Zuma gives the youth wage subsidy the nod
President Jacob Zuma arrived in style at parliament yesterday, accompanied by army and police escorts, including a mounted police guard.
The red carpet was rolled out for the president to deliver his 5600-word, 18-page speech to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.
Among the guests in the house were former president Thabo Mbeki and his wife, Zanele; former president FW de Klerk and his wife, Elita; and former deputy presidents Baleka Mbete and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Zuma's wives shared the front row of the president's bay with ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. Atul Gupta and Vivien Reddy, both benefactors of the Zuma family, were also in the bay.
The nine provincial premiers walked in line to the National Assembly ahead of Zuma and his entourage. They were followed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and all the judge presidents. Speakers of provincial legislatures also entered in procession.
As MPs waited for Zuma to arrive, veteran legislator and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi walked around the chamber handing out seven Valentine's bouquets and cards in large red envelopes to women in the ANC benches, starting with Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
Zuma used his address to report back to the nation on earlier promises and to make announcements on a number of key issues.
Among these were a possible windfall for teachers, who will be prioritised by a commission set up to investigate remuneration and employment conditions for state employees.
Also on the cards is a study of the tax regime to determine if it is still appropriate for revenue generation. The study will also review the the system of mining royalties with a view to reviewing it. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who will commission the study later this year, has warned that dwindling revenue is making it difficult for government to finance projects.
Zuma - whose government faced a tough 2012, with escalating service delivery protests and violent strikes, chief among these the strike at Lonmin's Marikana mine that led to the deaths of 43 people - warned that the government would get tough on those who damage property or threaten the safety of others when protesting.
"It is unacceptable when people's rights are violated by perpetrators of violent actions, such as actions that lead to injury and death of persons, damage to property and the destruction of valuable public infrastructure," said Zuma.
He announced that the government would reopen land restitution claims to include those who missed the December 31 1998 deadline and to look into the possibility of accommodating those families were dispossessed of land before 1913.
Also to be explored, are exceptions to the June 1913 cut-off date to accommodate claims by the descendants of the Khoi and San, as well as heritage sites and historical landmarks related to these groups.
On the controversial youth wage subsidy, Zuma told parliament that an accord on the controversial youth wage subsidy would be signed by the government, business and labour later this month, despite objections from Cosatu.
"Last May I asked constituencies at Nedlac to discuss youth employment incentives. I am pleased that discussions have been concluded and that agreement has been reached on key principles," he said.
"The parties will sign an accord later this month. The incentives will add to what the government is doing to empower the youth."