Good afternoon Honourable Premier, MECs, Members of the Provincial Legislature and most importantly esteemed community members.
It is indeed a great honour to be able to address you all today in this most beautiful part of our Province.
The Mbashe Municipality is home to our former State President, Thabo Mbeki, and to some of the most breathtaking landscapes known to man. The natural beauty of this area, combined with the fertile land and the rich history of its people, should see our communities thriving.
This is a municipality that should be experiencing abundant harvests in a thriving agricultural economy where thousands of jobs are created from the land. We should be seeing tens of thousands of tourists visiting the historical and natural tourist attractions of the area bringing money and jobs into your villages.
Agriculture and tourism present Mbashe with exciting opportunities to grow the economy and create jobs, yet this is not happening.
We must ask ourselves why?
The 2011 census identified the unemployment rate in Mbashe to be a shocking 93%!
It is here that we find our Province’s poorest people living on the richest land but without the means to produce wealth from their own land.
Between 2015 and 2018 the Department of Economic Development provided funding support through the Local and Regional Economic Development (LRED) fund to emerging enterprises across the entire province. They spent R 56.5 million on 28 businesses to create only 918 jobs across the province which means that in the Eastern Cape Province the LRED fund spent R61,500 per job between 2015 and 2018.
The recently released Quarterly Labour Force Survey indicates that the Eastern Cape has the highest expanded rate of unemployment in the country at 45,8%. This means that 730 000 people are unemployed in this province and an additional 412 000 have given up looking for work. This has a devastating impact on families who are struggling to put food on the table.
The youth are most affected by the lack of employment opportunities available to them. In South Africa, the youth remain the hardest hit by joblessness, with 67,1% of the 15 – 24-year-old bracket, and 43,2% of the 25 – 34-year-old bracket still unemployed.
The portfolio committee on Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism visited this municipality in August and found that the poor state of supporting infrastructure such as roads and electricity are a barrier to growth for businesses. The committee also found that the Eastern Cape Development Corporation is responsible for the negelct of its own properties rented by small businesses. This is an entity that should be providing sustainable and meaningful support to beneficiaries yet damage to properties is left unattended to putting businesses at risk.
The report of the committee explains that right here in Elliotdale informal traders have no access to water in close proximity to their place of work and must collect water from nearby rivers. This is undignified, unhealthy and unacceptable.
What the committee also found was that informal traders and small businesses cannot compete with the anti-competitive pricing strategies of foreign nationals who squeeze South African businesses out of the market. We must ensure that we secure our borders to stem the tide of illegal immigrants entering the country. It is incumbent upon government to ensure that all foreign nationals in South Africa are staying here legally. Home affairs must attend to the status of these foreign nationals with urgency.
The Eastern Cape needs urgent Change to build a fair economy for all that will give our people access to job opportunities.
The Democratic Alliance has a vision for our Province.
It is a vision inspired by hope that we can build one Eastern Cape for all and create opportunities for our people. We believe that the rolling hills of the Mbashe Municipality can become the breadbasket for the entire country with high yield crops emerging from the rich soil of our ancestors. This region can become an agro-processing hub through which thousands of jobs will be created so that our mothers, fathers and children of the Eastern Cape can live with dignity.
For agriculture to flourish we must give the people land ownership so that property rights can underpin this potentially vibrant rural economy. Support for emerging farmers through agricultural extension services and partnerships with commercial farmers will see a booming agri-economy in both livestock and crop farming. Access to market is critically important to sustain a growing economy. The DA will therefore prioritise the roll out of key economic infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges which will assist to get the produce to market and bring tourists to our villages.
The Eastern Cape is globally recognized as being one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world yet our people remain hungry as tourists largely ignore our rural communities.
Tourism is one of the key sectors of job creation in the province and the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that one in five of all jobs created across the world has been in the tourism sector.
We cannot sit idly by as the tourism potential of our rural communities is ignored and job opportunities are stolen from us. The DA will ensure that tourism is a key economic priority and that tourism product development and community awareness programmes are rolled out.
The growth of the agricultural and tourism industries will lead to the emergence of small businesses providing support to these key industries. A DA government will provide skills training and micro finance opportunities to small business owners because we believe that small businesses are good for the economy and critical to job creation.
Together we can stimulate economic growth that will create jobs for all where poverty is eliminated and dignity is restored.
High levels of unemployment in this region have led to poverty and poverty has led to crime. Growing the economy is therefore not just about creating jobs it is about building a safer Mbashe for all.
Unemployment is a waste of human potential and only our plan will give unemployed South Africans the dignity of having a job. The DA is committed to building One South Africa for All; a country in which all people have fair access to jobs and opportunities.
I thank you.