- KZN premier Sihle Zikalala has said that he would personally oversee the ailing job situation in the province.
- He declared he would create a war room for job creation that he would personally chair.
- He said that while national unemployment figures were up, there were some saving graces for KZN.
Economic growth was the push from KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala on Friday as he announced the establishment of a war room for job creation.
"We undertake a solemn declaration to spare no effort in the struggle to grow the economy. The focus will be on restructuring the economy to ensure growth and address the imbalances in ownership patterns and ensure creation of jobs," he said during his speech to the province and its citizens.
Zikalala declared he would personally oversee the responsibility of growing jobs in KwaZulu-Natal.
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"The Provincial Government will establish the war room on jobs creation chaired by the Premier to monitor and oversee the implementation of job creation projects."
Zikalala claimed that the province created 137 000 jobs under Sukuma, an initiative to create 100 000 job opportunities for young people, including unemployed graduates.
However, he pragmatically approached the facts behind unemployment, quoting the Quarterly Labour Force Survey which was released by StatsSA this week and which, "... paints a gloomy national picture with [sic] the number of unemployed persons".
The survey said unemployment increased from 6.5 million in the third quarter of 2020 to 7.2 million in the fourth quarter.
Zikalala said the largest decreases in employment were recorded in Gauteng (down by 528 000), and KwaZulu-Natal (down by 210 000).
He said during the same period, the largest employment increases were recorded in the Western Cape, up by 121 000, KwaZulu-Natal, up by 66 000, and Gauteng up by 64 000.
"These figures indicate that the number of jobs created is outshone by a higher number of job losses. Thus, our economic recovery focuses directly on job creation."
Tourism recovery plan
According to Zikalala, a report recently released by South African Tourism shows that the number of tourism jobs lost in 2020 is estimated at 40 000 countrywide.
"This year, we are focused on implementing our tourism recovery plan which we put together with our industry partners when the pandemic hit us last year."
He said millions were set aside to aid businesses.
"Government has set aside R20 million towards the KZN tourism relief fund, aimed at providing relief to majority black owned tourism businesses. The fund is modelled along the 2020 National Tourism Relief Fund and will be capped at R50 000 per business."
He added that at least 35 KwaZulu-Natal black industrialists have been approved for more than R700 million of grant funding from the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC) creating 4 000 job opportunities.
"In the 2021/22 financial year, we will finalise the KZN Localisation Framework Plan as well as the Rural and Township Revitalisation Strategy in order to ensure successful implementation of Radical Economic Transformation in the province."
Zikalala said the Gini Coefficient (a measure of income inequality) in SA was the highest before the pandemic.
"This will widen further unless we ameliorate, halt and reverse the effects of Covid-19. The battered global and local economy has forced a number of KZN businesses into distress.
"Mounting job losses result in the declining tax revenue. Government is compelled to reprioritise existing resources in order to among others, support ailing business and provide a social safety net to the poor."
Statistics wise, he said at least 33 399 people have already registered for the first phase of the vaccine rollout in the province.
"Most of our health workers have reported a renewed sense of positivity and feeling protected. KZN received 10 800 vaccines in the first phase and we have vaccinated a total of 7 337 health workers at our two sites in Albert Luthuli and Prince Mshiyeni Hospital."
Zikalala also conceded that the Public Works department in the province was failing contractors.
"In her presentation to the Public Works Portfolio Committee, the Honourable MEC indicated that the department was unable to meet its payment obligations to contractors, service providers and municipalities within the 30-day deadline committed [to] by government.
"This has resulted in tremendous hardship for many of the small contractors who were brought into the system through empowerment programmes like the Eyesizwe Contractor Development Programme. This is clearly an unsatisfactory situation."
He said the province is directing that Public Works and its client departments, "... sit down immediately to resolve the payment issues to ensure that service providers are paid within the deadlines previously set by government".