Editorial: Jobless must be premier’s priority

Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle will deliver his state of the province address in Bhisho tomorrow.

A significant occasion in our political calendar, it is an opportunity for him to account for the performance of his administration in the past year. It is also a moment for him to outline government’s plans for the immediate future.

Masualle has delivered a number of these before.

This year, however, the political context is somewhat different and the pressure is even greater.

Unlike a year ago, the ANC has lost control of Nelson Mandela Bay, the economic hub of the province and the home to some of the government’s flagship projects.

The ANC’s support in Buffalo City, the province’s second metro, is dwindling.

Political infighting in several municipalities has reached new heights.

The ANC’s credibility as a governing party under President Jacob Zuma has diminished.

Further, in five months the party will elect a new provincial leadership in what is expected to be a much-contested race between Masualle and party secretary Oscar Mabuyane, among others.

There can be no doubt therefore that from within the ANC itself, Masualle faces enormous pressure to show leadership.

However, we believe that a more pressing reality and that which should take centre stage tomorrow is the rise of unemployment in this province.

This week the Quarterly Labour Force Survey by Statistics SA showed a rise in unemployment from 28.2% to 28.4% between October and December last year.

The figures are indeed concerning.

Although the latest rise in unemployment is based on a survey of one quarter, it indicates that at best we are battling to keep the jobs that exist. At worst, our province continues to lose jobs at a steady pace.

Masualle must therefore detail how the government plans to attract businesses that will create sustainable jobs for the thousands of people who desperately need them.

And then, he must spend the next year leading his administration to deliver.

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