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86 000 find jobs in Free State, but unemployment shoots



Staff Reporter

At least 86 000 people landed jobs in the Free State between July and September this year but more people in the province are without jobs as the official unemployment rate has jumped from 25.3 percent to 35.5 percent.

The Quarterly Labour Force Survey released by Statistics South Africa on Thursday indicates that the province now has 723 000 employed people compared to 638 000 people in the second quarter.

However, the number of those without jobs increased by 182 000 from 215 000 in the second quarter to 398 000 in the third quarter.

The province now has the second highest unemployment rate in the country, with the Eastern Cape topping with 45.8 percent.

The expanded unemployment rate for the Free State — which includes discouraged job seekers — is now 42.6 percent following an increase of 1.4 percentage points.

Central University of Technology senior economics lecturer Mgcinazwe Zwane said some decisions by the government have contributed to the worsening unemployment situation.

“It’s unfortunate the powers-that-be are not listening to experts,” he said by telephone.

Zwane said while the closing of the economy was essential to curb the spread of COVID-19, there was a need to balance it with saving jobs.

“COVID-19 has worsened the situation. Many companies had to lay off staff. No one anticipated it,” he said.

“Government’s directive to shut down the economy mainly focused on saving lives at the expense of employment . . .

“Many people have been laid off because many companies cannot afford to pay workers.

“The situation is not likely to change till a vaccine is found.”

The economics lecturer said unemployment could be worsened by the government’s decision to freeze salary increases for civil servants as they will have less buying power.

“Those civil servants will not have much money to spend and this will affect the businesses where they normally spend their money,” he explained.

“Government could cause more job cuts as a result of this because companies won’t be making much money.”

The Free State has a working age population of just over 1.9 people – these are people aged between 15 and 64 years.

South Africa’s official unemployment rate rose to 30.8 percent in the third quarter from 23.3 percent.

Nedbank’s economic unit believes the country’s unemployment rate could remain high for some time.

“The unemployment rate is likely to stay at current levels for some time as South African unemployment is structurally sticky above the 25 percent mark,” the unit said.

“The only thing that can change the structurally high unemployment rate would be a concerted push to fix the country’s structural challenges regarding skills as well as other policy issues and this will be a long-term endeavour . . .”

The expanded unemployment rate for the country is 43.1 percent.

The number of unemployed people in the country increased by 2.2 million to 6.5 million in the third quarter from 4.3 million in the second.


Business chief bemoans slow transformation



Staff Reporter

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) president Professor Bonang Mohale has blamed the high poverty levels among black South Africans on slow transformation and urged the government to use its powers to improve people’s lives.

“When you have political power, you were not given this political power to look at it and admire it every morning and caress it,” said Mohale, who is also the chancellor of the University of the Free State.

He said this during a Business Breakfast Masterclass organised by the Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DESTEA) and the Free State Black Business Chamber (BMF) in Bloemfontein on Monday.

“Do something with it (power) and that something is . . . you have to love your people to lead them,” said Mohale.

“That something means – because we were not left alone for 370 years of colonialism, 98 years of separate development and 48 years of apartheid – can I use this power to change this so that our children do not disown us . . . saying poverty still has primarily a black and feminine face,” he added.

The BUSA president anchored his keynote delivery on his latest book, Behold the Turtle.

“The Basotho say ‘behold the turtle’ . . .  it only makes progress when its neck is stuck out. We all begin to die when we are silent about things that genuinely matter to us,” he said.

“When the turtle is concerned about ‘me, myself and I’, it sits in its own shell. It’s protected. It cannot be touched. It is safe, it is secure. But it will sit there, it will die there.”

The event, which drew a cross-section of people from the local business sector, was held under the theme ‘Growing the Economy of the Free State Province in 2022 – A Collaborative Approach’.

Mohale continued: “For it to move from point A to point B, it has to risk it all and take its head out of the shell.

“But when it does so, the birds of prey can swoop on it, hit it on the head and it might die.

“So, every single time it wants to make progress, it’s a dance with death.

“Therefore, in South Africa today, when so many of us dare to hope that joy and peace will prevail, we will only make progress when we are prepared to risk it all, especially now.

“In another three months, we will be 28 years into our democracy and yet poverty still has primarily a black feminine face, and yet we are in office.

