Durban - The ANC Youth League plans to lead a protest of young people during the opening of the new Ballito Junction Mall next week.
The league is demanding that young entrepreneurs from the area be allowed to participate in business development in the municipality.
It is expected to outline its strategy at a press briefing on Friday to get the business community to address its concerns.
Musa Zondi, secretary-general for the youth league in the KwaDukuza region, said the league would lead young people on a mass protest during the opening of the mall.
Many young people who were running small and medium-sized enterprises were not benefiting from the construction of the mall, Zondi said.
“We expected lots of construction companies owned by young people to be enlisted to partner with their well-established counterparts, which did not happen,” said Zondi.
They were now demanding a slice of the work, he said. Zondi called on local private companies to join the call for “economic freedom in our lifetime”.
“It cannot only be the government that ensures that young people are being empowered economically. It is the responsibility of the mall, if it is meant to develop the community of KwaDukuza, to ensure that small emerging companies are able to partner with well established companies."
“That is not happening,” he said.
Patrick Flanagan, director of the Ballito Junction Consortium, was “disappointed” at the ANC Youth League’s attitude, saying there seemed to be a political agenda which made the league overlook the “huge, positive socio-economic impact”.
“We have been on site for three years - they (the youth league) asked to meet three weeks ago."
“We met with them and gave them a very comprehensive rundown. We don’t know what is to be gained from mass action; we did everything correctly,” he said.
They were private investors who had bought and built on private property, but of their own volition had worked closely with the KwaDukuza Municipality, which was their link to any public body with an interest.
“We entered into a formal memorandum of understanding on all employment issues. We had community liaison officers on site to link contractors and tenants with local labour."
“From our point of view, we have become a major stakeholder in that community,” said Flanagan.
He said the youth league had not responded to an offer to engage to help youth get technical skills so they could take up opportunities.
Economist Azar Jammine said it was paramount, in pushing the agenda of transformation, that education and upskilling of black people and youth be at the forefront.
“It is a far more compelling incentive for business to employ or be encouraged to do business with a person who is suitably skilled. Through empowerment and education, equality will come about,” he said.
Jammine warned that the notion of radical economic transformation was not very well understood, even by its authors, and was being put across as a method of grabbing wealth.
Economist Bonke Dumisa believed the ANC should be given a chance to deliberate and formulate a policy to guide the implementation of radical economic transformation before action was taken on the ground.
“Radical economic transformation was a call by the ANC, and was not yet necessarily part of government policy. For people to start marching now to push for it may be premature, but they have the right to march,” he said.
It could not be ignored that transformation was lacking in South Africa, but the manner in which it was attained was also critical.
Cobus Oelofse, chief executive of the Ilembe Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, said that with the Dube Tradeport on the doorstep and the airport having moved to the North Coast, there had been major growth in the retail, residential, estates and tourism markets in the greater Ilembe area.
“The business community has shown us a significant vote of confidence. We cannot undermine that confidence,” he said.
DA leader in KwaZulu-Natal Zwakele Mncwango agreed with the idea of empowering young people, but differed with the youth league on how this should be achieved.
He said this could be done through proper education and skills development instead of protest marches.
“We are facing a crisis where young people are actually a lost generation. The generation that finishes matric with no funds to go to university and ends up with no skills.”
He said the ANC should relook at its youth-empowerment policies.
“Imposing young people on the business community is going to collapse the economy of this country,” said Mncwango.