This the MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Abraham Vosloo, said could be attributed to seasonal factors, the lockdown restrictions
THE AGRICULTURAL sector has lost almost 10,000 jobs in the Northern Cape due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Addressing a ministerial briefing on employment and labour, the MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Abraham Vosloo, stated that while this could be attributed to seasonal factors, the lockdown restrictions also contributed to job shedding.
He added that the agricultural and mining sectors, which are the main drivers of employment in the Province, have experienced a decline in productivity, with a significant number of jobs being shed, due to the impact of Covid-19.
“Almost 10 000 jobs shed by the agricultural sector could be apportioned to seasonal factors. However, the Covid-19 lockdown-imposed restrictions could have also contributed. This is despite efforts by all spheres of government attempting to increase the provision of food to the most vulnerable in the Province and the country in broad terms,” said Vosloo.
“Despite this decline, the Department of Labour and Employment has paid over R28 billion to 4.6 million workers through its unemployment insurance fund to bring relief to our workforce across all sectors.”
Vosloo stated that the provincial economy was set to record its lowest growth rate, averaging around -6 percent – which is represented by -6.7 percent and -5.1 percent during 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Vosloo stated that the department had set up a team of internal auditors to audit all Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement transactions.
“The audit will be conducted across all the provincial departments and a report is expected to be presented by the end of October. We will determine the next course of action based on the recommendations of the report, including but not limited to a forensic audit.”
He gave the assurance that there would be “serious consequences” if there was anything untoward with any of the Covid-19-related tenders issued to 175 companies for PPE supplies.
“Provincial government has referred all matters relating to Covid-19 PPE procurement to the Special Investigating Unit for investigation. We will make the report available as soon as the investigation is concluded.”
Vosloo believes that Premier Zamani Saul had come under attack for successfully saving the provincial government close to R200 million by curbing wastage and corruption. “I’m quite aware of the fact that there are individuals who are deeply unhappy about these measures and are busy with a serious push-back campaign.
“We have noted sustained attacks on the premier regarding his alleged involvement in the allegations of fraud and corruption on the procurement of PPE. These attacks are just those instalments of the push-back campaign to soil his reputation.
“The premier will not be deterred by this witch-hunt and blackmail; the work to serve the people of the Northern Cape honestly and transparently will continue.”
Vosloo said the department was in the process of reviewing the rolling out of the Economic Growth Development Fund (EGDF).
“This programme was put on hold for the current financial year as the allocations were shifted for Covid-19 intervention. This fund is an important instrument to empower our small and emerging enterprises (SMMEs), which have the potential to cause a dent in high levels of poverty and create much needed jobs in the informal sector.
“We are in a process of putting measures in place to mitigate the risk involved in ensuring administrative responsibilities in respect to service level agreements prior to the disbursement of the fund to SMMEs.”
Vosloo said the Northern Cape had set aside R25 million to create job projects across the Province through Expanded Public Works Programme schemes.
“An amount of R15 million has been set aside to assist township and informal businesses. The intervention is directed at providing support to informal enterprises to access funding from the Department of Small Business Development and to improve their business by supplying machinery and equipment.”
He added that R5 million would be directed towards the recovery of the tourism sector.
“An amount of R40 million has been set aside to fund catalytic projects to attract investment to the economy.
“The department has budgeted an amount of R75 million to stimulate the economy to support local enterprises. We are in discussion with stakeholders to establish an Enterprise Development Fund that will provide financial assistance and loans.”