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Premier heads to Maluti-a-Phofung after businesses threaten to leave

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AVERTING CRISIS . . . Premier Sisi Ntombela is meeting stakeholders in Maluti-a-Phofung to resolve electricity and other operational challenges

Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela was due to visit the struggling Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality this Wednesday to put out fires following growing concerns by several business operators over poor service delivery which could see some of them pulling out of the area.

Key among their concerns is the erratic availability of electricity which has been worsened by the municipality’s failure to pay Eskom on time for bulk supplies, resulting in longer outages on the back of the countrywide load shedding currently being implemented by the power utility.

Maluti-a-Phofung municipality is biggest defaulter to Eskom in the province with an arrears bill exceeding R4-billion.

A statement released by the premier’s office did not give much detail about her visit but indicated the meeting was crucial on account of the issues to be discussed.

“The premier . . will hold an engagement meeting with the businesses of the embattled Maluti-a-Phofung municipality in an attempt to avert a possible closure of businesses operating in the area and challenges for economic zones due to electricity disruptions and dysfunctions,” read part of the statement.

It said she will be accompanied by several MECs and their heads of department.

The Department of Water and Sanitation is also expected to be part of the meeting as well representatives from the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality and the Maluti-a-Phofung Bloemwater and the Free State Development Corporation.

Eskom has repeatedly expressed concern at the failure by several Free State municipalities to settle their debts for bulk electricity supplies on time.

As at the end of February, at least 16 municipalities in the province owed it over R16-billion.

Eskom said the situation was making it difficult for it to deliver services to the province.

The power utility said it is particularly disappointed by the fact that the municipalities receive government grants as well as payment for services rendered from their customers and yet the bill for the consumed energy remains unpaid.

Other defaulting municipalities in the province are: Matjhabeng, Ngwathe, Nketoana, Phumelela, Mafube, Nala, Mantsopa, Masilonyana, Tokologo, Dihlabeng, Moqhaka, Tswelopele, Setsoto, Letsemeng as well as Mangaung Metro. – Staff Reporter

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Coca-Cola, government join hands in hunt for young entrepreneurs

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BIZNIZ IN A BOX . . . Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa is running an entrepreneurship competition targeted at young people during the month of June.

Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA), in collaboration with the Free State Department of Economic, Small Business, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DESTEA) and the Gauteng Department of Economic Development (GDED), has launched an entrepreneurship competition targeted at young people during the month of June.

CCBSA says this youth month, young people with a South African identity document stand a chance to win with CCBSA in partnership with DESTEA and GDED.

The competition, which was launched this week on Lesedi FM, allows listeners who qualify to do a 90-second business elevator pitch live on the Thakgoha Show.

The best presentation chosen by the panel stands a chance to win one of the 10 mobile kitchens valued at R82 000 each.

This competition will run until June 30 on the show.

To be considered for the Bizniz in a Box programme, candidates must be South African and aged 18-35 years old with at least one year of entrepreneurial experience.

Ideally, each applicant’s business should address the needs of the local community like convenience stores, fast-food stores, car washes and shisanyamas.

CCBSA says the collaboration is aimed at tackling the country’s worsening unemployment rate which stands at 34.5 percent for the first quarter of 2022, an all-time high.

The jobless rate for the youth is a staggering 63.9 percent.

It says while the country is slowly emerging and recovering from the devastating effects of the COVID-19, the number of employed people across both formal and informal sectors remains around 1.8 million below the level reached before the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

“This is an untenable situation and, as CCBSA, we believe in using our industry leadership to be part of the solution to achieve positive change in the country and build a legacy that we can be proud of,” CCBSA managing director Velaphi Ratshefola said in a statement.

He said this has inspired the company to put strong emphasis on economic inclusion, particularly of young people through its Bizniz in a Box (BiB) initiative.

“There is no single entity that can manage this challenge on its own and we are proud to collaborate with the provincial governments to co-create sustainable solutions that will empower young people,” he said.

