Give us more power to boost economic recovery, say Gauteng and Western Cape
How does South Africa recover from massive job losses in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic? During a webinar on Friday, the country’s two economic powerhouse provinces – which have totalled more than 4,000 Covid-19 related deaths – unpacked what the next steps should be.
The Gauteng and Western Cape governments – the two biggest economic hubs in the country – want more powers to hasten their recovery from the economic effects of Covid-19.
On Friday morning, the Brenthurst Foundation and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung hosted a webinar titled, “GAP – turning South Africa around, province by province”, in which Western Cape premier Alan Winde and Mduduzi Mbada, head of the policy unit in Gauteng’s office of the premier, spoke extensively about the impact Covid-19 has had on their provinces – and what needs to come next.
Both Gauteng and the Western Cape have recorded more than 4,000 deaths related to Covid-19 and have in excess of 100,000 confirmed cases. There have also been heavy job losses in the two provinces. According to the latest figures from Statistics South Africa, during the first two quarters of the year, there were 661,000 fewer people employed in Gauteng. During the same period in the Western Cape, there were 321,000 fewer people employed in the province.
Winde said that in his province during lockdown, 321,000 jobs were lost in the hospitality sector alone. The situation is improving with the easing of lockdown, but there are still 80,000 jobs short in the sector.
Other sectors which saw job losses in the Western Cape were the construction and informal sectors, said Winde. Speaking on the effects of Covid-19, the premier said it “severely impacted on our economy as a whole”. Winde said that over the next 100 days, the focus would be on the economy, jobs, safety and dignity.
Read in Daily Maverick: Jobs, safety and dignity: Western Cape premier spells out province’s aims
Gauteng’s Mduduzi Mbada said the lockdown has shown the importance of partnerships between labour unions, the private sector and non-governmental organisations. In the aftermath of the hard lockdown, he said the province was looking at programmes to help entrepreneurs – especially women – to recover. Women, he said, were the key drivers of the informal sector. Other plans include creating special economic zones to attract businesses and investors in order to grow the economy.
Winde said his province would be focusing on technology, particularly in the health sector and film industry, as a way of unlocking investment and revenue.
First, though, the province is pushing for a rethink of the list of countries denied entry to South Africa for leisure purposes. Two key tourist markets for the Western Cape – the UK and the USA – are deemed high risk and nationals from both countries are unable to visit SA at the moment.
Read in Daily Maverick: Coronavirus command council lays down the rules as SA borders reopen
Winde argued that the list was “unfair” as business travellers from these purportedly high risk countries would be allowed in, but not leisure travellers. He said these regulations “made no sense”, adding that the province would lobby internally “to relook this”.
In closing, when asked by panel moderator Ray Hartley if there was one thing President Cyril Ramaphosa could do to help the provinces, both panelists were clear: increase provincial powers.
“Allow provinces to have powers they don’t currently have,” said Mbada, adding that this would allow them to raise their own revenue and attract their own investments.
Mbada said allowing Gauteng more power to choose their investments could make it a gateway to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) through European-based companies setting up offices in the province.
Winde agreed that a decentralisation of powers would be beneficial to his province, adding that federal powers should include policing, rail and energy supply. DM
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