Johannesburg - Economic growth and jobs – or the lack thereof – dominated the last edition of the Wits Great Election Debate.
Thursday night’s event was billed as the last countdown and featured Economic Development Minister Ibrahim Patel and DA MP and finance spokesman Tim Harris.
Both men came to the Wits Great Hall armed with statistical information about job creation, which they frequently used to outwit each other.
Harris accused the ANC-led government of stalling economic growth and job creation in the face of grinding poverty. He said the DA-controlled Western Cape was the only province that had generated job creation, with 70 percent of the jobs created nationally coming from that province.
“We recognise the role that the ANC has played and that South Africa is a much better place to live today than it was in 1994. The truth is that, under President Jacob Zuma, South Africa is moving backwards. Millions of people are sitting at home because they don’t have jobs,” said Harris.
He reiterated the DA’s promise of creating 6 million jobs through economic growth-friendly policies, including tackling corruption and encouraging small businesses.
Patel countered this by accusing the DA of selective use of information from StatsSA to score cheap political points.
“The DA only focused on a one-year example of 2013. We have to look at the full record. In the last four years, in fact, Gauteng created more than 400 000 new jobs… In the Western Cape, only 22 percent of jobs went to black Africans, and in Gauteng more than 100 000 jobs went to black Africans,” Patel said.
“President Jacob Zuma says 5 million jobs will be created by 2020. Today, 1.5 million net jobs have been created.”
He also accused the Western Cape government of practising an exclusive employment approach that favoured white South Africans and marginalised their black counterparts.
Patel went as far as saying the DA had inherited a Western Cape boasting “high employment opportunities”.
A member from the floor asked Patel why the ANC failed to distinguish between public and private funds as it allegedly continued to use public money to fund its election campaign. He seemed to duck this question.
“The ANC is very clear. We must respect the separation between the state and the party and should not use the public funds to fund the party,” said Patel, as debate host Jeremy Maggs insisted he answer the question directly.
This seemed to give Harris some ammunition.
“The ANC clearly doesn’t distinguish this. We have seen the billboards appearing under the (ANC) party and that is part of the ANC corruption. They are afraid of the DA because the DA is growing.”
* The Wits Great Election Debate was a partnership between Wits University, Independent Newspapers and eNCA, and was beamed live across the continent.