January 9, 2010 / 3:15 PM / 10 years ago

S.Africa's Zuma says worst of economic downturn may be over

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - There are signs South Africa is recovering from the worst effects of the global economic crisis, but the revival will likely be slow and job-creation will lag, President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.

Zuma was addressing tens of thousands of supporters gathered in Kimberly, about 380 km (236 miles) south west of Johannesburg for the 98th anniversary of the ANC party’s creation.

“There are some indications that we may be recovering from the worst of the (global) crisis but this recovery may be slow and perhaps even temporary,” he said in a speech broadcast on SABC.

Zuma sought, however, to lessen the expectations of his supporters that new jobs will created soon.

“It should also be expected that the creation of new jobs on a massive scale will lag behind the economic recovery,” he said.

A survey conducted by Ipsos Markinor between October and November 2009 showed the ANC had consolidated its support after narrowly failing to achieve a two-third majority in last year’s election, with support of 71 percent of eligible voters.

The party drew most of its support from the ranks of the unemployed with more than two-thirds (67 percent) of their supporters jobless.

The poll, published on Saturday, found Zuma’s approval rating has increased since he took office to a mean of 7.6 from 6.1 on the scale of 10, the most notable increases in minority racial groups such as Indians and whites.

Zuma assured his supporters that the ANC was still committed to its target of creating 4 million jobs by 2014, providing quality healthcare and ending corruption and crime.

Zuma is under pressure to deliver on election promises made last year, including drastically reducing unemployment which stands at about 25 percent after last year’s recession slashed nearly one million jobs.

Due to the economic downturn, Zuma was unable to meet his pledge of creating 500,000 new jobs last year.

The ANC government also faces pressure to improve basic services. Riots erupted in several poor townships across the country last year as residents protested over the lack of running water and electricity.

Zuma said relations with the ANC’s alliance partners, labor federation COSATU and the South African Communist Party, had improved.

“We consult each other and work together on key issues and programs that affect our people. However, much more needs to be done to improve the alliance relations at national and sub-national levels,” he said.

The alliance has been suffering from growing infighting, mainly over policy, which threatens to change the make-up of the alliance that helped end apartheid.

The communists and unions, who helped bring Zuma into power last May, want economic policies to shift to the left and Africa’s biggest economy to abandon a pro-business stance which has endeared it to investors.

Reporting by Phumza Macanda; Editing by Andy Bruce

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