Debate on the Report by Premier on Solving Youth Unemployment and Mass Employment Creation following the 2023 SOPA

Jun 1, 2023 | Provincial (KZN/Gauteng), Speeches

Virtual Debate, from Durban: Hon. VF Hlabisa,
IFP President and the Leader of the Official Opposition in the Legislature of KwaZulu-Natal.

Hon. Speaker,
Hon. Premier and Hon. Members.

Today is the first day of the Youth Month in South Africa, which is celebrated and dedicated to the youth of our country for their role and contribution in fighting for the freedom of our Country. Unfortunately, Hon. Speaker, the majority of our youth are sitting at home unemployed, and have nothing to celebrate during their month or their daily life.

As we meet as the Legislature of KwaZulu-Natal today, 4.9 million of our youth between ages 15 – 34 are sitting at home unemployed. This includes but is not limited to graduates – amongst whom medical doctors, educators, engineers, social workers – and many others who are unemployed. Some of these graduates have critical skills or can work in specialised jobs. In our country, it has become the norm for those with critical skills or the ability to perform specialised work to be found unemployed. This is both a national and provincial crisis, Hon. Premier. This has made our youth vulnerable.

The Sitting for today, Hon. Speaker, was called to receive and debate the Report by Premier on Solving Youth Unemployment and Mass Employment Creation, following the promises of the 2023 State of the Province Address. Desperate times call for desperate measures, Hon. Premier.

Hon. Speaker, the Report under debate was received very late yesterday evening, is unfortunately more of a general report, which does not have a sense of urgency, and does give specific actions on some of the promises made during the 2023 SOPA.

During SOPA 2023, the Premier promised that each Department would set aside R10 million, which would be used to fight crime. This was a noble cause and that is why we did not object to it – except that it was an unfunded mandate. On Tuesday, the National Minister Bheki Cele released crime statistics in South Africa. The picture in KwaZulu-Natal was gloomy.

During the Budget hearings, none of the Departments pledged to make available the R10 million to fight crime. From the Report, we do not hear how many Departments have made the R10 million available and when it will be accessible to fight crime. Today was the day to hear that many job opportunities will be created under this promise. Can we hear a plan of action on this promise to fight crime – with timelines – Hon. Premier?

The IFP notes that for the KZN Youth Empowerment Fund for 2022/23, at R90 million, the end of June 2023 is the timeline for the funds to be disbursed to the beneficiaries. Hon. Premier, it would have shown a sense of urgency to address the youth unemployment crisis if the R100 million budget for 2023/24 also had specific timelines. All we hear is talk of future plans, with no time frames, Hon. Premier, i.e., we will be calling for proposals.

When, Hon Premier? What will the closing date be for applications, and what will the disbursement date of the funds to beneficiaries be?

We welcome the resolution by the Executive Council that each Department reprioritise, within their budget, an amount of R10 million to contribute towards job creation through an intensified Expanded Public Works Programme to benefit youth, women and people with disabilities.

The 84 348 EPWP job opportunities reported for 2022/23 Hon. Premier, good as it is as a major relief, is not what our youth are looking for: the Youth of our province want permanent jobs.

How many permanent jobs will be created out of the SOPA 2023 promises, Hon. Premier, except for the SUMITOMO DUNLOP partnership, which is intended to create a minimum of 110 permanent jobs throughout the province?

The IFP further welcomes the extended programmes designed to create more employment opportunities, such as the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative, which has benefitted many unemployed graduates.

We encourage the government to draw on the lessons of the past on these programmes. Among such lessons is the fact that there is little understanding of how these critical inputs are positioned to connect young people with long-term work opportunities that will shift their future trajectories. Our people, particularly the youth, are desperate for long term employment opportunities. It is very hard to plan for your future adequately if you do not know whether or not you will be employed in the following year or years.

Thank you once again, Hon. Speaker.

I end by saying: with regards to government-sponsored bursaries with the probability of retention upon graduating, our concern is that some of the Departments have failed to retain graduates.

The Department of Social Development is a classic example of this failure. Instead of providing secure employment opportunities for social work graduates, the Department gives a select few one-year contracts, after which, these graduates are left in the wild to fend for themselves. The IFP supports the provision of bursaries, as our slogan is Education For Liberation, but we are against unfulfilled promises of retention.

For our youth to get more job opportunities, the government of our province must be a champion of the dual roles:

(1) Level the playing field for the province of KwaZulu-Natal to create a conducive environment for business to thrive. Crime, load shedding and corruption must be fought because no investor will be keen to invest in a country with such high levels of crime, load shedding and corruption; and

(2) The provincial government must actively invite more foreign investment to inject funds in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, which will yield more job opportunities.

The IFP notes the Report by the Premier with reservations, as it did not go as we expected. The Budget across all Departments to create jobs is R30 485 352 072 but only 424 746 jobs will be created – and unfortunately, many of these are short term jobs. This does not bring hope, nor inspire our youth not to give up on their dreams and aspirations. The provincial government must be the champion of sustainable jobs over and above EPWP.

Thank you.

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