Billions pledged for SA infrastructure


THE SOUTH African president has unveiled a multibillion-euro infrastructure development drive designed to kick-start the country’s ailing mining sector and boost skills and job creation.

During President Jacob Zuma’s fourth state of the nation address on Thursday night, he said the infrastructure programme would include rail, road and water projects and would be undertaken across the country as part of efforts to expand and integrate transport and logistics networks.

While Mr Zuma did not put an exact price tag on the programme that will be carried out over the next seven years, he said the state’s national transport company Transnet would plough €30 billion into capital projects, with €20 billion of that earmarked for rail and ports.

However, he maintained the infrastructure programme needed to do more than just kick-start the local economy, which has stalled in South Africa since the global recession took hold in 2008.

“More than just creating power stations, rail-lines, dams and roads, it must industrialise the country, generate skills and boost much-needed job creation,” he said.

Mr Zuma added that the government aimed to use the expertise it learned during the construction of infrastructure for the Fifa World Cup in 2010 to deliver on its plans.

Aside from infrastructure, Mr Zuma promised that a deal between port authorities and Transnet would save exporters in the region of €100 million. He also unveiled a special €100 million fund, which would be rolled out in April, to help people who do not qualify for free government houses to get a bank mortgage.

From April, people earning between €350 and €1,500 a month will be eligible to apply to their provincial government for a subsidy of up to €8,300, which could be used as a deposit for a home.

Mr Zuma’s annual address was widely applauded, with many observers saying the government’s plans were “very ambitious”.

“Overall he had his fingers on the right buttons,” Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said. He added that the infrastructure programme would make a big difference in relation to the target of creating five million jobs in the next 10 years.