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Gauteng premier Lesufi’s populist programmes seem to be ‘jobs for votes’ schemes


Zukiswa Pikoli is a journalist and columnist at Daily Maverick and is part of the founding team of Maverick Citizen. Prior to Daily Maverick she worked as a communications and advocacy officer at Public Interest Law Centre SECTION27.

It seems the ANC has graduated from handing out food parcels for votes to engineering elaborate ‘em­­ployment’ programmes, for which the funding has yet to be explained.

As a resident of Gauteng, this week’s State of the Province Address left me unsettled and I found my patience with premier Panyaza Lesufi wearing thin.

In fact, I’ve been feeling unsettled by the intrepid premier since he took over from David Makhura in a charismatic cloud of “youth employment” populism.

Amid much criticism of his controversial flagship crime prevention warden and Nasi iSpani programmes, I listened to an earlier radio interview in which Lesufi defiantly reiterated his commitment to these projects, saying he would not be deterred by naysayers and that he was about to reveal even more youth job opportunities in his State of the Province Address.

True to his word, he said in his speech: “We will massify [sic] employment opportunities and targeted skills development and training. We are targeting 40,000 young people on the Nasi iSpani database to take advantage of the 333 opportunities in the labour activation programmes to be launched in April 2024 by the Department of Employment and Labour.”

Big claims, which makes one wonder how exactly they will be realised while the country is battling rising unemployment and poor economic performance.

What I find most concerning is how the crime wardens and the Nasi iSpani youth are being manipulated and their desperation for employment weaponised and used as a political football.

The selection criteria for candidates have also been brought into question, with allegations aplenty that the positions are being filled by ANC members as a “jobs for votes” scheme designed to create opportunities for patronage.

Job seekers have accused the Nasi iSpani programme of discarding the CVs and applications of those not preselected as candidates, while thousands of them stood in long queues for a chance at employment.

Lesufi has used all the questions about his programmes to whip up outrage on the grounds that critics are trying to deny the youth the opportunity to work and feed their families.

In his provincial address, he announced a six-month extension of the expired contracts of 32,000 young teaching assistants. Political parties have called this an election tactic, but it is obviously a welcome relief to those who will now be re-employed.

But the glaring question is what happens after these six months, or does that not matter because Lesufi is hoping the extension will get his party over the voting line?

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What is to be done about tactics that use the genuine desperation of people as election fodder? How do we distance ourselves from a leadership that exploits hardship and focuses on patronage instead of acting in the best interests of the entire country, not only the party’s supporters?

It seems that what the ANC has done is to graduate from handing out food parcels for votes to engineering these elaborate “em­­ployment” programmes, for which the funding has yet to be explained.

We all want crime to decrease and employment to increase, but the means is just as important as the ends. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ben Harper says:

    Erm helloooo, the anc have been promising millions of new job in every election campaign for the past 20 years

  • John Simpson says:

    I did high performance driver training, with another company, of the Wardens. Firstly, the training was totally inappropriate. Secondly, some could not drive. Thirdly, some of the wardens were clearly selected due to their connections as they had no skills whatsoever, and no desire to try to do anything. There were some really good candidates amongst them, but their reputation will be tarnished by the incompetents.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Lesufi is typical of all his comrades in the ANC. Make loud noises about doing good for the youth but use it but use it as a ploy to buy votes in that sector of the community. The ’employed’ youth have no idea that they’re merely pawns in the ANC’s fight for survival and another 5 years of self enrichment. Lesufi is using tax payers money to lure desperate young people into short term relief before discarding them once the funds dry up. Disgusting.

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