“Where the DA governs more jobs follow”
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Oudtshoorn. 1 May 2012. 14h45.
This is an extract of the speech delivered by Helen Zille at the DA Workers’ Day event in Midvaal, Gauteng.
Today we all join hands in paying tribute to the many millions of men and women who work in the factories, in the mines, in the farms and fields, in the shops, the banks and in many other places – the workers who literally power our economy.
We pay tribute to them for their hard work, their skill, their diligence, their competitiveness and their energy. And we also reflect on how tough things are for the ordinary working man and woman in South Africa today.
It is costing more to get to work in the morning, it is costing more to cook a meal in the evening, it is costing more to do just about everything. This is slowly shrinking the middle class, and hurting South African families. That’s why we felt it was important for us to oppose the e-tolls in Gauteng so strongly. With all the economic decks stacked against working families, it was just impossible and completely unreasonable for government to expect them to fork out even more money from their family budgets for using toll roads.
But the increasing cost of living is an even more urgent crisis for the many millions of South Africans who are without work, and who do not have the dignity and sense of self-worth that comes with having a job. They are the ones who are locked out of the economy, with no opportunity to improve their lives and define their own futures.
The truth is that South Africa’s biggest problem today is that too few people have jobs. We need more workers – in fact at least five million more, if we want to reach the global average employment rate of people between 16 and 64 years of age. And our biggest challenge is to grow the economy so that this can happen. Almost every sensible South African agrees with us.
South Africa’s official unemployment rate hovers around 25,7%. However, The Centre for Development & Enterprise (CDE) notes a revealing statistic, only 41 per cent of the population of working age (everyone aged 16 to 64) have any kind of job – formal or informal.
What this means is that there are many more people who are locked out of the job market, than those who have access. Put simply, the most important policy question in South Africa is how to get more people working.
This Workers’ Day, we must redouble our focus on achieving that goal. In the DA, our central commitment and our entire policy platform is about breaking the hold of the unemployment crisis that is dealing a death blow to the dream of prosperity and dignity for many South Africans. There can be no more important political commitment in our current context. We cannot celebrate the rights of workers without standing still and considering the plight of the millions of South Africans who are unemployed and excluded from this celebration.
Historically, Workers’ Day celebrations have been led by the trade union movement, in recognition of the many victories they have won over the years for workers’ rights.
And we agree that trade unions have an important role in a democracy to represent the interests of organised workers. But they are wrong to see managers as their “class enemy”. This is an outdated model and belongs to the 1950s. Countries with growing economies and growing employment have outgrown this “zero-sum” model where one side’s gain is the other side’s loss. In fact, to create more jobs we need more people who will invest capital and skills, who will take investment risks to open factories and to start businesses, thus creating more jobs.
We need government’s involvement too, especially in ensuring that public education empowers all our people with the skills they need to make use of the opportunities of a growing economy. Growing this economy and creating jobs is everyone’s business.
Where we govern, the DA has taken the lead in this new approach, which we believe will be very successful. Last week we launched our Economic Development Partnership in the Western Cape which brings together business, labour, educational institutions, social movements, NGOs and countless others to address the problems that impede economic growth and job creation, to remove red tape, and to do so together.
The lesson of our history has been that when we stand together, we can achieve anything. That is how we defeated apartheid. Now we must stand together to defeat unemployment.
It is sad that COSATU was the only organisation that will not engage this process, and their members will lose out as a result. COSATU, which played such a pivotal role in creating South Africa’s democracy, runs the risk of being left behind if it remains stuck in the 1950s British model of hostile central bargaining between “bosses and workers”.
Tragically, COSATU (alone among the trade union federations) is working against the interests of the unemployed, keeping them permanently locked out, and stalling the effort to bring jobs, redress and reconciliation to our society.
Now, more than ever, our nation needs a united single-minded focus on creating jobs. Let us dedicate this Workers’ Day to those who do not yet work. And let us be clear: The DA is the party with the policies to create jobs in South Africa. The DA is the party of economic growth and job creation.
