POLITICS

This Is What You Can Expect President Jacob Zuma To Focus On During His Sona 2017

Economy, minimum wage, and education are expected to be key focuses of Zuma’s State of the Nation Address.

08/02/2017 20:55 SAST | Updated 09/02/2017 06:25 SAST
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Façade of the South African parliament building which houses the National Assembly chamber in the Parliament precinct in Cape Town.

With a projected slow economic growth on the horizon, President Jacob Zuma is expected to give details on what his administration will do in 2017 to turn the corner.

Economic growth was a key component of the African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) lekgotla held in January, and of the Cabinet lekgotla held early February.

Zuma's spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said that given the continuing slow economic growth, the lekgotla deliberated on efforts to reignite economic growth, working with other social partners, taking forward the achievements of the past year in promoting unity in action in protecting the economy and advancing growth in a difficult economic environment.

His focus on the economy will include an announcement on the recently signed national minimum wage of R20 per hour. The deal was signed on Tuesday and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement on Wednesday, saying that it was a giant leap in the right direction for the country.

All unions besides Cosatu affiliates have signed the minimum wage agreement. The deal is thought to have closed the door on the issue of minimum wages after two years of negotiations between business, labour and government.

According to Business Day, Cosatu said on Tuesday that it needed to report back to its central executive committee meeting on February 27 before the deal could be signed.

"The agreement signed yesterday represents what we believe is a significant advance, it provides further momentum to tackle poverty, unemployment, and inequality. What we arrived at is not a living wage, this forms a firm foundation for moving our country towards a living wage. It's a start," Ramaphosa told reporters in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The minimum wage would have to be implemented by 2018. The agreement is seen as a means of improving the lives of low-paid workers throughout the country. It will be used as a benchmark to ensure no-one earns below the threshold of R3,500 a month for working 40 hours a week.

Funding for higher education and training is another topic expected to be covered extensively in Zuma's speech. Tertiary students have in the past few years demanded free quality education for the poor, forcing the president to establish a commission to look at the feasibility of it and of the funding models.

That has resulted in government coming up with various methods to assist students as the commission continues its work. Zuma is expected to give an update on the process.

It is however not going to be an easy night for Zuma. Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters have vowed to hold the president accountable.

"As the EFF, we shall never be deterred. No amount of security and intimidation will deter us from holding Zuma accountable in terms of the constitution. We will defend the constitution to the end and with whatever revolutionary means possible," spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said.

If previous Sonas are anything to go by, Zuma is in for a torrid night. In 2016 the EFF belted out Zupta Must Fall chants, and disrupting proceedings. The leaders responded with hiring police officers to kick them out of the venue.