Black-owned rural and township enterprises are firmly at the centre of Premier David Mabuza’s radical economic transformation agenda. And he has vowed to personally oversee and manage “big ticket infrastructure projects” worth billions of rand.
He admitted that his administration had resolved to use the state’s financial muscle to give much needed support to small black-owned businesses in order to grow the economy and create much-need jobs.
Delivering his State of the Province Address in Mbombela on Friday, Mabuza said they would use the government’s Nine Point Plan – a blueprint to address the country’s socio-economic challenges – to attract investment, accelerate service delivery and drive economic growth and transformation.
He said R80m had been allocated to ensure various infrastructure projects being implemented in township and rural areas succeeded.
The Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (Mega), the province’s trade and investment arm, would be at the forefront of driving the projects which are envisaged to create 1 428 jobs.
"To date, the value of loan applications that Mega received stands at R72.7m. These are at various stages of evaluation," said Mabuza, adding loans totalling R49.8m had already been approved by the development finance institution.
Of the approved R49.8m, R6.3m would benefit women, R7.4m would support youth owned enterprises, R36.9m would be directed to rural enterprises, while township enterprises would get R2.35m.
Mabuza, who has been at the helm of the province since May 2009, said as government they had resolved to “use state buying power" to procure goods and services produced and supplied by township and rural small, medium and macro-sized enterprises and cooperatives.
"We are collecting further data from all our municipalities on any existing small businesses that are either in the agricultural or manufacturing sectors. This data will assist us to understand the capacity of these businesses and prepare targeted interventions where needed," said Mabuza, who is the ANC provincial chairperson.
The radical socio-economic transformation "requires that we take bold and decisive action" to change the economic ownership patterns in the country. This would be achieved through the "deployment of state resources in support of black-owned enterprises in manufacturing, agriculture and agro-processing, as well as tourism and services".
Speaking off script, the premier remarked, to loud applause: "We require our people to stand up and work. Move away from the syndrome of entitlement." He also commended his administration for its successes over the past five years, which saw the creation of "130 000 net jobs, achieving approximately 36% of our annual job creation target due to the lacklustre economic growth", which saw Africa's largest economy grow by a paltry 0.5% last year.
The provincial government had also invested on various social and economic infrastructure projects amounting to more than R2bn. The projects included those in the education, health and water sectors.
"...to further ensure that our big ticket infrastructure projects are rolled out as planned, we will be establishing a Provincial Project Management Unit coordinated by the Office of the Premier to manage and oversee these critical projects from start to finish," said Mabuza. A further R1.9bn in capital investment, he said, had been set aside to continue the construction and completion of various road upgrades. "This is by no means a small achievement. No young democracy like ours, anywhere in the developing world, has ever accomplished what we have achieved. Let history judge the ANC-led government on these achievements, and nothing else.”
Mega chief executive Xola Sithole said the Sopa was very inspiring, focussed and specific on what needs to be done.
“There is a strong sense that the problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality will be resolved through a focus on growing the economy. Whatever you need to do you must create jobs, to create jobs you must invest in order to lift people out of poverty, so investment is key. Investment can either come from the state or from the private sector,” Sithole told Independent Media.
Mabuza said in his address: “At this difficult time, we call upon the private sector to invest in the economy, and join hands with government as we navigate challenging economic conditions.”
DA Mpumalanga leader James Masango told Independent Media: "The premier's speech was just a repetition of what he has been saying in the past. However, we are happy that he has decided to support SMMEs. We hope it's not just the politically connected that will benefit."
Masango added that they were a "bit worried" that Mabuza did not touch on the issue of corruption because "this is the most corrupt province".