There is no silver bullet that will solve the unemployment problem overnight. If government has the right policies, if education improves, if we eradicate corruption, we will see the results in a relatively short period of time. We need a strong and growing middle class to buy, save and invest; so driving sustained and inclusive economic growth which creates jobs. This sparks a virtuous cycle – creating jobs grows the middle class, which grows the economy, which creates more jobs.
Entering this virtuous cycle relies on good political leadership at every level, the right policies, implemented efficiently by a capable state. And crucially, it requires active citizens who take responsibility for their own lives and those of their children. For example, no matter how much education improves, it will not have the necessary impact for growth and jobs if parents and children do not work hard to benefit as much as possible from the opportunity of education.
Where the DA is in government, we are implementing that right mix of policies, capacity and leadership, and we are seeing results. We have seen it here in Midvaal, but also in Cape Town, and throughout the Western Cape.
We chose this site for our Workers Day rally today because very close to here, right across the road, there will soon be a massive development project that will create thousands of jobs. By this time next year building will have begun on a 300 000 square metre warehouse development. This enormous warehouse distribution centre will serve the entire Southern Gauteng, but most importantly it will serve the country as it will create an estimated 700 new permanent jobs and many thousands of temporary jobs.
Since the DA took control of Midvaal Municipality in 2000, it has been a job creation success story. It is no coincidence that it is rated as the top municipality in Gauteng, as the best place to live, and that it is attracting this kind of investment.
Midvaal’s unemployment rate is 12% by the official definition and 26% by the broader definition. This is still too high, of course – but it is roughly half the official national unemployment figure of around 25%, and by far the lowest in Gauteng.
Numerous large international and local businesses have chosen to invest in Midvaal’s R59 Industrial Corridor, bringing with them the job opportunities that come with industrial investment and development. From our vantage point here today you can see steel giant BSI Steel behind us and Heineken brewery in front of us. International chocolate giant Ferrero Rocher is just down the road. We are surrounded in this spot today by industry which brings with it billions of rand in investment and thousands of jobs. It is a picture we need to see in many more places in South Africa.
As I said, there is no silver bullet to solving the unemployment crisis, and the truth is that governments cannot solve unemployment by itself. But there are lots of simple things that governments can do to facilitate investment, streamline development, and support young people to get a foot on the first rung of the economic ladder.
That is why, where we are in government, we have tried to cut red tape as much as possible. Investors value efficient, responsive government and the ability of a municipality to take quick decisions. Far too many new developments are stifled or destroyed by unnecessary red tape, where governments take too long to respond and investors move on. In Midvaal, we make every effort to be personally available to sort out delivery bottlenecks. This allows local government to understand investors’ concerns and deal swiftly and creatively with issues. In the Western Cape, we’ve launched a “Red Tape to Red Carpet” initiative which allows businesses and potential investors to tell us what bureaucratic inefficiencies are preventing them from investing, so that we can try to remove those obstacles. The DA knows that if you want to attract investment, you must work doubly hard to gain the competitive advantage.
That is why, here in Midvaal, everyone knows they can trust that services will be delivered reliably and that billing procedures are simple, consistent, and accurate. Since the DA came into power here, it has achieved nine unqualified audit reports; while the ANC-led Emfuleni Municipality next door has not received a single clean audit in the last five years. It is this stability that allows business to focus on expanding their operations rather than having to waste time on inefficiency and unreliable service delivery.
That is why we invest in infrastructure, because an economy cannot flourish without effective infrastructure to support it. When the DA took over Midvaal in 2000, infrastructure had been neglected by the ANC and investment interest was almost non-existent. Since then the DA led government has focussed on building and maintaining infrastructure. Among many other infrastructure projects, it has upgraded the main electrical substation which has doubled the electrical supply capacity and completed the first phase of improving water distribution along the R59 Industrial Corridor.
That is why our Alternative Budget proposes tax incentives for new investment, and tax assistance for small businesses, so that they can grow and ultimately employ more people.
And that is why the DA has championed the Youth Wage Subsidy. This is an immediate policy solution that will create an estimated 400 000 jobs for young South Africans in the medium term. It is entirely affordable, it is broadly supported, and it is desperately needed.
If South African can achieve sustained 8% economic growth, we will halve unemployment in under ten years. And it is possible. Midvaal has shown that it is possible. The DA is showing that it is possible.