Programme Director, Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha,
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma,
Premier of Mpumalanga, Ms Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane,
MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Mr Vusumuzi Mkhatshwa,
MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Mandla Ndlovu,
Representatives of business and labour,
Allow me to begin by thanking the business representatives for their insightful presentations.
They lay out the breadth and scope of the economic opportunities in Mpumalanga.
At the same time, they also draw attention to the obstacles that business in the province faces.
They are similar in many ways to challenges facing a number of businesses around the country in this difficult economic climate.
The District Development Model gives effect to our ambition to strengthen our municipalities as part of building a capable, ethical and developmental state.
Through the DDM we aim to deliver integrated services.
When implemented effectively, the DDM will narrow the distance between the people and government.
Municipalities are the engine rooms of government.
When they are run well, when there is effective provision of basic services, and when municipal competencies like granting permits and authorisations happen efficiently, businesses are able to grow and expand.
When municipalities are dysfunctional it directly affects businesses and it affects employment.
Permits are not granted on time, resulting in lost productivity and delayed plans.
Unreliable supply of water or electricity results in revenue losses and increased operational costs.
Unfortunately, in a number of municipalities in our country, businesses have been forced to either close down or relocate because of these challenges.
We do not want to see that happening in Mpumalanga.
By focusing on service delivery and other challenges at local government, we want to create a more conducive environment for business, for investment and for job creation.
The District Development Model represents an all-of-government approach.
The model is about integrated and responsive planning, budgeting and implementation to leverage the endowments of the respective districts for the benefit of communities.
It is pleasing to note that the Ehlanzeni, Nkangala and Gert Sibande Districts have finalised their One Plans and we now look forward to their implementation.
This is the third instalment of the Presidential Imbizo, following successful engagements earlier this year in the North West and Free State.
In the build-up to this imbizo, teams comprising Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MECs, Mayors and other senior government officials have been traversing the province for oversight visits, to engage with civil society, to hand over school infrastructure, and to meet with religious and traditional leaders.
The business community in this province should guide us on how we can better align our economic planning and activities under the District Development Model.
Mpumalanga is an important province to the national economy, not least because this province is at the centre of our energy industry.
This province is richly endowed with natural resources such as large tracts of arable land, abundant water and vast reserves of mineral deposits.
Mpumalanga’s natural wonders have made it a top tourism destination for visitors from inside the country, from elsewhere on the continent and from abroad.
A number of industry giants have offices and operations in Mpumalanga, with Sasol, Columbus Steel, Exxaro, Mondi and Sappi being but a few.
Mpumalanga is part of the Maputo Development Corridor that links Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga with Mozambique’s port city of Maputo.
This makes Mpumalanga perfectly placed to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the coming into operation of the African Continental Free Trade Area last year.
Despite these many endowments, Mpumalanga has high levels of unemployment.
In districts like Ehlanzeni, poverty levels are as high as 72 per cent.
The task before us therefore is to use Mpumalanga’s comparative advantage in terms of economic endowments to overcome poverty, inequality and unemployment.
The province has adopted the Mpumalanga Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan to address the negative impact of COVID-19 on the provincial economy and livelihoods.
It is aligned to the national Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
Having entered a new phase in our management of the pandemic through the lifting of the national state of disaster, our focus is now on driving a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery that creates more jobs.
The pillars of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan include infrastructure investment, localisation, industrialisation and export promotion, green economy interventions and mass public employment programmes.
In her State of the Province Address on the 25th of February this year, Premier Mtsweni-Tsipane gave a clear indication of the provincial government’s ambitious plans.
These include the rollout of the Mpumalanga Industrial Development Plan and the planned Industrial Technology Parks.
They include the revitalisation of Ekandustria Industrial Park, the Petrochemical Industrial Technology Park in Govan Mbeki Municipality and the Mpumalanga International Fresh Produce Market.
We wish to commend the provincial government for its efforts to fast track the recently designated Nkomazi Special Economic Zone.
It is important that small business benefits from economic development and that we provide the necessary support to facilitate this.
The plans by Gert Sibande District Municipality to develop SMME Hubs in Msukaligwa, Mkhondo and Wakkerstroom are to be welcomed.
As are those by Ehlanzeni and Nkangala District Municipalities to provide greater support to small-scale farmers, entrepreneurs and emerging tourism businesses.
Another area of opportunity is the development of the green economy.
As a country, we are committed to contribute our fair share to reducing global emissions for the sake of human well-being and sustainability.
We have ambitious plans to transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient economy.
This will have a significant impact on the mining and energy industry in Mpumalanga and on the communities that depend on these industries.
We must work together to ensure that this transition is inclusive and just, and that no community is left behind.
Business, labour and communities need to work together to ensure that Mpumalanga is able to seize the opportunities that will arise from this transition, and to position the province as a leader in green energy and the green economy.
Mpumalanga is also an agricultural province, and district plans for scaling up agricultural development and agro-processing are vital.
I am greatly encouraged that today’s presentations have focused on job creation.
One of the objectives of this imbizo is to ensure that the local economic development strategies in the 20 municipalities have tangible benefits for those who are unemployed.
As national government, we are committed to working with the provincial government to ensure that public employment programmes like the Expanded Public Works Programme and the Presidential Employment Stimulus result in more work opportunities, especially for young people.
We have heard the concerns of business about the pace of policy and regulatory reform, which has been negatively affecting your operations for far too long.
It should serve as encouragement that the policy reform process led by Operation Vulindlela in the Presidency and National Treasury is gathering steam.
Recent reforms in electricity, rail, water and telecommunications will have a lasting impact on the business operating environment and incentivise greater investment and business expansion.
It is important to the people of this province that all the issues raised in the various izimbizo are recorded, and that there is follow-up accompanied by clear timeframes and action plans.
The same holds for this engagement. We have taken note of the issues you have raised here today that are affecting the sustainability of your businesses.
The relevant officials will be expected to return in due course with feedback on the progress they have made.
With these few words, I once again thank you for your participation in this engagement.
I look forward to the progress that we are all determined should result from our discussions today.
I thank you.