CAPE TOWN, February 8, 2011 (AFP) – South African President Jacob Zuma will on Thursday address the nation after asking for input from users of Twitter and Facebook who told him they want jobs, no corruption and access to basic services. Zuma’s speech comes after what was widely perceived in South Africa as a successful football World Cup but also a spike in violent protests and a crippling public sector strike last year. “How can we improve the lives of all South Africans? This is your platform, the President is listening,” the presidency urged on social networking sites. Users told Zuma to get rid of shacks in which 1.8 million South African families still live, to be heavy-handed on graft and poor government services, and to roll out better education.
Comments included: “JZ-all we need it just water & electricity, the rest is fine. Our area is more than 30yrs without Electricity” to “jobs is what we NEED, I have a diploma and i’m unemployed.” “Free high quality universal education!!, job creation&eliminating corruption in top levels of gov&police esp in Jozi,” (Johannesburg) read another tweet. “The South African population are recognising the fact that the weak links are government-induced weak links,” said independent analyst Daniel Silke. “The articulation of these views represent an acknowledgement by the ruling ANC’s voters that government have largely let them down over the last decade.”
With Zuma leading his African National Congress (ANC) into polls later this year, analysts expect this to influence Thursday’s state of the nation address which will be broadcast live at 1700 GMT. “There will be an election tone to the speech which I think we can expect. It may be relatively rousing for South Africa,” said Silke. On Tuesday, the government statistics agency Stats SA, announced that unemployment fell from 25.3 percent to 24 percent between the third and the fourth quarters of 2010, but unofficial estimates still put it at 40 percent or higher. Zuma’s government has set a target of creating five million new jobs by 2020 and reducing unemployment to 15 percent.
The Influential labour federation Cosatu wants details on the ANC’s priorities of work, education, health, rural development including land reform, and crime. “After two years in office it is essential that the speech should contain concrete plans to translate these commitments into real changes on the ground,” said spokesman Patrick Craven. Institute for Democracy in South Africa analyst Justin Sylvester said Zuma needed to address accountability, citing corruption and local service delivery problems. “He needs to take the nation into his confidence and speak plainly and clearly to the challenges that we face because that’s important in terms of leadership. And then also tell us what the plan is.”
South Africa’s admission to the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) stable of new economic powers and its non-permanent UN Security Council seat, should also be included, said University of the Western Cape analyst Kenny Bafo. Bafo, when asked if Zuma would have the time to consider views expressed in the social networking experiment which closed at the weekend, was dismissive. “I see it as a PR campaign,” he said. “But at the same time it’s an initiative that needs to be applauded.”
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