Ratshefola said the decision to partner with the Free State and Gauteng governments since 2016 was a natural progression towards working jointly to alleviate youth unemployment.

“Through our collaboration to empower small, micro, and medium enterprises (SMMEs) by setting them up in business, we can go further and also provide incubation and support through training and resources to ensure they grow their businesses, to create livelihoods for themselves and other young people. This can change the quality of their lives,” he explained.

During the tabling of his 2022/2023 budget speech, DESTEA MEC Makalo Mohale said: “Key challenges facing the Free State economy remains lack of regulations, barriers to entry, ownership patterns and insufficient access to financial and non-financial support to SMMEs.”

Makalo said DESTEA entered into this partnership with CCBSA because it believes this is a giant step towards youth development, growth, and investment in the province.

Previously, the department supported Free State SMMEs financially and non-financially through its different programmes designed to resuscitate and revitalise the provincial economy.

The MEC said the department is committed to continuing its support and partnering with the private sector to support SMMEs for sustainability, job retention and job creation.

The Bizniz in a Box initiative could not have come at a more opportune time as the Gauteng provincial government uses the month of June to put the spotlight on the province’s youth.

Gauteng Economic Development MEC Parks Tau said: “The department is excited about this initiative and encourages young people in Gauteng to take advantage of it and other programmes aimed at youth empowerment offered by the province, such as Tshepo 1 Million.”

Tau stressed that this was but one among many programmes that would be rolled-out throughout the youth month aimed at connecting young people to opportunities provided by government and the private sector.

In 2021, the initiative supported 118 entrepreneurs across Gauteng and the Free State and the plan is to integrate 135 businesses in 2022 in Maluti-A-Phofung, Dihlabeng, Ngwathe and Setsoto local municipalities as well as the cities of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni.

“With the staggering statistics, we need to be deliberate about listening and responding to what our communities need. BiB is by no means a handout but rather, a holistic support that will enable them to build their businesses and move to the next level or entrepreneurship,” CCBSA public affairs, communication and sustainability director Nozicelo Ngcobo said.

Bizniz in a Box is dedicated to creating opportunities for young people and integrating them in the economy.

The ultimate aim is to contribute towards revitalising township economies and supporting the country’s development agenda.

It is created to transform aspirant entrepreneurs into fully fledged business owners who can build businesses, create jobs, and provide a livelihood for themselves and others.

For the last six years, CCBSA’s Bizniz in a Box has contributed meaningfully to reducing youth unemployment by partnering with national and provincial governments, local municipalities and development finance institutions.

These partnerships have enabled entrepreneurs to develop businesses, improve their skills, access capital, improve supply chain development and inspire hope. To date, the initiative has trained over 700 entrepreneurs. – Staff Reporter

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Free State unemployment drops

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Staff Reporter

The official unemployment rate in the Free State dropped 1.4 percentage points from 38.1 percent to 36.7 percent between the third and fourth quarters of 2021, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has revealed.

This means the province now has over 727 000 people who are employed compared to the third quarter which had 720 000 people.

The Free State has a population of about 2.9 million people.

In its Quarterly Labour Force Survey, Stats SA said the expanded unemployment figure for the province — which includes discouraged jobseekers — fell by 1.6 percentage points from 45.8 percent in the third quarter to 44.2 percent in the fourth quarter.

The Free State now has the third highest official unemployment rate after the Eastern Cape which stands at 45 percent and Mpumalanga with 39.7 percent.

Statistician General Risenga Maluleke said in the report the country’s unemployment rate now stands at 35.3 percent.

“The official unemployment rate increased by 0.4 of a percentage point to 35.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared to the third quarter,” said Maluleke.

“The official unemployment rate increased in five provinces,” he added.

The largest increases were recorded in KwaZulu-Natal (up by 3.7 percentage points), followed by Mpumalanga (up by 2.2 percentage points), Western Cape (up by 1.7 percentage points) and Limpopo (up by 1.4 percentage points).

