Friends & Friction: We must all deliver on the jobs promise

2014-05-21 10:00

Election fever is over but the promises made will last forever. The responsibility to keep them is not only for those who made them, but for all if we want to build our country.

Six million jobs might have been Jacob Zuma’s electioneering strategy, but the country must now deliver. It is not up to Zuma and his party alone. It is up to all South Africans.

Six million new jobs will not come from big business but from new enterprises. You have to get to the city before you get to the avenues, so let’s first get to the main destination – one million new businesses in the next three years, and each enterprise must employ six people.

To achieve that, government needs a complete change of attitude towards business, particularly small business. It should start with a change of attitude in the trade and industry department.

Minister Rob Davies might be a good man, living proof that communism does not equal Stalinism, but putting him in charge of business was a bit of a stretch.

It is like putting a bishop in charge of a brothel. It is not good for all involved.

The department must be led by someone passionate about trading, someone who wants to see it thrive rather than a theorist removed from reality.

It needs someone who understands the pain of grovelling for a sale, preferably someone who has sold doilies ­door-to-door while dogs barked at her like she was a chicken thief.

Doilies make the best salespeople.

“Ko, ko, ko,” you knock.

“Come in.”

“I am selling doilies,” you say.

“Let us see,” the potential customer asks.

You look for a place to display your wares but see piles of dirty dishes and naked toddlers with caked snot in their nostrils.

You make your way to the dining room, where they have to move beer bottles and ashtrays to make room for your doilies. You display them.

You tell them how beautiful they look, and you put their ashtrays on them and they truly look beautiful.

“Asinamali. We don’t have money,” they tell you. “Come at the end of the month.”

No please or thank you for the display.

“Nisale kahle. Stay well,” you grovel again.

It’s month end and you’re back, full of hope. The scene is the same – toddlers everywhere until you get to the door. You knock but this time a nine-year-old appears.

“Ngithengisa amadoilie,” you say.

“Akukho bantu. There are no people,” meaning adults aren’t at home. You go to the next door and the next. Someone wants to buy on credit. It’s going to be months before you get your money.

You’ve borrowed from friends and relatives and they are now out of pocket because the banks won’t touch you. Then your business closes down.

It is time to create a business environment favourable for new enterprises. Government should dismantle the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica) and the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act (Rica).

Once a company is registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, there should be no need for yearly renewals. Registering a company takes a long time and opportunities disappear before the relevant documents return from the authorities.

If Pravin Gordhan returns as finance minister, the former taxman should exercise restraint and remember that raising taxes is not the panacea to all social ailments. He should not only simplify the tax code this term, but reduce the rate.

The sustainability of these jobs lies in offering a good education foundation that produces adaptable people who can be trained to use new technologies in the future. Six million jobs might have been an arbitrary number, but it is now everyone’s responsibility.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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