Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Township industrial parks – where’s the action?

This morning I read in Business Day (see here) that Gauteng plans to inject 30% of its R90 billion five year budget into its townships. But how, one wonders? This is an enormous amount of money but I am yet to see any detailed plan.

The ANC Government is yet again showing that when it comes to fulfilling its own promises it falls woefully short.

In October last year I attended the Township Revitalisation Summit at Orlando Stadium, Soweto. This was supposedly the culmination of months of consultations by the Gauteng government, and MEC Lebogang Maile in particular, where they were hearing about challenges black-owned businesses faced in Gauteng’s townships.

The Summit was all huff and puff, with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, MEC Maile and Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu all pitching in with promise after promise.

But the lack of action since then shows the ANC is clueless about how to revive the township economies.

Numerous letters and emails to Mr Maile's office over the past two months requesting a meeting have come to nought. What is he afraid of?

In a portfolio committee meeting in February the CEO of the Small Enterprise Finance Agency admitted to me that SEFA, which owns the Gauteng township industrial parks, had not had a single conversation let alone met with the Gauteng government to co-ordinate their revitalisation plans for the townships.

In an answer to a recent written question I put to Minister Zulu, she reiterated her concern for the poor state of the industrial parks but owned up to not having engaged with Premier Makhura on the way forward.

I get constant calls for help from tenants at these parks, saying all their pleas for government action have come to nought. 

At the workshop on funding for small businesses in Parliament last month, the Portfolio Committee heard submissions from the Gauteng Industrial Parks Association and Sefa but there appears to be a stand-off between them. 

These township industrial parks, set up in the 1980s, are home to hundreds of small businesses which should form the backbone of our township economies. But they are left to fester with government preferring to focus on trophy new projects.

It is obvious that finding lasting solutions to tricky problems is beyond the wit and capacity of the ANC. Meanwhile, the township industrial parks struggle on using their best endeavours.

As was emphasised in yesterday's debate on the economy, it is high time government got its act together and put its money where its mouth is on small business development. 

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