4 March 2016
By Harold Maloka
Many South Africans would be forgiven for thinking that all is doom and gloom in the country and that the government is not making any progress on its mandate in improving the lives of its citizens. Even the international community should be forgiven for thinking the same – all thanks to what is consumed every day, through the different media platforms, from mainstream media to social media.
There are, indeed, serious challenges facing our country. We are in the midst of a serious drought, which government has gone to great lengths to address; there are many people without jobs and still those who don’t know where their next meal will come from.
In addition, the economy is facing serious challenges – topmost that it is not growing at the desired levels to enable the country to create much needed jobs. A key sector of our economy, the mining sector, is also facing less demands for its commodities and there are considerations for retrenchments.
In the same vein, the lost contact with three miners at Lily Mine in Mpumalanga and the recent announcement that searches will resume in only about two weeks will lead many people to despair. As a nation, we must pray for them and their families at this trying time.
However, I say that it is not all doom and gloom. Let’s take a look at what we have to be grateful for. For starters, the country has not experienced load shedding in the last six months. We were getting used to all the disruptions but now we can put that behind us but not forget to express our gratitude to those who got us back on the grid.
Gratitude is in us as a nation and the challenges we face should not make us forget who we are. There is now predictability and that provides a level of certainty and confidence to the investor needs to help us build a stable economy and create jobs.
Speaking during the debate on the State of the Nation Address last week, Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel made an announcement that took many by surprise - that our own economy has created 712 000 new jobs in 12 months - despite tough and difficult conditions.
Simply translated, 712 000 people are now employed and supporting their families with all their domestic needs. This is despite many economies in the world-wide struggling to create employment.
Government further invested R290 billion in infrastructure development, thereby created jobs. Minister Patel further revealed that 160 new schools have been built as well as about 100 000 new houses. In the field of higher education, the government began the construction of three new technical college campuses and two new universities. Much-needed accommodation for 3 100 students was also provided.
Despite our electricity constraints, government managed to connect 265 000 homes to the electricity grid while at the same time managing our consumption as a nation that led us to six months of no load shedding. To further meet the demand in supply, 1700 megawatts of energy was added to the grid through the Medupi Power Station.
Through investment from Toyota in the past 12 months, 10 200 new minibus taxis were assembled locally, creating jobs for 700 workers. To create and save jobs, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) committed R14 million of its capital last year to South African and continental projects with private sector investors, which included footwear factories, food-processing, wire and cable manufacturing, filmmaking and other sectors.
Minister Patel further said that there were now 15.8 million people as compared to 15.3 million last year who were employed.
Therefore, I would argue that the jury is still out on whether it is indeed doom and gloom in our country when there are so many positive developments. Yes, there is evidence suggesting we have challenges just like any nation anywhere in the world. But, equally so, there is evidence that suggests we making steady progress.
As it is often said, we South Africans are always hard on ourselves, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as it says to all of us that as a nation we must strive for a better world. It is in times like these that we all need to be positive and work in unity as a nation to overcome our challenges.
This time requires all of us to work together and take our country forward. The announcements by Minister Patel mean there is a lot of work being done by all South Africans, including government, working together as one nation. It is for all of us to encourage them to work harder and give them support to continue to carry the hopes and aspirations of all people in our country.
The government continues to invest and hold dialogues with industry as was the case with the meeting led by President Jacob Zuma in the lead up to the State of the Nation Address. The government remains committed to solving the problems of our country. It is mindful of the challenges and the impatience of those affected and remains resolute to work even harder to create a better life for all.
These positive developments should occupy our minds and give us hope. We must share them with the rest of society through all channels – as we share the challenges we face.
As Minister Patel said: “These are difficult times, yet much has been achieved. With partnerships (across society), we can do more. Indeed, we must do more if we are to turn the economy around.”
It is indeed not doom and gloom, the future of our country is in our hands. Together, we can take our beloved country forward.
Harold Maloka is the Deputy Director-General of GCIS