Deputy President David Mabuza told Parliament on Thursday afternoon that government had every intention of supporting small businesses based in township and rural areas through mentorship, finance and paying them on time.
Replying orally to questions from Members of Parliament in the National Assembly, Mabuza acknowledged that the challenges that small business experienced in South Africa cut across the country’s broader economic troubles, including unemployment and lacklustre growth.
However, Mabuza said, in spite of past challenges, there was cause for optimism. He said government would invest in delivering its Township Entrepreneurial Fund to businesses that needed it. He said this will help upscale existing township and rural businesses.
"The three spheres of government must do everything in their power to pay township and rural businesses for the services procured from them on time. More or less, 670 businesses have occupied our industrial parks. We are sure that the number will increase. Ours is to ensure that aftercare is sustained," said Mabuza.
The Economic Freedom Fighters asked Mabuza to provide specific numbers in terms of the number of jobs needed to grow the economy at 5% per year to which Mabuza replied frankly that the country was well behind its target.
"I might not be precise about the number of jobs we have set ourselves as a target according to the National Devenopment Plan. All I can say is we have not done very well in reaching that target. There are many factors contributing to this," Mabuza said.
We are responding to retrenchments
Mabuza acknowledged that job security continued to be undermined by dwindling profits in the private sector and technological development as well as automation which threatened to take over tasks in the workplace.
"It is important for government to appreciate that every business that is opened has labour intensive functions and, thereby, must absorb workers. We are very worried about the advent of new technologies that are being employed in our economy," said Mabuza.
Skills, skills, skills
Mabuza said the saving grace of South Africa would be its ability to develop newer, more relevant skills, so that South Africans can become more responsive to job market volatility.
"Businesses are seeking ways to minimise the impact. You have heard that Standard Bank is closing branches. They have determined that they can do with less outlets and people continue to do transactions without visiting the outlet. We must find better ways to re-train people and channel them to other jobs and industries," he said.