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Zuma allays fears

By Reuters and Kea Modimoeng | Dec 15, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma moved to end confusion yesterday about the control of economic policy after a push for influence by the ruling ANC's communists and union allies.

Labour federation Cosatu wants Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, a former trade unionist, to be responsible for policy direction in a bid to drive economic policy leftwards.

Patel has become more vocal on policy and a report - immediately denied - that he wanted to freeze the rand earlier this year unnerved investors. But while Zuma has said he is open to debate, the government and Reserve Bank have signalled they are committed to a relatively conservative stance.

"Nobody is going to create a new policy, they have been created, they have been implemented," Zuma said in an interview with Talk Radio 702, adding that Patel was not responsible for setting economic policies.

Members of Patel's department must ensure that "they don't move in different directions. That's what we're saying", Zuma said. "We're not saying 'you originate policy'."

Zuma said a lack of communication between the government's economic departments, such as the Treasury and Trade and Industry department, may have contributed to jobless growth. South Africa enjoyed a decade of economic growth until the economy slipped into recession at the end of last year. Unemployment is high and one of the biggest challenges for the government.

Zuma set straight conflicting messages between his office and the ministry of Public Works on the 500000 jobs he promised by the end of the year during his first state of the nation address in June, saying minister Geoff Doidge was in a better position to comment on the progress made.

"I'm sure it's a good contradiction if one says he is not sure if we will make it, and the other one says certainly we will make it.

"Minister Doidge deals with the Public Works department, so he has more information than I do, but he will have to report back to the Presidency anyway." Zuma said the media misrepresented his position on job creation as he was referring to "job opportunities" and not "actual number of jobs".

He said his subsequent statement that the jobs wouldn't be created was based on progress reports from departments.

"My reading at that time was that we won't make it," Zuma said.

He said Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana's call for a "total ban" on labour brokers was not a government position.

"Mdladlana speaks as a person who heads a department, and has a view," he said. "Party policy says let us regulate this in a manner that is beneficial to our people, but we are not closing our ears to people who are raising the issue, including those who (say) we should get rid of (labour brokers)."

Investors are watching for signs of any departure from previously conservative policies since Zuma, who was helped into power by the unions, became president.


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