President Jacob Zuma urged South Africans to recognise how far the country had come since the end of apartheid, in an election-year state of the nation address yesterday.
Insisting that his detractors did not see the good story that South Africa has to tell, Zuma reached back two decades to show how much this young nation has changed.
“South Africa is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994,” said Zuma, who hopes to win re-election on May 7 when South Africans go to the polls.
“We continue to face challenges. But life will also continue to change for the better.”
In the run-up to the May general elections, overshadowed by weeks of violent protests, Zuma pointed to South Africa’s “good” stories as he reported on his first five years in office.
Zuma is tasked with leading his ruling African National Congress party into the election — the fifth since apartheid ended in 1994 — amid growing frustration from voters and increased competition from opposition parties.
Despite acknowledging high unemployment levels and the rand’s plunge against the dollar last year, Zuma voiced confidence over the nation’s economic outlook.
“While we have these difficulties, we know that we can cope with this period of turbulence. We have done so before in the past five years,” he said.
Zuma said the economy had been “nursed” to recovery after the recent global recession, but called for stronger growth to spur jobs, as fresh data pointed to South Africa having only 15.2 million workers out of a working-age population of 35 million.
“Jobs are now being created again. There are now 15 million people with jobs in the country, the highest ever in our history, and over 650,000 jobs were created last year,” he said.
“This is still not good enough. The unemployment rate still remains high.”