Zuma administration has taken strides in terms of the economy, jobs, healthcare and service delivery
Over the past few months, we have heard a multitude of voices on the topic of leadership in South Africa.
The common thread is a view that it has failed. Others have laid the blame at the feet of President Jacob Zuma. This is a rather myopic view.
Our country, like any other, has many challenges. In our case, many of them are historical. Census 2011 figures reveal we still have a long way to go to ensure a level playing field and a better life for all.
Having said this, there has been massive progress in ensuring a better life for all. In just 18 years, we have excelled at delivering basic services to the majority of people who were previously disadvantaged. We have delivered these without compromising the country’s sophisticated world-class infrastructure, and access to service and opportunities.
Following on the positive legacy set by former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, President Zuma’s administration has witnessed an acceleration of programmes and policies designed to create jobs, improve lives and build a better South Africa.
The electoral mandate of this administration helped to focus attention on our country’s priority areas: jobs, health, education, crime, security and rural development.
One of the first things President Zuma did when he took office was change South Africa’s direction on HIV/Aids.
We have seen a massive roll-out of life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) programmes to those in need. At the end of the 2010/11 financial year, 418 677 new patients were on ARVs. Of these, 381 612 were adults and 37 065 were children under 15.
The target for adults was 400 000 and for children 40 000. The country was able to reach 91.5% and 92.75% of the target, respectively.
At the end of 2010/11, 1.7 million people were receiving ARVs. Since the launch of the HIV counselling and testing campaign in April 2009, more than 20 million South Africans have been counselled and tested for HIV.
To change our path on HIV, it took strong and decisive leadership. A country once derided for its HIV policies is now acknowledged as a world leader. This is thanks to the decisive leadership of President Zuma.
It is under his watch that government began to be measured against outcomes. Delivery agreements for ministers were signed to speed up service delivery and to hold them accountable.
But true visionary leadership requires more than just focusing on the present.
It was under the stewardship of President Zuma that the National Planning Commission was charged with developing a long-term vision and strategic plan for South Africa.
Under the auspices of the commission, the National Development Plan was born as a blueprint for achieving government’s vision for South Africa by 2030.
This ambitious plan sits alongside the New Growth Path, which aims to create 5 million jobs by 2020 and bring the unemployment rate down to 15%.
Neither of these ambitious plans would have become a reality without the steadfast leadership of President Zuma. At their core, both visions are about creating jobs, building infrastructure to stimulate economic growth and providing opportunities for all.
To give life to these plans, government has launched the SA National Infrastructure Plan, which will see an estimated R4 trillion being spent over the next 15 years. Government has budgeted R850 billion over the next few years and the private sector is expected to contribute to spending as well.
Eighteen strategic integrated projects will make the National Infrastructure Plan a reality. They cut across all nine provinces and will cover social and economic infrastructure. The projects will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs, and vital new infrastructure that will boost economic growth.
President Zuma has rightly made jobs his top priority. His administration came into power at a time when South Africa had been through the ravages of the global economic crisis.
Though our excellent fiscal discipline spared us from the worst of the crisis, over a million jobs were lost. And this crisis is not over, with many other countries on the brink of economic collapse. But South Africa stands firm. We are poised for massive economic growth.
By simply stepping back and taking a more holistic view, it is clear President Zuma has shown strong visionary leadership in this time of global economic uncertainty.
The legacy of a leader can only be determined over time. Let us hope that the critics start taking a more holistic view of the achievements of this administration.
» Bapela is the deputy minister of performance monitoring and evaluation in the presidency