Ahead of the general election on May 7, surveys show that people in the Eastern Cape do not believe the promises made by politicians and regard unemployment as the country’s problem, writes Thulani Gqirana.
WHILE corruption, education and health remain great concerns in the province, Eastern Cape voters believe unemployment is the biggest issue facing the country.
According to an Ipsos survey, unemployment topped the list of South Africa’s challenges, but it is also the most important issue to Eastern Cape voters, followed by poverty and crime.
About 85% of those polled in the province believe job creation is a massive problem in the country, while 35% indicated that unemployment was important to them personally.
While 63% said crime and criminal activity were among the biggest problems, only 11% of those polled said it was important to them personally.
Poverty was also one of the major issues, with 54% believing it was one of the biggest problems facing the country right now and 17% indicating that it was important to them personally.
While 38% believed education was a big problem in South Africa, only 3% indicated that it was important to them personally.
The survey, conducted between February 20 and March 11 for Weekend Post’s sister paper, Sunday Times, polled 2 222 registered voters, with a proportionate number of them in the Eastern Cape.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said as more and more workers joined the ranks of the unemployed, sustainable job creation remained a critical socio-economic issue that needed to be addressed holistically if the province was to fulfil its potential as an economic powerhouse and magnet for investment.
“Business faces the severe challenges of an unskilled and under-skilled workforce not equipped to deal with the demands of investment, restrictive labour laws, rising production costs and an unstable workforce.
“Work seekers, on the other hand, face stiff competition for available jobs and inequalities in the job market.
“The enormity of the challenge of unemployment means that skills development and a focus on entrepreneurship are critical if the South African work force is to equip itself to benefit from the opportunities presented by both local and international investment into our region.”
Hustler said it was vital for government to ensure an enabling environment for the business community, “to enhance trade and grow the investment opportunities so desperately needed to revitalise the socioeconomic landscape of our region”.
“Furthermore, it is of utmost importance to retain the trained and skilled individuals within the region in order to contribute effectively to our economy. Re-honing and diversification of the current skills base within the region need to be focused on, in order to meet the needs of emerging sectors such as renewable energy, maritime or logistics and the potential mega projects on the near horizon.”
Prof Rudolph Zinn of the Unisa School of Criminal Justice said it was the fear factor that led to people being more concerned about crime than education and health in general.
“You can be a victim, irrespective of who you are or what you do. Whether you are employed or not, you are at risk in one way or the other.”
Zinn said residents could never predict when they would become victims of crime and that was why they were so concerned about it.
“Even if you take precautionary measures, you are not guaranteed that you will not fall victim to crime. That feeling of helplessness is one of the big contributors to people living in fear.”
Independent education expert Prof Susan van Rensburg said it was worrying that, in the worst performing province, people were not as concerned about education as they should be.
“People have become accustomed to mediocre schooling and results, and cannot see the importance of completing their education or furthering their studies in the Eastern Cape. Schools have lost their legitimacy and people are reacting to that.
“People have lost faith in the legitimacy of schooling in the province, which is the core of what is wrong with the system.”
This story appeared in Weekend Post on Saturday, 19 April, 2014. For the full story read Weekend Post, or get the complete newspaper, including comics, classifieds, crosswords and back editions in our e-Edition