THE Eastern Cape has generally welcomed President Jacob Zuma’s call to speed up major infrastructure development plans in five high-poverty areas in the province. But the DA said nothing would happen. The president, fresh from his victorious re-election as president of the ANC at Mangaung last month, was speaking to thousands of ANC members attending the “January 8” state of the ANC address at Kings Park Stadium in Durban on Saturday.

January 8 marked the ANC’s 101st birthday, and is traditionally when the party president sets the agenda for the year ahead.

Zuma used the platform to urge the ANC government to forge ahead with the National Development Plan (NDP), naming five Eastern Cape districts which will benefit from 18 massive infrastructural developments advocated for the 23 poorest parts of South Africa.

The NDP is the government’s answer to poverty and inequality, and sets 2030 as the end point for the campaign.

Zuma said the projects would ensure the provision of water, electricity and sanitation to bring relief to 19 million South Africans.

The Eastern Cape district municipalities mentioned for infrastructural fast-tracking were Alfred Nzo, O R Tambo, Chris Hani, Amathole and Joe Gqabi.

ANC provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane said they were very pleased with the commitment and political will shown by the national leadership to turn around the socio-economic ills of the people of the province.

He said the areas targeted by the president urgently needed national government intervention.

Concerning the commitment on infrastructure across the province, Mabuyane said implementation of the massive infrastructure plans would bring vital improvement to the province.

Referring to the 1913 Land Act, which Zuma had alluded to in his speech, and which had resulted in 87% of the country’s land being distributed to whites, Mabuyane said the Act had regulated the acquisition of land by black people and was the first major piece of segregation legislation passed by the Union Parliament.

The Act decreed that only certain areas of the country could be owned by black people. In the 1990s it was replaced by the current policy of land restitution.

Zuma had said that government was unlikely to meet its land reform target of transferring 30% of farming land back to blacks and that the “willing-buyer, willing-seller” principle would be replaced by the “just and equitable” principle of land expropriation.

The ANC at it’s 52nd elective conference in Polokwane in 2007 set the 30% target for 2014.

Mabuyane said: “The ANC must live up to what was set out at Polokwane. This would be the best way to celebrate the centenary of that law. Land will change the picture of the province if it is given to deserving people. We don’t want to repeat what happened in the past by just giving land to a privileged few. It must be given to ordinary people so that it can help our people get themselves out of poverty using land.”

Executive director of the Border-Kei Chamber of Business Les Holbrook said the major infrastructure issue affecting Mthatha to Port Elizabeth was the bad state of roads.

Holbrook said: “The N2 toll road has been on the table for about 10 years now. The president may well make these announcements, but we’d rather see action. It’s about delivery.”

Holbrook said it was time for the people to know who would be taking up these projects and making them work.

Another pressing issue, he added, was when these “grand announcements” were made they had to be sold to the labour movement as well.

“At the moment Cosatu is getting ready to protest against some of government’s development plans and this is evidence that these ideas are not being sold to labour,” he said. “However, business always welcomes these things.” COPE MPL Mbulelo Ntenjwa said Zuma’s speech was, in the main, positive and encouraging.

“This will have a major impact on service delivery in the Eastern Cape, so it’s very positive indeed,” Ntenjwa said. “Infrastructure needs to be delivered in the province and this will ensure other kinds of development such as jobs. As COPE, we are very encouraged by what the president has said.”

Ntenjwa added, however, that the party was still waiting for a more specific breakdown of details.

The DA’s Bhisho legislature leader and MPL Bobby Stevenson reacted saying that he expected nothing positive would come of the president’s speech.

He said service delivery in the province was still at a low level.

Stevenson said the three critical areas needing to be examined were under-expenditure of state funds, corruption and placing effective officials in critical positions.

“Those are the key issues we need to deal with first. We need to face those issues if we want to improve the lives of the people of the Eastern Cape. We need to get rid of the rot that currently exists and a number of people need to be brought to book.”