Jeremy Cronin. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko.

Public Works Deputy Minister Jeremy Cronin believes the government is on track to meet its target of creating five million job opportunities by 2014.

According to Cronin, the government has created 2.6 million job opportunities in the past three and a half years through infrastructure projects.

Cronin was addressing delegates at the department’s third Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) summit in Pretoria. The summit is focusing on the role of municipalities in creating these jobs, with Tshwane lauded for its innovative job-creating projects of cleaning rivers, streets and taxi ranks.

The city has employed nearly 3 000 people through the expanded programme’s Vat Alles project, launched by executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa this year.

But Cronin raised concerns that the jobs were only short-term and in most cases would not ensure those employed were sufficiently trained to graduate to more formal employment.

“It is not enough for somebody to be employed for 40 days, and when that employment ends they cannot be employed elsewhere.

“This also raises the question about the quality of the job – is it something that can empower somebody beyond them just receiving a stipend from an EPWP project?”

Cronin also warned against an obsession of trying to “push the numbers” without looking at the outcomes and quality of work produced by those employed in the EPWP projects.

“There is a perverse danger in trying to reach the targets and not concentrating on the quality of jobs being created, and the quality of work being produced. We must be able to strike a balance.

“We must also be able to address other objectives of the EPWP, such as ensuring that locals are employed in the particular project, and that the jobs are on a continuing basis, as [when] maintenance is being done.”

Municipalities were expected to create 1.4 million of the jobs in the five million target, he said. He was confident this target would be met as more municipalities were qualifying for the EPWP grant.

“At the moment 264 municipalities are eligible for the EPWP grant and they are claiming R340 million.”

Gauteng MEC for Economic Development Qedani Mahlangu urged other municipalities to look at Tshwane as an example of how jobs could be created while also creating a clean environment for the benefit of residents and communities.

She suggested that such jobs should be expanded to include window-cleaning and the upkeep of buildings in city centres – a model in use in countries in Europe and Asia.

“We should look at creating these jobs but, more important, we should help those getting the jobs… to create co-operatives and manage and run the cleaning projects.

“I’m urging municipalities to ensure that locals are employed in the projects, and not have a situation where a contractor comes into a province but has employed people from elsewhere.”

A requirement for awarding the contracts should be the employment of locals, as should buying building materials from local hardware stores.

“This way the money comes into the local community,” said Mahlangu.

The summit continues until tomorrow.