The ANC has set an ambitious target for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government: halve the unemployment rate from 27% to 14% in the next five years.
The target was set by the governing party’s national executive committee (NEC) at its lekgotla in Pretoria at the weekend.
The lekgotla drafts the ruling party’s programme for the year. Its outcome would then be deliberated at the cabinet lekgotla, which would then inform Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) and the budget, to be delivered by finance minister Tito Mboweni.
Party secretary-general Ace Magashule told reporters on Tuesday that government would declare a “three-shift economy” to increase prospects of employment for the millions of unemployed citizens.
This ambitious commitment came the same day that Statistics SA announced that the country’s GDP shrank by 3.2% in the first quarter of the year, the biggest drop in a decade.
Moreover, youth unemployment has continued to rise at an alarming rate. It now stands at a staggering 55%, the highest in the world.
But the ANC is confident that unemployment can be reduced, with Magashule comparing the country to China, which has vowed to end poverty by next year.
Magashule said there was an industrialisation strategy in place to help unlock the economy, particularly in the automotive, clothing, gas, chemicals, plastics, renewables, steal, oceans economy and agriculture sectors, among others.
“We will get government to declare a three-shift economy to increase prospects of employment, especially among young people. Working together with labour and business, a three-shift system will result into an economy that does not sleep,” said Magashule.
“The lekgotla agreed to reduce unemployment from 27% to 14% within the next five years, while focusing on skilling and reskilling 3.4 million South Africans.
“Government will support strategic economic zones with the focus of unlocking economic potential of each zone and, therefore, creating sustainable jobs,” he said.
The lekgotla, said Magashule, also resolved to amend the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA)and the Public Service Act to fast-track service delivery.
The party will also move to localise the tender system for the benefit of small towns, he added.
Magashule said the NEC lekgotla was of the view that laws such as the MFMA and PFMA were stifling and impeding service delivery, which was why they should be reviewed and amended.
Also, he continued, rand flight from certain provinces via tenders given to companies based in other provinces should be stopped. This would create jobs and stimulate economies of small towns.
The ANC lekgotla, according to Magashule, further resolved “to expand the mandate” of the SA Reserve Bank. This meant the central bank should also look into issues of economic growth and employment.
“It was agreed that all deployed will ensure that resolutions of the 54th national conference will be fully implemented and in this regard the ANC NEC lekgotla agreed to expand the mandate of the South African Reserve Bank beyond price stability to include growth and employment,” he said.
However, Mboweni tweeted in the wake of the Reserve Bank comment that it was government that “sets the mandate for the SARB”.
“There is no quantitative easing thing here. The primary mandate of the SA Reserve Bank is to ‘protect the value of the currency in the interest of balanced economic growth and development’,” he tweeted.