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S.Africa's Mbeki wants gender parity in 10 years

Written by: Staff

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 23 (Reuters) President Thabo Mbeki has said he wanted a South Africa with radically reduced poverty, racial parity and gender equality by 2016.

Mbeki told public broadcaster Metro FM in an interview that South Africa's skills, not corruption, remained one of its biggest problems but his government was acting to improve the supply of professionals to ensure better service delivery.

Mbeki's interview came ahead of local government elections next week his ruling African National Congress party is expected to win comfortably despite persistent complaints in townships about poor services.

Asked about his vision for South Africa, Mbeki replied: ''(To) very radically reduce poverty, radically reduce racial disparity, thirdly move to radically address discrimination against women (and work) towards the object of gender equality.'' ''In the South Africa of 2016, we should say we have changed these matters,'' Mbeki added yesterday. The president is due to step aside at the end of his second and final term in 2009.

Townships in several South African provinces have erupted in riots over the past few months over complaints of poor service delivery. The anger has usually been targeted at local officials perceived as either corrupt or incompetent rather than the central government Mbeki heads.

Mbeki defended his government, saying a major reason the ANC would win the polls was the delivery of thousands of houses to poor people, roads, electricity, water, schools and hospitals.

INCOME DISPARITIES South Africa's jobless rate is officially estimated at more than 26 percent and wide income disparities still persist between the country's black majority and white minority.

Business is still largely male dominated despite the role played by women in the country's liberation. newspapers have quoted Mbeki as saying he backed a woman to be president.

His deputy, as well as the key ministers of foreign affairs, land affairs, health and minerals are women.

Mbeki also strongly spoke out against xenophobia, reminding South Africans that their freedom was won by the sweat and sometimes blood of Africans elsewhere on the continent.

''It is incorrect to put forward the notion that all foreigners are illegal immigrants. We need to guard against any sense of xenophobia in our country,'' Mbeki told a caller.

He also said the government's plan to lift growth was rolling full steam. He said aspects of it included reforming state logistics group Transnet, where thousands have gone on strike to demand a role in planning the firm's future.

He said Transnet was committed to returning to its core business of transport of goods and people and would shed interests like housing. Major investment was required to improve its rail and other logistics businesses to aid the country's growth, Mbeki said but offered no details.

The government wants to use state-owned enterprises such as Transnet to raise economic growth to 6 percent by 2010 and to slash unemployment and poverty. Africa's biggest economy grew by 5 percent last year -- the fast pace in over two decades.

Reuters PDS VP0443

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