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Africa
SA to mark Mandela's release
President to address nation on anniversary of anti-apartheid icon's walk to freedom.
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2010 12:12 GMT

Zuma, right, plans to address the nation on the 20th anniversary of Mandela's release from prison [AFP]

 

Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, is scheduled to deliver a state of the union address to parliament.

The address on Thursday coincides with the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison.

The 91-year-old icon of the anti-apartheid movement, who spent 27 years in jail, will make a rare public appearance at the speech.

Collins Chabane, the Minister in the presidency responsible for Monitoring and Evaluation, told reporters on Wednesday that Zuma will announce measures which the cabinet thinks are needed to help the economy recover.

"The address will look at how we most effectively support an accelerated recovery, and beyond that, sustained growth over the medium to long term," Chabane said.

Other issues he is expected to cover include the country's need to tackle AIDS and poverty as well as efforts to combat notoriously high levels of crime as South Africa counts down to the kick off of the 2010 World Cup in June.

Criticism from the poor

But analysts say that people in South Africa will have a hard time taking the 67-year-old's anticipated talk seriously.

"He is becoming too much of a liability," a member of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party's executive committee, who did not want to be named, told Reuters this week.

Riots in a township near Johannesburg this week have drawn attention to the plight of millions of blacks who still live in vast shanty towns with inadequate sanitation, electricity and water.

At least a quarter of the country's 50 million people are unemployed - a statistic that appalls the ANC's union and communist allies.

Zuma has shown few signs of heeding calls for a more leftist economic policy despite the loss of nearly a million jobs in the recession that hit last year.

"I don't think business people with an economic interest in South Africa should loose any sleep over macro-economic policy changes. There won't be any in this speech," said Steven Friedman, the director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy.

Prince Mashele, the executive director of the Centre for Politics and Research, said: "[Zuma's speech] will be yet another set of promises trying to inspire South Africans and saying government is on track to deal with the issues".
 
"But to be honest he is a collective embarrassment to the nation," he said.

Source:
Agencies
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