Opinionista Mmusi Maimane 2 February 2014

Create jobs, cut corruption: A policy for Gauteng

Unemployment levels in South Africa continue to climb steadily. Critically, more South Africans are joining the ranks of the unemployed, our youth can't find jobs and our economy is stagnating. All indicators are that we need change and that we need it soon.

Hamstrung by corruption and policy instability, more people are unemployed today under Jacob Zuma’s ANC than when his term of office started in 2009.

While police shoot protestors demanding basic services in the streets, R6.6 billion is wasted every year by the Gauteng government. This figure is R30 billion nationally.

But there is hope that we can unlock Gauteng’s potential and the greatness that lies within its people.

Later this month, the DA’s national manifesto will be released, with the primary focus of creating six million real jobs in South Africa, not the hollow promise of six million so-called job opportunities that Zuma’s ANC is offering. A pledge to the people of Gauteng will flow from this manifesto.

I foresee a Gauteng government that is heavily focused on supporting entrepreneurs with business plans capable of creating jobs.

Entrepreneurs are more likely to take risks and compete for business. Gauteng currently lacks this approach to business, both in government and within the global climate. It is clear that investors are moving back to established and developed economies at the expense of developing ones. This will starve countries like South Africa of investment. We must make it easier for investment and become competitive in how we run government.

I want to share with you some key ideas in re-orienting a Gauteng government which focuses on job creation.

To ensure clean government and put the R6.6 billion currently lost to corruption back into the Gauteng economy every year, I will focus on four key areas.

We will not hire anyone with a record of corruption, fraud or any unlawful activity. We will pass a law preventing government employees and their families from doing business with the state.

Tender committees will be open to the public so that there is transparency on decisions made. And we will make it our business to act against corruption wherever it is identified.

When it comes to job creation, the easy part is identifying the problem.

An economy like ours that is plagued by unemployment means that development, in every instance, is not geared toward supporting the aspirations of this generation for a better life.

If our economy is to grow and create an environment that is conducive to job creation, we need to stop pointing out the obvious problem of unemployment, and start presenting solutions that will get citizens off social grants and into employment.

Our manifesto is the only one that focuses not just on creating jobs, but supporting businesses and entrepreneurs to grow their enterprises.

We intend to establish an Academy for Entrepreneurs, which will enable residents of Gauteng to receive skills training, and access to information and business opportunities.

To use government spending to support business, large tenders must be broken down into smaller contracts, enabling small businesses to compete. We will also strengthen community supplier databases so that contracts can be won by smaller firms who create jobs in their communities.

We will pass Codes of Good of Practice for supporting and engaging with informal traders. The informal sector is huge and must receive assistance in the form of training and access to markets and credit, so as to ensure that their businesses grow.

Supporting small businesses through procurement and paying them on time aids in their development, which in turn will enable them to employ and train more people.

We will introduce an Opportunity Card system which will act as a means of businesses receiving credit and subsidies. This will be coupled with the rollout of Opportunity Centres which will act as one-stop shops for assistance to business owners in terms of advice, compliance and access to government information on tenders.

To help bridge the study-work divide, my administration would significantly expand the government internship programme and develop a formalised graduate recruitment programme.

I will work closely with universities and FETs in the province, to ensure that the graduate skills which they are producing are in line with the skills needs of the province and the public service, which needs to professionalised.

The Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) also needs to be reformed in such a way that it is linked to skills development. The EPWP should, in collaboration with FETs, be producing artisans, which the economy needs. The EPWP should empower communities so that when a project takes place in a particular area a higher percentage of the employees are from that community.

When most politicians talk about creating jobs, they fail to make the link between job creation, a flourishing economy and education. We need to improve the quality of education, so that learners do not, after 12 years of schooling, enter the economy or higher education without the basic skills they need for success.

No longer can we talk about freedom, when citizens are without skills and employment. South Africa’s next 20 years of democracy must focus on growing the economy and creating employment opportunities for citizens. DM

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