Thursday, July 30, 2009

The People Vs Jacob Zuma

ECONOMIST.COM: President Jacob Zuma will have to use his fabled skills as a conciliator to balance the factions in his new government.

After expanding by 3.1% last year and by an average of 5% over the preceding four years, the economy is expected to shrink this year by around 2%, a far cry from the 1.2% growth on which the government based its budget in February.

Some of the ANC’s election pledges have already fallen by the wayside. No more has been heard of its promise to extend child-support grants to the age of 18 instead of just 14. Plans for national health insurance seem to have been shelved, at least temporarily. At the same time, many more South Africans are joining the 40% who already live below the poverty line, as struggling companies lay off workers.

SHOOT: Read the rest beneath the fold.
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FACTORIES across the country had to close this week as many thousands of workers in chemical and other industries downed tools to press for double-digit pay rises. Hundreds of thousands in the public sector are threatening to strike for a 15% rise too. State broadcasting people may black out the country’s television screens unless their demand for a 12% wage hike is met. And state doctors and teachers plan to strike again if the government fails to give them long-promised big bonuses. Meanwhile, increasing violent demonstrations are being staged in protest against the government’s failure to provide basic services such as water, electricity and housing.

President Jacob Zuma always knew he could not expect much of a honeymoon, despite the landslide victory of his ruling African National Congress (ANC) in April’s general election. His costly campaign pledges had raised expectations high, just as South Africa was sinking into its first recession in 17 years.
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