Derisive senior ANC members and others have pointed out that there are no jobs for the seekers to seek, writes Michelle Pietersen.
What exactly was President Jacob Zuma talking about when he proposed a “job-seekers grant” of the ANC policy conference last week? No one seems to know, and his critics are seizing on the emptiness of the idea
“Comrades,” said Zuma during his opening address, “to complement job creation measures, especially for young people actively seeking employment, we propose a job-seeker’s grant for discussion, which is linked to compulsory skills development programmes”.
He said the grant had to be supported by development financial institutions, state-owned enterprises, the National Youth Development Agency and the banking sector.
The policy is apparently aimed at providing funds, through the agency and department of labour’s skills development programmes, to young job-seekers. The money will pay for things such as getting to job interviews and the preparing of CVs.
Later, during a press briefing at Gallagher Convention Centre, Zuma was asked to spell out the difference between the youth wage subsidy and his proposal. “How can we create a bridge between the youth coming out of our universities and those who are employed?” replied Zuma, who also said there was a youth unemployment crisis.
The grant is not a new idea, having first been punted by Zuma in 2010. The youth league, at a press conference in June, also suggested that the party adopt the grant as policy and, with the development agency, submitted the proposal.
This week, the Mail & Guardian tried to find out more about the proposal. The league said at first it would be willing to share its research into the grant, but this was not forthcoming. Like Zuma, it did not have much to go on.
The development agency’s Andile Lungisa, who is also a youth league member, had some insights into the proposed policy, but conceded that it still needed to be fleshed out.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu referred queries to the head of the party’s economic development subcommittee, Enoch Godongwana, who said the policy proposal had not been accepted. “We must still engage,” he said.
So why did Zuma see fit to mention the job-seeker’s grant?
An ANC national executive committee member, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the M&G he was “shocked” when Zuma mentioned the proposal.
“I mean, really, now, the assumption that the demand for jobs was hindered because people did not have access to these jobs ... really, now,” said the ANC member, who was not authorised to comment officially.
“How can there be a job-seeker’s fund when there are no jobs? It’s basic. Let’s give some money for people to go for job interviews, but there are no jobs. It’s based on some narrow left-wing thing – telling people to search for jobs when there aren’t any. It’s unrealistic,” said the committee member.
“What is this thing? We don’t know where it came from and the president mentions it. You see my dilemma – I’ve been dancing around (since the president endorsed it). People need to wake up,” said the leader, a known supporter of Zuma.
The youth league had submitted the proposal to the ANC and it was included in its social transformation document, but it appears that it was inserted with little thought about its implications.
“Before our press briefing [a few weeks ago], we were walking in and said to each other: ‘Eish. If we are going to say we reject the youth wage subsidy, what is the alternative?’
“Someone said: ‘Hey, I heard about this job-seeker’s fund that worked in Brazil.’ We gave that to the media,” said a youth league leader on condition of anonymity.
“Next thing we know, Zuma mentions it in his speech. We couldn’t stop laughing. Eish, this man [Zuma], hey,” said the leader, giggling.
The executive committee member said: “Absolutely, this [policy] won’t fly.”
This week, expelled youth league president Julius Malema also took aim at Zuma for his failure to articulate party policy proposals. At a rally in Luka in North West, Malema impersonated some of Zuma’s gestures at the Gallagher press conference.
“When President Zuma was asked: ‘This policy that you are adopting here at the policy conference … how is it going to help the people of the country?’ Zuma says ‘of cou-rrrr-ssse’,” said Malema, while he pretended to reposition his spectacles with his middle finger, a classic Zuma trait.
“Absolutely!” Malema continued. “The issue of discipline came out very strongly. There was nothing in Zuma’s speech that showed us where we are going as a country.”