Steve Tshwete’s ANC flagship municipality burning because of youth unemployment

Anthony Benadie: MPL

DA leader in Mpumalanga

Unemployed disgruntled young people in Mhluzi township, in the ANC’s flagship Steve Tshwete local municipality, went on a rampage this week protesting against the municipality and local mines for lack of job opportunities.

According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the population of Steve Tshwete local municipality is standing at 229 831 with 27% rate of youth unemployment, and an overall total of 19,7% unemployment rate.

The protestors continued to disrupt transport routes with burning tyres and stones on Wednesday and Thursday, demanding that the municipality create jobs for them. They were also protesting against the local Stainless steel plant – accusing it of failing to employ local people. Some private property, including cars, houses and municipal buildings, was damaged by the protestors.

Crime in the area has reportedly been on the increase in past years as a result of increasingly high levels of unemployment and poverty, especially in the surrounding townships of Mhluzi etc.

On Thursday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the municipality called for calm and also condemned the violence and requested swift action from the police who were on the scene. According to the DA, violence won’t change circumstances in the Steve Tshwete local municipality, but a change of vote will.

In 2012, DA councilor in the municipality, Gys Romijn, submitted a question to the municipality requesting them to provide council with details on plans that will ease the challenges of the extreme high poverty and unemployment rate. He said a pro-development plan was needed.

On behalf of the executive mayor, the Municipal Manager responded by saying that “It is important to indicate that the municipality is not responsible per se for poverty alleviation and job creation – as it is the responsibility of the national government.”

He then added that “As far as unemployment goes it is required of the municipality to create a conducive climate for Local Economic Development which is the only vehicle by means of which unemployment can be addressed.”

While the DA recognises every citizens right to protest, violence can never be a legitimate strategy to voice dissatisfaction. The SAPS must proactively intervene to prevent any further damage to property, and the municipality must publicly declare their economic growth and job creation strategies.