“We refuse to be in power because power means you can do something about it. You can change the circumstances.”

A firm talker, Mohale warned civil servants and ordinary citizens not to look aside when there is injustice for fear of losing their jobs as it doesn’t help society.

“Therefore, when you say, but I am a public servant, if I use my voice judiciously and speak truth to power, I might lose my job, better I be quiet . . . know that you are killing not only yourself, but the entire generation that comes behind you,” he said.

“So, when you are a common citizen and state capture happens on your watch, you are silent and do not say anything, know that, that is genocide.”

He said nationally, 51 percent of the population is female and yet women representation in positions of leadership is not more than 24 percent.

The number of senior black executives, according to the BUSA boss, has just increased from 14.3 percent to 14.7 percent, but warned it could take the country another 150 years to reach the ultimate intention of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment.

“And what is that ultimate intent? It’s to ensure that this economy is broadly reflective of us,” he said.

“It must look like us . . . just like China, India and Japan. Those businesses look typically Chinese, Indian and Japanese. 

“The culture . . . the language, the dress code is Chinese, Indian and Japanese, except in South Africa.”

“In fact, when you get into our boardrooms in South Africa, you’ll be forgiven to think that we are an outpost of Europe,” he pointed out, adding white males still occupy about 70 percent of the top executive positions in the corporate sector.

“Today all you have to do is to be born black and chances are you are condemned to live in the informal settlements of Alexandra.

“You just have to be born white and the chances are you are destined for the leafy suburbs of Bryanston without doing much because the economic power patterns have been set for generations to come.

“Now, the reason we have this power is so that we do something to intervene and that intervention is called transformative instruments.

“All of us, myself included, we have not succeeded in eradicating the legacy of apartheid. It’s still living with us.

“All of us have not done (enough) to make sure the black majority live better lives. Those poor living conditions were by design . . .

“Today, 28 years into democracy, out of every R100 that we spend on education, R67 is spent on a white kid, R20 on a coloured kid, R10 on a coloured kid and the balance on an African kid. You don’t need to read it. You see it . . . and we are in power. We command the budget,” he explained.

PUSHING ECONOMIC TURNAROUND . . . DESTEA MEC Makalo Mohale flanked by FEZI Auditors and Consultants chief executive officer Nthabeleng Khawe and Will Choene

In response, DESTEA MEC Makalo Mohale said one of the weaknesses of the Free State economy is that there is very little value addition to what is produced in the province.

He said the province has mainly relied on the primary sectors where commodities are extracted and are value-added outside, coming back as finished goods to be sold.

The MEC said the province has also tried to invest in education because it understands it’s one effective way to improve people’s lives as well as the economy.

“Our approach is to make sure that we work with business to drive this vision that we have to grow the economy of the Free State,” he said.

“What we want is to ensure there is industrialisation in the province.

“Our key programme towards value addition is ‘let’s make the Free State a big factory . . .’ where all the commodities that we consume, we are able to produce.”

He also took the opportunity to explain the Free State Integrated Local Economic Development and Transformation Bill which has been put out for public comment saying it seeks to respond and integrate various interventions.

“The Bill seeks to ensure that all the things you said must happen become reality. We are using our legislative power to ensure that happens,” the MEC said.

“There are four key areas in the Bill: it recognises the sector as a key partner and creates important structures to ensure business is not left behind in the new development model.

“We envisage a situation where there is a formal business voice not the current set-up that is voluntary.”

He said the Bill also seeks, among others, to promote manufacturing in the province.

It also gives power to the MEC for economic development to designate certain commodities for enterprise development.

This means the government will only buy certain products from local producers.

It also addresses the issue of business licensing.

The MEC said some of the requirements are that only those that are lawfully in the country will be allowed to operate businesses in the province.

Other panellists included BMF chairperson Mosebetsi Dhladhla, Standard Bank behavioural economist Emile du Plessis and FEZI Auditors and Consultants chief executive officer Nthabeleng Khawe.

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Free State launches new industrial support incentives



Staff Reporter

The Free State Department of Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DESTEA) has launched various industrial support incentives aimed at assisting local businesses to kick-start their operations with limited hurdles.

