State of the Nation Address today at 19h00

President Jacob Zuma is expected to make his first public appearance in over a week when he delivers his seventh state-of-the-nation address tonight.

h3. Arrival of the “Big Kahuna”

Parliament is expected to be a hive of activity as workers cleared the ceremonial path Zuma is expected to walk before he enters the National Assembly. Zuma is expected to be escorted through the streets of Cape Town by the military and mounted police. The roads in the Cape Town CBD will be lined with members of the SA National Defence Force. A red carpet will be laid out along Parliament Street for Zuma and members of other branches of state who will accompany the President. Before entering the National Assembly to make his speech, Zuma will observe a 21-gun salute and a fly over by the SA Air Force.

All eyes will then be on the president who will enter the House and make his speech at 19:00.

h3. Speech Expectations

Political parties and NGOs are expecting Zuma to outline government’s plans for the next year. Opposition parties want Zuma to focus on the economy, which has taken a knock following South Africa’s longest ever strike, in the platinum sector. The Treatment Action Campaign called on Zuma to renew his focus on access to quality health care for all South Africans. “We cannot afford for President Zuma and his new administration to paper over the serious cracks in both our public and private health care systems,” the TAC said in a statement. The TAC said Zuma and his administration should be commended for the massive progress made in the fight against HIV/Aids over the past five years.

h4. Health Care

However, Zuma needed to set out an “ambitious plan” to rid the health care system of serious problems which were impeding access to health care. “Unless fundamental changes are made in government’s approach to delivering health services, the president and his newly elected administration’s worthy goal to enrol at least 4.6 million in the anti-retroviral programme will be undone by corruption, poor public administration, a lack of skilled management, cadre deployment and lack of political will at provincial level,” the TAC said.

h4. Education

Equal Education wants Zuma to provide leadership on how problems facing the country’s schools will be prioritised. This included the norms and standards for school infrastructure, which was enacted last year. “This law requires that we eradicate mud schools within three years, and that schools without water, electricity, sanitation and safety receive priority treatment,” EE said. “Promises about mud schools have been made in SONAs going back to former President Thabo Mbeki in 2004, but for the first time this is now a legal requirement. We are interested to know what are government plans to make sure they comply with this new law within the set time frames.”

Zuma’s state-of-the-nation address will mark his first public appearance since being admitted to hospital for tests and being booked off by doctors following a gruelling election campaign.

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