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Government to pursue radical economic transformation 'vigorously'
President Jacob Zuma says government will not be apologetic in pursuing socio-economic radical transformation “vigorously” to improve the lives of the majority of South Africans.

The President said this when he replied to a debate on his State of the Nation Address at the National Assembly on Thursday.

The debate, which lasted for two days, saw MPS, Ministers and Premiers engage in an intensive debate on the President’s speech, which was anchored around radical economic transformation.

“The message of SONA 2017 is clear and simple.

“The political freedom gained in 1994 must be accompanied by economic freedom for the black majority in this country, and the Africans in particular. We are not going to be apologetic about that.

“Radical socio-economic transformation will help us to grow the economy in an inclusive manner, ensuring true reconciliation and prosperity,” he said.

In his response, the President took his time to respond to inputs of those who participated in the debate since Tuesday.

He agreed with MP Themba Godi that economic transformation must not only be radical, “it should be revolutionary”.

The President said Minister Gugile Nkwinti summarised what needs to be transformed - the structure, systems, ownership, control and institutions in the economy.

“Honourable Minister Radebe pointed out that radical socio-economic transformation is not just political rhetoric.

“This is a serious programme, and it will be implemented by government using the strategic levers that are available to the state. These include legislation, regulations, licensing, budget and procurement as well as Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Charters.”

President addresses land issue
The President said, meanwhile, that he had heard concerns that land restitution had not been addressed at a desired pace.

He said he stated upfront in the SONA that government had not met the targets.

“One reason for the delays is that we had chosen to use the ‘willing buyer willing seller’ principle which in many cases resulted in the state having to pay large sums of money to acquire land. 

“The introduction of the office of the Valuer General is assisting us to ensure that we do not pay excessive land prices,” he said.

He said the Land Expropriation Amendment Act, when finalised, will also assist in fast-tracking land reform.

“This government has the interest of the people at heart, and will do all in its power to ensure that land is returned to the people.”

He said land would be returned to its rightful owners. 

Radical economic transformation a necessary empowerment tool
After opposition MP Pieter Groenewald raised concerns that affirmative action and Black Economic Empowerment policies were tantamount to hatred towards white people, the President said these were necessary to achieving a united South Africa.

“They are aimed at ensuring the achievement of true reconciliation in the country based on the Constitution of the Republic.

“The Constitution enjoins us to heal the divisions of the past and to establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.

“Radical economic transformation, of which affirmative action and BEE form a part, are part of healing the divisions of the past.

“White compatriots will be part of this process as it will assist us to achieve a truly united, non-racial and prosperous society.”

Government committed to rooting out collusion
The President, meanwhile, weighed in on reports that the Competition Commission announced that it had concluded an investigation into price fixing and market allocation in the trading of foreign currency involving the Rand, covering the period from 2007, and found that some banks have a case to answer.

“As stated in the SONA, government is prepared to act against market abuse, price-fixing and collusion in the private sector in order to protect our country’s economy.

“The competition commission can impose fines on companies but the impact is far reaching as it distorts our economic system.

“We also look forward to working with the financial sector towards diversification and transformation of the sector so that new players can enter the market as part of radical economic transformation,” he said.
Processes before nuclear build procurement takes place

The President said government remains committed to the energy mix to ensure energy security in South Africa.

He told MPs that Cabinet has designated Eskom and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation as the procurers and operators of the various components of the nuclear new build programme.

“Let me reiterate that before any nuclear new build procurement takes place the Request for Proposals have to be issued.

“Once proposals have been received and evaluated, the Department of Energy is required to report back to Cabinet on the proposed funding model.  As I have previously indicated any procurement process must be on “a scale and at a pace that our country can afford”.

“It is from this basis that we would then proceed.”

ASIDI programme progressing well
The President said the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) was progressing well, though it had been hampered by setbacks and delays.

He said government is doing a lot systematically to rebuild schools that have poor structures and to provide the much-needed amenities.

“Over and above the mud schools that are being replaced, government has, through the ASIDI programme, provided water to 615, decent sanitation to 425 schools and electricity to 307 schools.”

Reducing the cost to communicate
The President said radical economic transformation must be supported by an advanced information and communication technology sector, as Minister Siyabonga Cwele said when he participated in the SONA debate. 

“Broadband roll-out and the lowering of the cost of data remain an apex priority. This is a concern of many honourable members.”

– SAnews.gov.za
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