Nationally, the working-age population increased by 143 000 or 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared to the third quarter of the same year.

Compared to the fourth quarter of 2020, the working-age population increased by 578 000 or 1.5 percent.

The number of employed persons increased by 262 000 to 14.5 million in the fourth quarter of last year.

The number of unemployed persons increased by 278 000 to 7.9 million compared to the third quarter of last year, resulting in an increase of 540 000 or 2.5 percent in the number of people in the labour force.

The number of discouraged work-seekers decreased by 56 000 or 1.4 percent.

Most jobs were created in trade and personal services, nationally, where employment increased by 118 000 and 129 000, respectively.

The mining, agriculture and community and social services also added jobs, while manufacturing, construction, utilities and transport reduced employment.

The Nedbank economic unit said in a commentary that the increase in community and social services could be a reflection of a spike in temporary jobs to manage the municipal elections in November last year.

It said employment in the domestic trade sector was lifted by increased activity in the hotel and tourism industries due to more lenient lockdown restrictions.

According to Nedbank, the annual numbers suggest that the economic recovery has not been strong enough to support employment creation.

“Most of the key indicators suggest that the economy is slowly mending,” it said.

“However, the pace of recovery has been too slow to translate into sustainable employment creation.

“Unfortunately, the outlook for the job market remains uncertain.

“The worst of the pandemic seems to be over, which implies that lockdown disruptions would be minimal.

“This, together with ongoing economic reforms, should lift business confidence, encourage investment spending and ultimately support employment growth.

“However, the unemployment rate will remain structurally high in the short term because the economy is still facing many long-term challenges that are hindering jobs growth.”

Nedbank said fundamental structural deficiencies, such as electricity shortages and policy challenges, could take years to resolve and possibly limit growth in private sector investment.

“Employment by the government will be limited by significant budget constraints,” said the bank’s economic unit.

“A large number of discouraged workers will also increasingly return to the job market as economic activity improves.

“All these factors will keep the unemployment rate elevated throughout 2022.”

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Business chief bemoans slow transformation

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Staff Reporter

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) president Professor Bonang Mohale has blamed the high poverty levels among black South Africans on slow transformation and urged the government to use its powers to improve people’s lives.

“When you have political power, you were not given this political power to look at it and admire it every morning and caress it,” said Mohale, who is also the chancellor of the University of the Free State.

He said this during a Business Breakfast Masterclass organised by the Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DESTEA) and the Free State Black Business Chamber (BMF) in Bloemfontein on Monday.

“Do something with it (power) and that something is . . . you have to love your people to lead them,” said Mohale.

“That something means – because we were not left alone for 370 years of colonialism, 98 years of separate development and 48 years of apartheid – can I use this power to change this so that our children do not disown us . . . saying poverty still has primarily a black and feminine face,” he added.

The BUSA president anchored his keynote delivery on his latest book, Behold the Turtle.

“The Basotho say ‘behold the turtle’ . . .  it only makes progress when its neck is stuck out. We all begin to die when we are silent about things that genuinely matter to us,” he said.

“When the turtle is concerned about ‘me, myself and I’, it sits in its own shell. It’s protected. It cannot be touched. It is safe, it is secure. But it will sit there, it will die there.”

The event, which drew a cross-section of people from the local business sector, was held under the theme ‘Growing the Economy of the Free State Province in 2022 – A Collaborative Approach’.

Mohale continued: “For it to move from point A to point B, it has to risk it all and take its head out of the shell.

“But when it does so, the birds of prey can swoop on it, hit it on the head and it might die.

“So, every single time it wants to make progress, it’s a dance with death.

“Therefore, in South Africa today, when so many of us dare to hope that joy and peace will prevail, we will only make progress when we are prepared to risk it all, especially now.

“In another three months, we will be 28 years into our democracy and yet poverty still has primarily a black feminine face, and yet we are in office.

