Gauteng contributed more than a third of the 2.2 million jobs lost in the country during the Covid-19 lockdown, the highest unemployment figure compared with other provinces.
This was revealed by Gauteng Premier David Makhura when he detailed his government’s plans to revive the economy and create new job opportunities and incentives for township economies.
According to Makhura, Gauteng had more than 5.1 million people in active employment prior to the outbreak but this had dropped to 4.5million due to the outbreak of the virus.
He said a total of 661000 people lost their jobs, half of whom were from Ekurhuleni, and mainly in the manufacturing industry.
“We are working hard with all municipalities through the Command Council on how to revitalise the economy. Covid-19 has been severe. It caused a dearth of poverty,” Makhura said.
In his bid to turn around the dire situation, Makhura said it was not all not gloom and doom and the movement of the country to level 1 and the opening of the borders, especially to neighbouring Southern African Development Community countries, looked set to revive the Gauteng economy.
He said the province would now be able to trade with the SADC countries as it is exporting packed agricultural goods to them. We will reignite the economy by bringing back people in the creative industry, sports in the job market. We also plan a big drive in tourism with the assistance of the national government.
“We are also going to assist the construction and infrastructure industry which were unable to work to level 5 to level 3,” Makhura said.
He also said his government had set up an SMME (small, medium and micro-enterprises) Fund to the value of R500 million to help genuine businesses, unlike those awarded massive personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders.
“We want to help businesses that were knocked down by Covid-19. But we want to urge officials in the economic development unit to follow all the legal processes in assisting those businesses to access those funds, if not, they will end up in jail,” Makhura warned.
He repeated the warning twice in his address – a clear indication that the PPE fraud and corruption affected his reputation.
“We do not want them to do shortcuts otherwise they will end up in jail. They must teach these township businesses how to make it easier for them to comply,” he said.
He also issued a stern warning to businesses selling expired food and not paying taxes.
According to Makhura, properly regulated township business would be recipients of the SMME Fund.
“In July 2019, we pledged to champion the passing of the Gauteng Township Economic Development Bill to ease the regulatory burden faced by township enterprises.
“The purpose of the draft bill is to provide a framework for the promotion and development of the township economy and to create a conducive environment for this to happen,” he said.
Makhura also said he wanted all municipalities to follow the relationship of big business and township businesses in the Tshwane Special Economic Zones, saying small businesses were benefiting highly from that relationship.