Eastern Cape SOPA expected to focus on unemployment

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All eyes will be on the Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane, when he delivers his State of the Province Address (SOPA) on Tuesday.

Unemployment is expected to feature strongly in the Premier’s speech, as citizens, particularly the youth, are hoping to hear how he plans to tackle the challenge. South Africa currently has an unemployment rate of 29.1%.

The graphic below shows unemployment rate during the four quarters of 2019: 

Unemployment Rate in South Africa by SABC Digital News

A decline in the agricultural sector paints a dreary picture for the rural province that does not have big industries and mines.

In these tough economic times, communities are opting to form agricultural co-operatives as means of survival. However, the on-going drought is not making things easy.

The Sigxoth’indlala Project was started in 2003 by the community of Peelton, in Bhisho, and for years community members have relied on their maize harvest for survival, but things have taken a negative turn as they have not been able to plough for the last two years.

Weight Mrhawu is a member of the co-operative.

He says, “We are not ploughing because there’s not much rain. Otherwise, if it would rain in time, we are ready to plough.”

Nolungile Ntenteni, who is also a farmer, says climate conditions are not conducive for their business.

“We are used to ploughing; eat from what we get off the ground, but now we cannot do that and that, on its own, opens a very big shortage. There is a lot that we cannot do now that we are not producing enough. We sell our produce and get money which we use to assist our children at school. It is very difficult.”

The provincial government says it is doing its best to assist the farmers.

“Our focus is not just on unskilled labour. There are lots of scientists in our universities and colleges that are coming out. We are encouraging them to take up the Isiqalo Youth Fund Development program for instance. We are encouraging them to start their own businesses, but also to work as consultants in other jobs to provide the technical skills within the sector because what they are taught in universities and colleges is needed by the sector,” says Premier’s Spokesperson, Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha.

Service delivery, housing and the revitalisation of abandoned factories are also expected to be key areas mentioned in the premier’s address.