Opinionista Solly Msimanga 13 December 2017

Building a city of opportunity based on fairness

By continuously rotating beneficiaries of the Expanded Public Works Programme, the City of Tshwane will be able to ensure that the spending on programme is spread out across the city, creating more opportunities, for more people over a longer period.

When I came into office as Executive Mayor one of the key promises I made was to ensure that residents of this city were treated fairly and equitably. As such, I identified that one of the major areas in which this could be achieved was in reviewing the city’s approach to the recruitment of workers in the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

The city receives funding for the EPWP by way of a national grant which is then used to create temporary employment in the city. The goal behind this process is that those who are employed in the programme are done so on a limited period before they are they rotated out to allow other beneficiaries the chance to access these work opportunities. During their time of employment they are supposed to be capacitated with skills so that when they leave the programme they can find permanent employment.

However, under the previous administration instead of ensuring that EPWP workers were capacitated with skills, the former government merely continued to renew their contracts each year and kept the same beneficiaries in place. Not only did this restrict new entrants into the EPWP job market but these previous beneficiaries were unfairly given the impression that this employment would carry on indefinitely. In many cases there was no clear policy with regards to how the EPWP beneficiaries were in fact chosen and there was equal concern that ward councillors were too involved in the process.

As you may have seen over the last few weeks, my team and I have criss-crossed the city and hosting public meetings to explain the changes we have made to the EPWP recruitment. Having approved a new EPWP recruitment policy we now intend to implement it going forward and ensure that residents across the city have an equal and fair chance to apply to become beneficiaries.

We set up recruitment centres across the city and created standardised forms which would allow the city to establish a centralised database of all the different applicants. We will then randomly select a group from those applicants who will serve as the first intake of beneficiaries for the programme. Once they have served out their term, the city will then be able to draw out another group of applicants from our centralised database.

In continuously rotating out beneficiaries the administration will be able to ensure that the spending on EPWP is spread out across the city, creating more opportunities, for more people over a longer period.

However, a key element within the programme is going to be ensuring that the beneficiaries get true value out of their time in the system where they are empowered with skills that will allow them to secure employment once their time in the programme is over.

There will be, and there has already been some, resistance to the changes that have been made to the EPWP processes. Many have seen it as a permanent place of employment which was never the intention. The city also does not have the capacity to permanently employ those who were part of the programme. As the new recruitment process unrolls we expect that we will face challenges from the previous beneficiaries who may demand to now be permanently employed.

Of course we could have embarked on an easier course of action, we could have merely extended the contracts of the current beneficiaries so that they continue into the next year and then extend them again after that as well. However, that isn’t what the citizens of Tshwane voted for, they voted for change.

We are committed towards creating a city that is built upon the values of freedom, fairness and opportunity. We cannot hope to achieve this if we continue to implement the practices of the past. I look forward to our new intake of EPWP recruits and I hope that they will contribute towards taking Tshwane into the future. DM

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