Honourable Premier of the Free State, Mr Ace Magashule,
Minister of Small Business Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu
All Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
MEC for Small Business, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Dr Benny Malakoane and all MECs
The Executive Mayor of Mangaung Metro;
All Mayors and Councillors;
The President of SANACO, Mr Lawrence Bale;
The Chairperson of the National Co-operative Apex Forum (NCAF), Ms Anne Ngutshane;
Representative of the SADC Secretariat on the role of Cooperatives in the Region, Dr Lomkhosi Mkhonta-Gama,
Delegates from across the country;
I am honoured and privileged to be part of this momentous occasion of celebrating the International Co-operatives Day.
I wish to extend a warm welcome to delegations from within our region SADC.
We held a successful 37th SADC Summit in Tshwane last weekend. We emphasized the need for stronger economic cooperation within SADC in order to fight poverty. The cooperatives are a key intervention in the battle against hunger in our region, especially amongst the poor and the working class.
We thus fully support the cooperatives movement as government.
Since the International Cooperatives Alliance (ICA) and UN resolutions, cooperatives around the world have been celebrating the International Day of Cooperatives in many ways.
South Africa started celebrating the day after becoming one of the signatories to the International Labour Organisation Recommendation 193, committing it to the promotion and development of cooperatives, in 2006.
This has continued to this day.
This year’s theme which is “putting people at the centre of development” recognises that cooperatives are about people, and are about giving them the tools of being their own economic liberators.
Local and international experience shows that the sustainability of cooperatives and SMMEs contributes to poverty alleviation, giving poor people the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and its associated forms of deprivation.
Cooperatives contribute to the empowerment of the poor and marginalised, and give practical meaning to our call for radical socio-economic transformation.
They give ordinary people power to participate in economic activity and generate income to make a living.
The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) estimates that the co-operative movement brings together over 800 million people around the world.
Furthermore, it is estimated that the livelihood of nearly 3 billion people, or half of the world's population, is generated by co-operative enterprises.
Co-operatives provide over a hundred million jobs around the world, which is 20% more than multinational enterprises.
Co-operatives are thus a proven force for economic and social inclusion. In other words, if we are serious about reducing poverty, unemployment and inequality in our country, we must invest more in cooperatives.
This year, our government has chosen to celebrate this significant occasion by providing a platform to co-operatives to exhibit and showcase their products and services.
The exhibition demonstrates that in the true spirit of letsema and vukúzenzele, these co-operatives are at the forefront of uplifting themselves and their own communities.
This is important because co-operatives hold some of the answers to the pressing socio-economic challenges that confront us. They provide an avenue for people at the basic community level to be involved in income generating activity.
Importantly, cooperatives provide an opportunity for women to participate in the economy.
We are pleased at the many cooperatives formed by women that are involved in food production, sewing school uniforms or other activities that also promote community development.
We assure our people that one of the key commitments of government is to unlock the potential of SMMEs, cooperatives, township and rural enterprises as vehicles that can lead to the achievement of inclusive economic growth.
The intention of government is to ensure that 30% of its procurement is accessed by these people’s enterprises.
It is for this reason that government actively supports cooperatives already.
Government runs the Cooperatives Incentive Scheme, a grant dedicated for cooperatives with no repayment expected, run by the Department of Small Business Development.
More than 50% of the allocated R75 million was accessed by women owned and led cooperatives, with a majority of women members in the past financial year.
Through this fund, the cooperatives acquired in the main farming implements and inputs, industrial overlocks and embroidery machines as well as events management equipment among others.
One of the flagship programmes of government, also through the Department of Small Business Development, is the Women-in-Maize programme which seeks to empower five thousand women-run maize farming co-operatives over the next five years. To-date just over thirteen cooperatives are participating in this programme with a combined 150 hectares of land cultivated. Just above 18 tons of maize was harvest during the first harvest in October 2016.
This has benefited the participating cooperatives with almost one million rand financial injection and a lot of skills in productivity.
We have also seen great success of cooperatives run by women in various communities. Our government runs a school nutrition scheme feeding over nine million children daily.
Government procures the vegetables and other foodstuffs from many women’s cooperatives in many instances.
We urge more and more government departments and spheres of government to buy produce from cooperatives. Cooperatives will not grow without that direct and deliberate empowerment.
We have encouraged other government departments to also use cooperatives extensively.
Government through the Department of Social Development has successfully linked six hundred and thirty two cooperatives to economic opportunities to the value of 91 million rand. More than three hundred of these cooperatives supplied school uniforms and dignity packs to school children in the past financial year.
More than two hundred cooperatives supplied food to eight provincial food distribution centres and community nutrition and development centres.
Through these linkages, more than three thousand members of cooperatives participated in economic activities that benefited more than twelve thousand members of their households. This demonstrates the potential of cooperatives.
The National Department of Social Development has also facilitated the establishment of a network of food distribution centres and Community Nutrition Development Centres in partnership with Non-Profit Organizations operating in the targeted deprived communities.
Through this programme, the Department of Social Development provided food to more than three million beneficiaries during the 2015/16 financial year.
The programme has created a market for two hundred and forty five emerging food producers and cooperatives and procured about nine million rand worth of food from them.
These emerging food producers and cooperatives would previously not be able to participate in the food supply chain in this country.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries also supports many women-run cooperatives engaged in food production and subsistence farming.
We assure you that we know the value of cooperatives as government. We have seen them in action and changing people’s lives. We want to see cooperatives expand and grow. that is why this gathering is so important as you also want to see cooperatives expand as part of promoting inclusive growth and radical economic transformation.
When we talk of radical economic transformation, we want to see practical change in the economic landscape by opening up the space for the ownership and management of the means of production by black people who were excluded deliberately.
Cooperatives and SMMEs are part of the arsenal at our disposal to give the poor economic power and a better quality of life.
Therefore, emerging from these two days must be concrete programmes that will empower cooperatives to participate meaningfully in the mainstream economy.
Together, we must send a loud and unequivocal message that, as partners, we recognise and acknowledge the critical importance of co-operatives in economic development and in contributing towards a just and equal society.
Together, we must make a solemn pledge that we will utilise every ounce of our energy to ensure that cooperatives grow and thrive.
Indeed, co-operatives are an example of this spirit of vuk’uzenzele. Cooperatives by their very nature are about initiative and self-reliance.
Importantly, co-operatives are at the centre of the much-needed village and township economic revival.
While a lot of progress has been made in the area of cooperatives development and growth, there are still challenges that need to be addressed.
One of these challenges is that financial and non-financial support given to co-operatives still remains scattered. People have to knock on the door of various departments and entities to secure funding. We continue to address these challenges.
We also need to promote cooperatives and make our people realise their importance.
This will become easier when they see practical support from all spheres of government when it comes to procurement. We reiterate the call therefore for government departments to buy goods and services from cooperatives. Where they need to be included in the central supplier database, government entities must assist them and show them how this is done.
Without such practical support, we will not achieve our goals of providing economic empowerment for our people especially women in the townships and villages of our country.
Together, we must ensure that cooperatives have access to markets and that they benefit from the state and private sector procurement opportunities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Government stands ready to work with all stakeholders to take the cooperative movement forward.
We will continue to strengthen and extend partnerships between government and international cooperative movement and other relevant stakeholders.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am truly delighted indeed to be part of the International Cooperatives Day proceedings on this second day.
Together let us build a stronger cooperatives movement. Together let us fight poverty and unemployment and make radical socio-economic transformation an achievable goal. We have it in our power to do so.
I wish you successful deliberations and activities further.
I thank you.