Opinionista Mmusi Maimane 17 February 2014

Jobs vs. job opportunities: The facts

South Africa is now a better place to live in. Of that I have no doubt. I was born in Soweto and I’ve experienced the changes in my own life and in parts of the community we grew up in. Under Presidents Mandela and Mbeki we saw economic progress made. This is a fact many to the right of our politics refuse to see.

As it is with a new project like South Africa, more work was needed beyond Mbeki and Mandela Last week, President Zuma tried to take the credit for many of the successes we’ve achieved in 20 years of democracy, instead of focusing on five years of his Presidency.

But we know the truth. More than 1.4 million people have lost their jobs since 2009 when President Zuma took office. Corruption in government is at an all-time high.

That is why I was amongst the 6,000 people who marched in the streets of Johannesburg last week. Our message was that Election 2014 is about who has the best plan to create jobs.

On the one hand we can choose the DA’s plan to create 6 million real jobs, outlined in our manifesto to be launched on Sunday this week. Our other choice is the empty promise by Zuma’s ANC of “job opportunities” through government’s Public Works programme, EPWP.

Public Works “job opportunities” last up to 2 months only. Under Zuma’s ANC they are short-term, low paying and offer no training. These “job opportunities” are menial work – often grass-cutting or rubbish collection.

When more than a third of us are unemployed and young people are losing hope and turning to evils like nyaope, “job opportunities” will never be enough.

And or those already running a business in Gauteng, the costs are rising with government heaping e-toll, fuel and other taxes on us.  I’m running for Premier in Gauteng because I believe we can do better.

There is so much potential in the people of Gauteng to lead South Africa on a better path. We just have to unlock that potential by supporting people who want to build a better life for themselves and their families.

Jobs don’t come directly from government. Jobs are created by a government with a good policies for supporting individuals and their businesses.

Government and business can’t mix roles, we can’t have governments running businesses, or even running mines as some suggest. I have been an entrepreneur, I know what starting a business feels like and what it takes to succeed. Gauteng is a place of people with good ideas and the will to succeed, if only we would support them.

That’s why our focus will be on rolling out credit, advice and support to people with businesses and ideas to create jobs (more details here). If we do that successfully we can grow the economy at 8%, the magic number needed to create real jobs and growth.

We will also support people trying to make a living in Gauteng’s massive informal sector by passing Codes of Good Practice for working with small traders.

Young people must drive this new approach. That’s why we want to professionalize government by expanding Graduate internship and recruitment programmes.

And yes, Public Works has a role to play. If you look at our record in government you’ll see how we used Public Works to transfer skills and resources to locals in Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha when we built world-class public hospitals there.

But Public Works can never be the sum-total of our vision for job creation. It is not the answer to unemployment, and definitely not with Zuma’s ANC and their approach of low-paying, menial “job opportunities”.

With the DA’s approach we will grow businesses that can compete not just for tenders, but in all sectors. And in this historic election we can choose change in Gauteng.

We can choose clean government, with a clear vision and commitment to jobs. Or we can choose five more years of corruption and job losses.

The good news is that for the first time we are on a threshold of a new majority in South Africa’s economic hub. This is because a critical mass of people who are committed to change are finally making their voices heard.

It’s time for a new generation to take charge and put integrity and opportunity at the centre of our politics. Let’s not waste this opportunity. DM

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