Both ideas are almost certain to be passed, in part because the ANC’s most bitter rival, the Democratic Alliance party, claims the jobs fund idea as their own.
DA leader Helen Zille – whose party controls Western Cape province which includes Cape Town – welcomed Zuma’s speech, but she cautioned that the government needs to start improving its capacity to deliver basic services. “While we have an incapacitated state, none of the plans will come to fruition,” she said.
Trade unions hold many of the cards
COSATU leader Zwelinzima Vavi told reporters after the speech that it welcomed Zuma’s promises to promote “decent” work opportunities, but fretted that the proposals were vague and made no mention of improving workers’ rights. “If it is business as usual, government aims will be completely defeated,” Mr. Vavi said.
In the end, Zuma’s success will be measured in how it deals with restive trade unions that form the base of COSATU’s (and the ANC’s) support in the election season. COSATU has always supported the ANC ruling alliance, but it has recently hinted that it could withdraw that support in local elections if it felt the ANC was not backing pro-worker policies.
COSATU had originally rallied hard to support Zuma’s candidacy for leadership of the ANC, helping Zuma to oust the decidedly pro-business former South African President Thabo Mbeki as ANC leader. But COSATU’s relations with Zuma have soured of late. In the leadup to South Africa’s World Cup, wage strikes by several key trade unions nearly brought the South African economy to a halt.
This year, as other union contracts come up for renewal, COSATU-affiliated unions appear to be no less militant, with the truckers’ union SATAWU threatening to shut down key sectors of the economy unless their demands for 20 percent salary increases (over two years) are met.