More work for locals and youth, Mr President

Eastern Cape business sectors hand combined list of requests to Ramaphosa days before national election

President Cyril Ramaphosa during his address at the business professionals engagement session hosted in Nelson Mandela Bay on Saturday evening. Ramaphosa was responding to the requests made my various business sectors ahead of the 2019 elections
President Cyril Ramaphosa during his address at the business professionals engagement session hosted in Nelson Mandela Bay on Saturday evening. Ramaphosa was responding to the requests made my various business sectors ahead of the 2019 elections
Image: Supplied

A bigger slice of the national purse for youth business development was just one of the requests made to President Cyril Ramaphosa at the weekend.

Prominent businessman and CEO of the African Pioneer Group, Stephen Dondolo, outlined at length that the technical expertise of black professionals in the province was still being under-utilised. 

Dondolo said only a few in the local economy reaped the rewards of resources made available in the province.

“When you look at the fishing industry, for your own information Mr President, 85% of the country’s hake is caught in the seas along the Eastern Cape – but only 3% of the hake is processed in Port Elizabeth.

“Several fishing factories were shut down and relocated to Cape Town, further taking away job opportunities from the Eastern Cape.

“Today, people talk about the economy of Cape Town that is well developed, and it’s because their development is subsidised by us.”

“A policy should be adopted which regulates where fish is processed, if it is caught in a certain area.”

In response, Ramaphosa said the fishing sector was, in the past, not well managed by the national government. 

He said many mistakes were made, and government tended to ignore the people who lived near the coastline.

“We are going to correct that. We need to be creative and we need to think out of the box to see what can be done in this sector.”

Stephen Dondolo. File picture
Stephen Dondolo. File picture
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Adding to the list of concerns, which was documented and handed over to the president at the business people’s engagement session hosted at Coega on Saturday, Dondolo said no “serious” infrastructure development had taken place in the last eight years.

He noted that the last mega-development was prior to the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

During the 2019 Budget Review in February, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced that government was stepping up its infrastructure build programme by partnering with the private sector, development finance institutions and multilateral development banks to create the fund.

“We only see cranes building office buildings in Sandton.

“But we want to build factories and installations where real economic activity will take place.

“When I visited China about 20 years, the one thing that caught my eye was the number of cranes I saw.

“In one street in Beijing, I counted 120 cranes, and I thought to myself, that country is going somewhere,” Ramaphosa said.

Outlining the severity of youth unemployment in the province, Dondolo said national government would need to balloon the amount of funding given to the National Youth Development Agency as the current amount was insufficient.

The youth of Uitenhage, he said, also highlighted the need for the revival of Uitenhage as an industrial zone.

He added that SMMEs wanted to be involved in all local development that takes place.

“Many small businesses see other people digging in front of their homes.

“We don’t know where they come from and it’s as if we don’t have those skills.”

Ramaphosa in turn said he believed the work allocation for SMMEs in state projects should actually be more than 30% - receiving loud applause from the audience. 

“We should not have construction companies from Timbuktu or Johannesburg coming to do work in this province, that you should be doing. I refuse.”

He went further to say that while state-owned enterprises had in the past been the key drivers for infrastructure layout, they are now “the source and centre for everything wrong you can imagine.”

“We now have a number of construction companies that are going bankrupt because they are not getting specialised work.

“If you just look at Eskom. Eskom is a major headache to us.

"Eskom owes R430bn. There is no company in the history of South Africa that has ever had debt like that.

“A lot of wrong doing has been done. We had instances where up R600m was being signed off without any invoices. There are lots of other things we have been made aware of that will just break your spirit.

“It is so risky for us, that it could collapse our economy and indeed our country,” Ramaphosa said. 

Earlier on Saturday, Ramaphosa addressed masses in KwaNobuhle as part of Freedom Day celebrations. 

Speaking on the issue of jobs, he said when the ANC took over in 1994, eight million people working and, today,  16.4 million people are employed. 

“We have now doubled the economy which is why more people are working but also there are nine million without jobs which is not good.” 

“We want to support the township and those who run their own businesses. We’re going to have business incubators where the youth can prepare for the fourth industrial revolution."

-Additional reporting by Nomazima Nkosi