Kabelo Khumalo. File Photo: IOL

JOHANNESBURG – President Cyril Ramaphosa will on the 12th of this month present his maiden election manifesto at the helm of the governing African National Congress (ANC) which will inform government's work for the year and the next five years. 

This might very well be the most consequential blueprint of the ANC since the dawn of democracy with the manifesto expected to be anchored around the economy, jobs and transformation.

But an election manifesto on its own is not a panacea for the unemployment crisis and other social ills, especially for a party known to be good on policy formulation but poor on implementation.

Ramaphosa will address the nation fully cognizant that nearly 10 million South Africans are out of work with retrenchments being a buzz work in an economy consistently punching below its weight.

Watershed year

2018 was a watershed year for job losses with the mining, manufacturing industries particularly hard hit. The Jobs Summit did little to stymie the tide of job losses with even the once holy cow industries such as information technology not spared as evidenced by Standard Bank’s decision to let go of 526 of its IT personnel.

Few commentators including myself believe that 2019 will significantly dent unemployment or arrest thousands of mooted retrenchments announced last year. Mind you that I also ply my trade in one of the most endangered professions around, Journalism. The media space has been battered for years as revenue moved to online players as evidenced by the recent demise of a proudly black-owned media house, Ndalo Media, dealing a decisive blow to transformation.

It might very well not be in my province to prescribe remedies to arrest the rising tide of jobs shedding, but I hold the view that employees across the nation should have a different approach that would safeguard them against possible retrenchments. It would now be prudent to define what retrenchments means, without running the risk of being academic about the lived reality of many people. 

According to legalwise: “Retrenchment is a form of dismissal due to no fault of the employee, it is a process whereby the employer reviews its business needs in order to increase profits or limit losses, which leads to reducing its employees.”

I fully accept this description, especially as it relates that it’s a form of dismissal due to no fault of an employee. But is it possible we can out of our increased productivity ensure that a company or entity is no forced to shed jobs? 

2018 was a watershed year for job losses across all sectors with even Standard Bank’s deciding to let go of 526 of its IT personnel. File Photo: IOL
2018 was a watershed year for job losses across all sectors with even Standard Bank’s deciding to let go of 526 of its IT personnel. File Photo: IOL

Is this a possibility?

I believe how we view our work and our role in ensuring the companies we work for not only survive but thrive can make a big difference in the sustainability of jobs and the creation of new ones.

Let’s imagine for a fleeting moment that we remove the tag employees from our thinking faculty and replace with an entrepreneurial spirit. That is to say, we not only think of our selves as employed people who work for a salary but as partners with the owners in growing the business and transforming our workplaces.

In perilous economic conditions our country faces, we need not only look to government and business leaders to inspire hope and change, but we must do what Nelson Mandela said was the most difficult task a human can endeavour and that is to change oneself.  

A report by Momentum Corporate, released at the latter part of 2018 was damning on us: employees at organizations. The research found that South African businesses are losing up to R89 billion a year due to distracted employees, who despite being at work, are unproductive.

Let us examine our role as employees in building this economy. 

Some consequential answers to our many socio-economic problems don’t lie in the corridors of Luthuli House of at the steps of the Union Buildings but through the concerted effort of normal South African who are determined to lend a hand and make a difference. Necessity is also laid upon employers to recognize the humanity in their employees and unclench their hands and partner to build companies, create jobs and inject this economy with the much need energy and direction.