Talk is cheap – reality does not lie

Four years ago ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe uttered his statement: “A total of 350 000 jobs will be created in the manufacturing sector in the next 10 years. The ANC is confident that in the next 10 years the economy will be able to create five million jobs and thus reduce our unemployment rate from the present 25 percent to at least 15 percent.”

This statement came shortly after President Jacob Zuma had pledged in 2009 that 500 000 formal economy jobs would be created by December of that year. It was later revealed that due to the economic downturn, Zuma was unable to meet his pledge of creating 500 000 new jobs. Let us not forget that when he made the pledge the whole world had been in economic downturn for a year already.

Virtually at the same time as Mantashe’s statement Zuma said during an interview with the SABC that there had not been much progress in government’s job creation project, blaming it again on the economic crisis that hit the world.

Since these profound statements there have been many job creation initiatives and proposals mooted, from most notably Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, all with good intent.

In his State of the Nation address in Parliament in Cape Town in February last year, Zuma reassured South Africans and foreign investors that despite moments of turbulence, especially in the country’s mining sector, there was light at the end of the tunnel, claiming
“Jobs are now being created again. There are now 15 million people with jobs in the country, the highest ever in our history, and over 650 000 jobs were created last year.”

However, in the Stats SA September 2014 Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) report, released on 11 December 2014, it shows that total formal non-agricultural employment decreased by 129 000 jobs, 132 000 jobs were lost in the government sector, 9 000 jobs were lost in manufacturing, and 3 000 jobs were lost in both construction and transport. In the same period there were increases in mining (8 000), finance (6 000) and trade (4 000).

This report has been taken in isolation but researching the Stats SA site shows similar reports for the previous periods. It is also difficult to work out how many jobs have been created in the same period/s. One can only deduct that there is not a huge gain or loss because, Mr Mantashe and Mr Zuma, unemployment now sits at over 25%.

In the meantime 51 South Africans attended the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting held in Davos this January 2015, including eight government officials and four SOE delegates, at a reported cost per delegate to attend the meeting at $20,000 (R230,000), with estimates by CNN Money pegging the total cost (with hotels, food and other activities) closer to $40,000 (R460,000) per head. Based on this estimate, South Africa’s total Davos bill could be as high as $2 million (R23 million) – R3.7 million for government officials alone.

“Team South Africa” was professing to be open for business while back home Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu was making astonishing statements like: “Foreign business owners in SA’s townships cannot expect to co-exist peacefully with local business owners unless they share their trade secrets.”

It will be interesting to see what spin is given to us this February!