EC needs private sector buy-in to create jobs

Oscar Mabuyane
Oscar Mabuyane
Image: FILE

Stats SA released its  Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter of 2021 a few weeks ago, showing the shocking but not unexpected high rate of unemployment in our country.

Unemployment is now at 34.4%, which translates to seven million South Africans who are jobless, according to the official definition. The expanded definition puts it at 53%. According to this survey, only 14.9m South Africans are working.

Sadly, the Eastern Cape which I lead has taken the lion’s share of 47.1%. Certainly, this is not something we as the provincial government are proud of.

Accordingly and justifiably a question that arises is: What have we been doing to fight the scourge of  unemployment in the province? Clearly, impactful socioeconomic development cannot be achieved in conditions of autarky.

Neither can we boldly enter alone as government in the battle to deconstruct or rather demolish the architecture of poverty in our province.

We need public and private partnerships in the fight against poverty and unemployment. It’s important that we join forces in creating employment opportunities for the masses, millions of whom go to bed on empty stomachs.

This stark reality was further amplified by the July riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. What we saw on television screens were ordinary people looting basic foodstuffs and off course some luxury items.

Let me now attempt to answer the question that might be occupying many people’s minds about what it is that we are or have been doing to fight unemployment. Over the past two weeks I,  together with key MECs, have been criss-crossing the province to hand over One Stop Shops for government services.

Our first stop was KwaBhaca (previously Mount Frere) - one of the most economically depressed rural towns in the province. In this far-flung town we opened the Thobile Bam Office Park. The second stop was Burgersdorp in the Joe Gqabi District, where we opened a Youth Rehabilitation Centre named after Lulama Futshane.

We proceeded to Maletswai (previously Aliwal-North) and opened the state-of-the-art Municipal Office Park named in honour of Themba Kojana. The last stop was Komani, where we opened the Bathandwa Ndondo Office Park.

These municipal office parks are part of our government’s integrated approach to service delivery premised on Operation Khawuleza - a rapid infrastructure rollout programme championed by public works MEC Babalo Madikizela.

The office parks house key provincial departments that are at the coalface of service delivery: social development, public works and education, and other departments will be accommodated soon.

The Themba Kojana Office Park accommodates the Office of the Premier. This means we want to be where the people are so that we can have first-hand knowledge of their challenges.

In naming these offices after fallen comrades, we seek to achieve two things. First, to engrave on our people’s minds the names of their struggle heroes and heroines who emerged from their communities and dedicated their lives to pursue the objectives of our national liberation struggle.

These leaders paid the highest price; some died in the trenches and at the hands of the notoriously trigger-happy apartheid police and military forces.

Second, to communicate a clear and unambiguous message to the civil servants in our province that never again shall we tolerate mediocrity and unprofessionalism in the public service, particularly in these municipalities.

We have been able, through Operation Khawuleza, to bring economic opportunities to these areas. We provided opportunities for construction companies owned by young people and women.

We are calling on the private sector to come on board and create additional opportunities in these towns as we strive to achieve our goal of rural development and realise economic development at the same time.

Our role as government is to create economic and business opportunities where they do not exist. We have undertaken this work in line with government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, whose fundamental objectives are to create jobs, re-industrialise the economy, accelerate economic transformation and fight corruption. Consequently, the lives of ordinary people in our province will improve.

I recently convened the inaugural meeting of the Premier’s Advisory Council which is made up of prominent people like Prof Wiseman Nkuhlu, Prof Derick Swartz, Saki Macozoma and Gloria Serobe, to mention but a few. These eminent people will serve as economic envoys for the provincial government. It is through this council that we will be able to engage directly with local and international investors.

We have also started a well-orchestrated plan to engage our SOEs and Development Finance Institutions (DFIs). These are critical development arms of government whose collective mandates are to drive economic development and transformation across the sectors of the economy as per their mandates articulated in various acts of parliament.

The first DFI on the block was Land Bank, soon to be followed by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). Our strategy is to trace and enhance their development footprint in the province. Together with them we will confront the binding constraints so we can all make a meaningful contribution to the development of our province.

I call on the private sector to also lend a hand and support this drive to make our province a destination for development. We should grow this economy together, and strengthen and defend those sunrise sectors of our economy.

Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane is the premier of the Eastern Cape.


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