VENTURES AFRICA – South Africa’s economy grew by only 1.5 percent last year, its slowest in five years. Even slower growth is expected this year as the country’s poor financial position is undermining state enterprises and their ability to contribute to economic growth. While President Jacob Zuma acknowledges the need for economic improvement, he also encourages young South Africans to work harder without expecting handouts from the government.
“If I were a dictator, I would change a few things. For example, I would say to the family ‘you need a house, here is the material. Build your house,’ that’s what I would say,” he told delegates at the South African Local Government Association [Salga] National Members Assembly meeting in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Just last October, during the commemoration of Black Wednesday and 20 years of media freedom in South Africa, Zuma lamented that South Africans are too laid back. “Our people are not used to standing up and doing things. These ones [foreigners] are not expecting any government to do anything, so they get here, see opportunities and exploit them.”
Zuma’s state of the nation address last month, in which he was expected to proffer solutions to the country’s woes, was disappointing for many despite his promise of a $2 billion bailout of Eskom power utility, as well as the presentation of a nine-point plan aimed at igniting growth and creating jobs. A scandal involving the use of $21 million of public funds to upgrade his personal residence is also hanging over the leader’s head.
South Africa is currently hit by a power crisis that has made blackouts a frequent occurrence. Civil unrest is rising in the country as does youth unemployment rate, now Africa’s highest. However, Zuma believes South Africans tend to “exaggerate” the extent of their problems.
“If you just close your eyes for a year and vote me a dictator, I would change these things,” the Citizen quoted Zuma to have said.
Amidst, Zuma’s complaints, which have come twice in the past six months, South Africa’s economy has started to show signs of recovery in recent weeks. While hopes are high the country will end 2015 better than they did last year, Zuma’s concerns may lend themselves to real inquiry of just who’s lazy in Africa’s second largest economy.