17/12/2012. Premier of the Free State, Ace Magashule after decining nomination for ANC Chairperson during the 53rd ANC National Conference in Mangaung. Picture: Masi Losi

Bloemfontein - The Free State government must invest more in co-operatives to address unemployment and poverty, the Congress of SA Trade Unions in the province said on Friday.

“Unemployment is still a huge challenge in the province,” said Sam Mashinini, Cosatu's Free State provincial secretary.

He was reacting to Free State premier Ace Magashule’s state-of-the-province address on Thursday.

Mashinini welcomed Magashule’s plans to focus on SMME development.

Magashule said small, medium, and micro enterprises remained the life blood of all economies.

However, the premier said in the Free State there was a worrying trend of SMMEs collapsing in the first two to three years after being established.

This situation would be investigated to find the underlying reasons for the failures and the provincial government planned to put programmes in place to help sustain SMMEs.

Magashule identified co-operatives as an economic model that could help increase the momentum of job creation and employment locally.

Areas identified for co-operatives include school feeding schemes, textiles for manufacturing uniforms and protective clothing, security, cleaning, farming, catering, and maintenance.

Mashinini said the government also needed to support the textile industries in Botshabelo and Qwaqwa.

“This will go a long way in addressing the crisis of unemployment in the province,” he said. - Sapa