Jaded, jobless youth wreck municipality

2015-01-25 18:00

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Young residents in Mpumalanga are fed up because, they say, they aren’t getting jobs at the province’s mines, power stations, and in its steel and chemical industries.

Groups of young people have taken to organising protests in the Nkangala region – the latest was in Mhluzi township near Middelburg last week.

Protesters damaged about R1.2?million worth of property belonging to the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality, private companies and individuals. Police are still patrolling the area in anticipation of more unrest.

Last year there were protests around Emalahleni city, Ga-Nala (formerly Kriel) and Delmas spearheaded by young people who accused private companies of not employing locals.

Despite its thriving industries, only 65% of the Nkangala region’s 1.3?million residents are employed.

Economic Freedom Fighters regional secretary Manqoba Masemula was among those who led last week’s protests in Mhluzi.

Masemula said that various community structures decided to march to a local stadium in protest against the Steve Tshwete municipality. This was because, he said, the municipality wasn’t doing enough to pressure the private sector into employing locals – and was itself hiring “outsiders”.

Residents put together 1?000 CVs for Mayor Mike Masina and when he did not come to collect them, chaos erupted. Protesters set alight two private company minibuses and a municipal bakkie, and smashed the windows of eight other vehicles.

“We wanted the mayor to take these CVs and engage the private sector because he has the duty to do so,” said Masemula.

Municipal spokesperson Prudence Magutle told City Press: “The mayor can’t pressurise private companies. On our side, we’ve adopted a policy to advertise clerical assistant jobs in local newspapers and on notice boards, but for specialised jobs, we advertise nationally to attract qualified people.”

Anna-Marth Otto, the CEO of the 400-member Middelburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said youth unemployment was a complex issue that needed business, government and communities to get involved.

“Business is affected by a number of factors at present, including the struggling global economy, industrial action and electricity supply,” said Otto.

“There are vacancies, but the problem is that the youth do not have the necessary skills. This is a complex issue the chamber discussed and we feel that the youth must be skilled. Pressure must be put on sector education and training authorities.”

The Emalahleni Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s treasurer, Sipho Shabangu, said the chamber was drafting a strategy to improve young people’s skills.

“We’re at that stage where we’re engaging on how we can transfer skills. We’re formulating a strategy and we need to move fast while the situation is still under control,” said Shabangu.

Nkangala would do well to look elsewhere in the province for possible solutions.

In August and September last year, unemployed youngsters from the Lynnville, Vosman and Thubelihle townships protested in the Emalahleni area. They caused R1.1?million in damage.

Protesters were demanding that 30% of all available jobs and procurement opportunities be reserved for locals. They then met with Premier David Mabuza and local industries, and an economic summit was organised to chart the most positive way forward.

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