DA Challenges MEC to Support Youth Wage Subsidy

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

The following address was delivered by Anthony Benadie, to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the debate on the 2012/13 Policy and Budget of the Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism. Vote 6

Over the past week, the plight of unemployed young South Africans has dominated discussion forums and media headlines across the country. With over three million (70%) young South Africans under the age of 35 unemployed, youth unemployment is a ticking time-bomb – with the ANC-led government providing no policy direction or solution to this looming crisis.

So too, Honourable Speaker, nothing destroys jobs and investment opportunity like policy uncertainty. Last week, in reaction to the DA’s march to COSATU house, the Honourable MEC for public works, roads and transport, Ms Dikeledi Mahlangu, applauded the violent reaction by COSTAU members towards the peaceful DA march. The Honourable MEC cited the plight of unemployed youths as a provocation to COSATU, and a justification to their barbaric reaction.

This, Honourable Speaker, despite the fact that both President Jacob Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan have categorically endorsed the idea of a youth wage subsidy as a strategy to get young South Africans working.

For this reason, Honourable MEC, I call on you today, to declare your position and that of government on the implementation of the youth wage subsidy in Mpumalanga. We, and the youth of this province deserve to know whether you and your government will continue to buckle under the policy pressure from COSATU, or will you have the guts to stand up for young people of Mpumalanga?

It is a fact that the youth wage subsidy is the single biggest job creation initiative for young people in the history of South Africa, and has been allocated R5 billion for its implementation by national treasury.

It is a further fact that:

· The youth wage subsidy will help create 423 000 jobs for young South Africans.

· According to the Auditor General the South African government loses R30 billion per year in wasteful expenditure, of which at least R3 billion is wasted annually in Mpumalanga. This makes the youth wage subsidy absolutely affordable in this Province, if only we cut down on wasteful expenditure and started spending it on creating jobs for young people.

Honourable Speaker, the Western Cape government is already implementing the youth wage subsidy concept through their “Work and Skills Programme”. To date, over 2500 young people in that province has benefitted from the programme, with over 70% now in permanent employment positions.

Honourable MEC, I challenge you today to add your voice to the growing support for the implementation of a youth wage subsidy. I urge you to add your voice to that of the Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, calling on Minister Pravin Gordhan to redistribute the R5 billion budgeted nationally to provinces willing to implement the Youth Wage Subsidy. We simply cannot afford to continue witnessing young people in Mpumalanga, passing grade 12, attaining tertiary qualifications, yet begging for survival.

Honourable Speaker, related to job creation is Mpumalanga’s tourism jewels. This sector can contribute significantly to youth employment and job creation. Yet, Mpumalanga’s tourism sector is under-marketed, and in a daily battle for survival. Not only are nature reserves in a collapsing state and are grossly underfunded, but have in fact become a threat to Mpumalanga wildlife, as conservationists and rangers are unable to fulfil the most basic of their duties.

While the MTPA must implement the Revenue Generation Strategy with speed, the agency remains grossly underfunded. With over 800 unfunded vacant posts, and the practical elimination of the budgets for Corporate Governance and Biodiversity, the sustainability of this entity, our wildlife and eco-tourism industry are in great danger.

Honourable MEC, I am disgusted that you continue to exploit this ailing agency and its board as an employment vehicle for ANC comrades, rather than equipping it with the requisite skills and leadership. It is my firm belief, that through your appointment of Jerry Ngomane and Clara Ndlovu (as Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the MTPA board respectively) you have consciously violated Sections 6 (a); (c) and (d) of the MTPA Act.

As such, the DA this week will submit a formal complaint against you and these appointments with the Public Service Commission. Clara Ndlovu (mayor of Thaba Chweu) presided over the collapse of various tourism facilities in that municipality and holds no regard or sentiment for tourism and its value.

In conclusion, Honourable Speaker, our province is blessed with natural beauty and wildlife, we are rich in mineral resources, we have rich agricultural land, we are strategically placed for exporting and trade and our climatic conditions are envied the world over, we are a hub of opportunity, an investment destination, a tourist dream and a pocket of prosperity. All we need to unlock Mpumalanga’s potential is a caring government, political will and leadership that places the well-being of our people above themselves.

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