Today there are 1.5 million more unemployed South Africans than there were on the day Zuma took office, says the writer.

It’s real jobs that are needed and not feeble promises, says DA federal chairman Wilmot James.

Johannesburg - Tomorrow the DA will march in Johannesburg to highlight the failure of Jacob Zuma’s ANC to deliver on its jobs promises, the feeble nature of the jobs promises in its 2014 manifesto and our own plan for 6 million real jobs.

In his article “Job creation programmes not just talk” (SEE RELATED ARTICLES ABOVE), ANC stalwart Jeremy Cronin tries to smooth over the ANC’s jobs failures with an impassioned defence of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

Cronin’s arguments blur the line between two very distinct debates. First, the question of whether EPWP programmes can contribute to poverty alleviation and can get people on to the first rung of the jobs ladder. Second, the ANC government’s dismal job creation record and the inadequacy of its jobs offer for the nearly 8 million South Africans who are unemployed.

EPWP programmes and Community Works Programmes are indeed an important part of South Africa’s social safety net and can be used in very innovative ways to deliver services in marginalised communities. At their best, these programmes offer work experience, on-the-job training and a temporary income. At worst they become unskilled survival labour in which the same core of ANC activists are repeatedly employed.

Where the DA governs in the Western Cape, we understand that high quality job experience, even in temporary jobs, can improve the future employment prospects of beneficiaries. In 2013, a national EPWP report showed that exactly half of the training for EPWP beneficiaries across South Africa is done by the Western Cape Government. Feedback from the Department of Public Works shows that the Western Cape consistently outperforms ambitious EPWP targets.

In the DA-run City of Cape Town over 37 000 work opportunities have been created in 228 EPWP projects. These have been recognised as some of the best-run EPWP programmes in the country, winning two out of three national Kamosa awards.

The DA recognises and understands the value of public employment programmes, we use them very effectively where we govern, we set ambitious targets for them in our economic policy and we allocate additional funding to them in our alternative budget.

But this is simply not enough.

That an expansion of EPWP work opportunities is the core of the ANC’s jobs promise must concern both voters and the business community. It shows a party and a government that has given up on creating an enabling environment in which the economy can grow, new businesses can be established, the informal sector can be supported to harness entrepreneurial spirit, and in which we can significantly increase the number of jobs available in the economy.

Given its past failures to deliver on its jobs promises, it is perhaps not surprising that the ANC is wary of backing its own contradictory economic policies to change the jobs landscape in South Africa. When President Jacob Zuma was elected in 2009 he promised to create 5 million more jobs. Only 352 000 jobs have actually materialised. Today there are 1.5 million more unemployed South Africans than there were on the day Zuma took office. It is of particular concern that the unemployed includes a growing number of people that have also given up on the government’s ability to foster jobs-rich growth. There are more than 2.2 million discouraged work-seekers in South Africa who have given up trying to find a job. This must surely worry the ANC.

South Africans need change. They need a government that believes in their potential and that is committed to fostering the kind of growth that we need to make a real dent in the unemployment that so fundamentally disempowers South Africans.

The DA’s economic policy directly addresses the constraints to growth and job creation. We believe that, with the right policy mix, the South African economy can grow at 8 percent by 2025. If we get this right, we could add up to 6 million real jobs to the economy and bring down unemployment to 11 percent.

To create an enabling environment for growth and job creation, a national DA government will:

* Provide leadership on the economy. The government must provide certainty on its vision for the economy and the policy it intends to realise that vision. The contradictory economic policy frameworks of the ANC government (in the National Development Plan, New Growth Path and Industrial Policy Action Plan) leave investors cautious about establishing and growing businesses in South Africa.

* Manage the government’s money better. Government spending decisions must be taken in the best interest of ordinary South Africans. This requires a zero-tolerance attitude to corruption which the ANC cannot credibly deliver while its president faces more than 700 corruption charges and has spent R200 million on his private residence.

* Encourage private sector job creation through a Youth Wage Subsidy and Jobs Zones with powerful incentives to make it easier to find work.

* Ensure that labour regulations achieve a balance between the protection of workers rights and the need for labour market flexibility in support of job creation.

* Grow small businesses by cutting red tape and providing support to entrepreneurs.

* Promote redress by improving black economic empowerment so that it rewards companies that invest in their workers and create jobs.

* Create an enabling environment for growth by investing at least 10 percent of GDP in the roads, ports, railways, airways, water and communication infrastructure that the economy needs to grow. The ANC government makes big promises on infrastructure-led growth, but consistently underspends on the targets that it sets for itself.

* Break up inefficient state monopolies to increase competition and bring down prices.

* Invest in education and skills to empower South Africans for economic participation.

* Drive economic growth by increasing investment and savings.

* Boost trade by making it easier for South African businesses to trade with other countries, especially our African neighbours.

The DA’s march will bring attention to the ANC’s most important failure in government, namely its failure to create jobs. This is not an attack on EPWP programmes. It is an attack on the ANC government’s inability to create an environment in which the number of real jobs can be significantly increased. It is time for change that can bring jobs to South Africa.

* Dr Wilmot James is the Federal Chairman of the Democratic Alliance.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

The Star