DESTEA MEC Makalo Mohale said when he launched the packages last Friday that the support is aimed at stimulating local domestic manufacturing and production in order to retain and create more jobs in the province.

“The focus for this initiative will be towards Maluti-a-Phofung Special Economic Zone in Phuthaditjhaba as well as Thaba Nchu and Botshabelo industrial areas,” he said during a virtual launch of the support plan.

He said the incentives will ensure that these industrial parks become attractive to potential investors, improve the occupancy rate and thus create much-needed jobs.

“Furthermore, this will ensure that informal and emerging manufacturers have access to proper industrial infrastructure which will allow them to grow their businesses,” said the MEC.

The incentives include rental and set-up cost subsidies and are divided into three categories for established, emerging and informal manufacturers.

  • Established Manufacturers’ Incentive: to provide established enterprises involved in manufacturing and industrialisation with factory space rental subsidies – up to R2 million per applicant.
  • Emerging Manufacturers’ Incentive: to provide enterprises at the incubation or start-up stage, who are in manufacturing and industrialisation, with factory rental subsidy – up to R1 million per applicant.
  • Informal Manufacturers’ Incentive: to provide informal/unregistered manufacturers with factory space rental subsidies, and set-up costs grants to support manufacturing and industrialisation operations – R300 000 maximum per applicant.

“This is a decisive action to enhance the work already done in these areas, this time focusing at propelling SMMEs (small, micro and medium enterprises) in those areas to production levels,” said Mohale.

“Our emphasis is to ensure that our people access opportunities that will ensure that the means of production are in their hands,” he added.

According to Mohale, about 18 000 permanent job opportunities have been created in those areas.

“Our responsibility is to create conducive opportunities to increase these levels of employment opportunities and we believe that the Industrialisation Support Incentives Programme is our answer,” he pointed out.

The province has a budget of about R10.1 million per year for the support scheme over the next three years. 

Applications opened on Monday and will be close on June 15.

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Free State unemployment jumps 2.2 percent



Staff Reporter

The official unemployment rate for the Free State increased by 2.2 percentage points between January and March this year from 33.4 percent to 35.6 percent.

This was revealed by Statistician General Risenga Maluleke when he released results for the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first three months of this year.

But the expanded unemployment rate which includes those who have given up looking for work, the provincial rate jumped from 39.9 percent at the end of last year to 43.4 percent in March this year.

According to Maluleke, the Free State is one of the provinces that recorded the highest increases in the official jobless figure.

“The official unemployment rate increased in six of the nine provinces, with the largest increase recorded in the Free State – up by 2.2 percentage points . . .” he said on Tuesday.

This was followed by Limpopo, up by 2.1 percentage points to 29.4 percent, and the Western Cape which gained 1.2 percentage points to 23.7 percent.

The Eastern Cape remains the province with the highest official unemployment rate at 43.8 percent.

The Free State is second and Gauteng is third with 34.4 percent.

South Africa’s official unemployment rate stands at 32.6 percent while the expanded unemployment figure is 43.2 percent.

Maluleke said there were about 10.2 million young people aged 15-24 years in the first quarter of 2021, of which 32.4 percent were not in employment, education or training.

“Some young people have been discouraged with the labour market and they are also not building on their skills base through education and training – they are not in employment, education or training,” said the Statistician General.

The number of employed people in the Free State dropped by 42 000 from 745 000 to about 703 000.

This again was the highest drop in employment compared to other provinces.

Nationally, four out of eight industries in the formal sector recorded employment gains.

Job increases were mainly recorded in the finance, utilities, mining and manufacturing industries.

The biggest losses were in the construction industry, followed by transport, community and social services as well as trade.

In an economic commentary soon after the release, Nedbank said even though the economy has gained traction in the past months, the momentum has come mainly from increased global demand and a rally in commodity prices.

“Domestically, however . . . demand remains subdued,” said the bank’s economic unit.

“Businesses will take time to recover from the shock of Level-5 lockdown.

“Meaningful job creation will probably only resume once corporate profitability has been restored and balance sheets have been strengthened.

“Government can best boost labour market prospects by speeding up vaccination rates, which would go a long way in helping to improve the conditions in labour-intensive industries such as hospitality and tourism.”

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