“We refuse to be in power because power means you can do something about it. You can change the circumstances.”

A firm talker, Mohale warned civil servants and ordinary citizens not to look aside when there is injustice for fear of losing their jobs as it doesn’t help society.

“Therefore, when you say, but I am a public servant, if I use my voice judiciously and speak truth to power, I might lose my job, better I be quiet . . . know that you are killing not only yourself, but the entire generation that comes behind you,” he said.

“So, when you are a common citizen and state capture happens on your watch, you are silent and do not say anything, know that, that is genocide.”

He said nationally, 51 percent of the population is female and yet women representation in positions of leadership is not more than 24 percent.

The number of senior black executives, according to the BUSA boss, has just increased from 14.3 percent to 14.7 percent, but warned it could take the country another 150 years to reach the ultimate intention of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment.

“And what is that ultimate intent? It’s to ensure that this economy is broadly reflective of us,” he said.

“It must look like us . . . just like China, India and Japan. Those businesses look typically Chinese, Indian and Japanese. 

“The culture . . . the language, the dress code is Chinese, Indian and Japanese, except in South Africa.”

“In fact, when you get into our boardrooms in South Africa, you’ll be forgiven to think that we are an outpost of Europe,” he pointed out, adding white males still occupy about 70 percent of the top executive positions in the corporate sector.

“Today all you have to do is to be born black and chances are you are condemned to live in the informal settlements of Alexandra.

“You just have to be born white and the chances are you are destined for the leafy suburbs of Bryanston without doing much because the economic power patterns have been set for generations to come.

“Now, the reason we have this power is so that we do something to intervene and that intervention is called transformative instruments.

“All of us, myself included, we have not succeeded in eradicating the legacy of apartheid. It’s still living with us.

“All of us have not done (enough) to make sure the black majority live better lives. Those poor living conditions were by design . . .

“Today, 28 years into democracy, out of every R100 that we spend on education, R67 is spent on a white kid, R20 on a coloured kid, R10 on a coloured kid and the balance on an African kid. You don’t need to read it. You see it . . . and we are in power. We command the budget,” he explained.

PUSHING ECONOMIC TURNAROUND . . . DESTEA MEC Makalo Mohale flanked by FEZI Auditors and Consultants chief executive officer Nthabeleng Khawe and Will Choene

In response, DESTEA MEC Makalo Mohale said one of the weaknesses of the Free State economy is that there is very little value addition to what is produced in the province.

He said the province has mainly relied on the primary sectors where commodities are extracted and are value-added outside, coming back as finished goods to be sold.

The MEC said the province has also tried to invest in education because it understands it’s one effective way to improve people’s lives as well as the economy.

“Our approach is to make sure that we work with business to drive this vision that we have to grow the economy of the Free State,” he said.

“What we want is to ensure there is industrialisation in the province.

“Our key programme towards value addition is ‘let’s make the Free State a big factory . . .’ where all the commodities that we consume, we are able to produce.”

He also took the opportunity to explain the Free State Integrated Local Economic Development and Transformation Bill which has been put out for public comment saying it seeks to respond and integrate various interventions.

“The Bill seeks to ensure that all the things you said must happen become reality. We are using our legislative power to ensure that happens,” the MEC said.

“There are four key areas in the Bill: it recognises the sector as a key partner and creates important structures to ensure business is not left behind in the new development model.

“We envisage a situation where there is a formal business voice not the current set-up that is voluntary.”

He said the Bill also seeks, among others, to promote manufacturing in the province.

It also gives power to the MEC for economic development to designate certain commodities for enterprise development.

This means the government will only buy certain products from local producers.

It also addresses the issue of business licensing.

The MEC said some of the requirements are that only those that are lawfully in the country will be allowed to operate businesses in the province.

Other panellists included BMF chairperson Mosebetsi Dhladhla, Standard Bank behavioural economist Emile du Plessis and FEZI Auditors and Consultants chief executive officer Nthabeleng Khawe.

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