/ 24 February 2024

2.5 million job ‘opportunities’ in next five years, says Ramaphosa at ANC manifesto launch

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa at the launch of the party's manifesto, Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, on Saturday 24 February. Photo supplied

The ANC has made job creation the focal point of its 2024 election manifesto, setting out six key priorities that it hopes will woo voters come the May 29 general election.

In the manifesto launched on Saturday, the governing party promised to expand public employment to sustain 2.5 million job opportunities, delivering goods and services in communities. President Cyril Ramaphosa read the 58 page document to a packed Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban.

The ANC launched the manifesto as it faces a possible decline in the coming elections, having been found wanting in terms of creating a conducive environment for job creation. 

To attract specifically poor South Africans, the party said it would progressively implement a basic income support grant by extending and improving the value and coverage of the social relief of distress grant for the unemployed.

The party’s jobs’ plan comes just days after Statistic South Africa announced that the official unemployment rate ticked up to 32.1% in the fourth quarter of 2023. There were 46 000 more people without jobs in the fourth quarter compared with the prior three months, causing total employment to dip for the first time in two years.

South Africa’s employment crisis deepened in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in more than two million people losing their jobs in the second quarter of 2020. Although there are now about 300 000 more employed people than there were prior to the Covid-induced decline, the slight recovery took more than three years to attain.

The ANC manifesto indicated that the jobs drive would be implemented partly through the  Presidential Employment Stimulus established in response to the devastating economic impacts of the pandemic, as well as funding to civil society through non-profit companies and organisations to provide work opportunities. 

The party said that it would expand and institutionalise the National Youth Service in partnership with the South African National Defence Force, and also provide work opportunities for unemployed graduates. 

It said it would increase support for small enterprises, entrepreneurs and cooperatives, particularly in townships and villages, providing additional one million work opportunities including for women, youth and people with disabilities.

The ANC said that it would engage the private sector to protect jobs and contribute towards national efforts to create employment.

It promised to continue promoting and monitoring employment equity to ensure that black people, women and people with disabilities were represented in the public and private sectors, to ensure the growth of a vibrant, non-racial and non-sexist middle strata critical  to national development.

Critics will likely argue that the ANC’s master plan to create jobs does not clearly outline how this will be executed, and that the party has merely repurposed existing government initiatives.

The ANC took its election machinery to KwaZulu-Natal last week in the hopes of wooing back disgruntled supporters who stayed in their homes in the last national elections in 2019.

This year, the party stands to lose control of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng — two of the country’s biggest provinces by population. The emergence of former ANC and South African president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto Wesizwe party has thrown a further curve ball in terms of the party’s already waning prospects in KwaZulu-Natal.

In its manifesto, the party said South Africa needed a transformed financial sector with diversified ownership and control, which would provide affordable credit, invest in industrialisation, infrastructure and job creation, facilitate financial inclusion and prioritise  domestic investment.

“Our economy has tripled in size since 1994 and the rate of poverty has reduced. While unemployment has remained high, the number of people in employment has more than doubled from 8 million in 1994 to 16.7 million today,” Ramaphosa said in a speech to launch the document.

“Many people who have been economically historically excluded, including workers, the middle strata, youth, women and persons with disability, are now actively participating in the economy. Yet there are still too many South Africans unemployed, too many who live in poverty and income and wealth inequality persists.

He said economic transformation remained the ANC’s foremost task, and that the party would prioritise food security, including value-added tax exemption on essential items, support for community and home gardens, while also acting against price fixing in all sectors.

“We will maintain and expand subsidised basic services like water, houses for the poor, and indigent policies at local level. We will continue to roll our roof – top solar to indigent households and find other ways to make solar power available to poor communities,” he said.

“We will strengthen the health services and implement the NHI (National Health Insurance)  to make healthcare affordable for all. As required by law we will increase the national minimum wage every year, and monitor implementation by employers.”

To prepare young people for the economy of the future, he said the ANC government would increase enrolment in maths and science, expand coding, robotics and technology education, as well as technical and vocational training. 

He said the party would address the crisis of young people not in employment, education or training through increased efforts to reduce the number of learners who do not finish school, and would provide second-chance opportunities to pass matric through community and vocational colleges.

“We will continue the work we have already done to further reduce the cost of data to enable training of the young and old to develop and operate new technologies. We will increase the availability of serviced sites with basic services close to economic centres for young women, persons with disability, military veterans and the elderly,” Ramaphosa said.

“At the same time, we will continue to upgrade and formalise informal settlement and provide them with basic services.”