14 February 2013

South Africa: NEHAWU Response to the 2013 State of the Nation Address

Photo: GCIS
The Parliament of South Africa.

NEHAWU welcomes the main thrust of government’s assessment of the advances made since last year; including the challenges facing our society, as well as some features of the programme of action for the coming year, as presented by President Jacob Zuma in Parliament today. However, the current state of the economy and the expected growth rate in the coming year highlights the necessity for the alignment of the NDP, the New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan{IPAP}, including the discussion on the question of forging a developmental state.

We still maintain that this plan falls short of providing a radical departure from the current post-apartheid development trajectory. The ANC’s 53rd Conference has set up a framework within which key aspects of economic policy must be engaged with as part of deepening transformation. The pace of implementation of government programmes needs to be speeded up, the patience and the circumstances of the people of South Africa calls for it. However, despite our reservations about the lack of drastic proposals on government’s course of action, we are happy with the following:

The pronouncement on the establishment of a Presidential Remuneration Commission to investigate the appropriateness of the remuneration and conditions of service provided by the State to all its employees. NEHAWU calls on government to engage with organized labour in the public sector on the terms of reference for this commission.

The clarity on what the ANC and the government mean by essential service, and we hope that this explanation has removed all the confusion and the misunderstanding that was in the public domain. The president clarified everything when he said that” By saying education is an essential service we are not taking away the Constitutional rights of teachers as workers such as the right to strike. It means we want the education sector and society as a whole to take education more seriously than is happening currently”.

The creation of a National Health Insurance Fund in 2014 and the undertaking to accelerate and intensify progress in the pilot districts. We are however concerned about the creeping piecemeal approach in policy initiation on the part of government when it comes to the implementation of the NHI.There is a need to create certainty by making public the white paper as a policy framework, guarantee transparency, create clarity around the monitoring processes and consulting the relevant constituencies.

We are looking forward to a report by the Minister of Health in his Budget Vote with regard to the state of progress in the pilot districts. NEHAWU is disappointed with the silence on measures to improve the management of hospitals. We hope that the Minister will outline government’s plans in this regard, beginning with the management of academic hospitals that are directly attached to medical schools as directed by the ANC’s January 8th message.

The announcement on the start of construction of new universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces. However, we call for proper engagement with the stakeholders in the higher education sector, in particular organized labour, students and communities.

The commissioning of a study on tax policies – with a view to evaluate the current mining royalties’ regime. We expect no less than the directive outlined by the ANC in its 8th January message where it said that “the state must capture an equitable share of mineral resource rents through the tax system and deploy them in the interests of long-term economic growth, development and transformation.” This process must include a thoroughgoing public participation process, especially involving communities around the land occupied by the mining monopolies. Further, we believe that the state must do more in intervening in the mining sector, especially through the state-owned mining company not least in the light of moves to mothball some of the mining operations.

The shift of policy in land reform and restitution towards a ‘just and equitable’ principle as set out in the Constitution and the abandonment of the “willing buyer, willing seller” policy. We also welcome additional policy measures announced such as amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Act, 1994 in order to provide for the re-opening of the lodgement of restitution claims, adequate post-settlement support to new landowners, etc.

In the background of the 100th anniversary of the Land Act of 1913; we need to see more urgency and determination on the part of government and the budget allocations to be announced next week by the Minister of Finance will have to concretely give expression to this. The Treasury has over the years consistently constrained land reform through meager allocations, even after it became a key component in one of the five national priorities.

The introduction of the Bill on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment to criminalize practices that have adverse effects on women and girls; to legislate the 50/50 policy regarding the representation of women in decision making structures, and the introduction of the Protection from Harassment Bill.

Finally, we welcome the resounding statement by the President on solidarity with Cuba, Palestine, Western Sahara and Africa as a whole. In this regard we are particularly pleased with the President’s firm call for the lifting of the economic embargo against Cuba.

Issued by NEHAWU Communications Department

For further information, please contact Fikile Majola {NEHAWU General Secretary} @082 455 1751 or Sizwe Pamla (NEHAWU Media Liaison Officer) at 011 833 2902 -082 558 5962 or email: sizwep@nehawu.org.za

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