Debate on Department of Economic Development and Tourism Budget

May 14, 2022 | Press Releases

Thank you, Hon. Chairperson. Greetings to the Leader of the Official Opposition, Hon. VF Hlabisa, Hon. MEC RR Pillay, all Hon. Members present in the House and those on the virtual platform.

Hon. Chairperson, over the past year the economic trajectory of our province has been dealt severe setbacks, in the form of the Covid pandemic, the looting accompanied by social unrest, and the devastating rain storm that lashed our province. If ever there was time for government to be creative and focussed on economic development, this is the time.  Whilst large companies might find it easier to get back on their feet and continue to function, my thoughts are with the smaller players in the economic sector, especially those in the township economies across KwaZulu-Natal. These traders were not covered by insurance, nor do they have the resources to start over and earn a living. This is where I believe that this Department has to play a meaningful and urgent role.

Hon. Chairperson, Programme 2, the Department’s “Red-Tape Reduction Programme”, must be urgently rolled out and implemented. In previous debates I always championed the cause of red-tape reduction, so that investors will be encouraged to set up businesses in small municipalities, thereby creating much-needed jobs in the rural areas. The 29 municipalities under the control of the IFP in KZN will welcome this programme, and I want to appeal to the Hon. MEC to prioritise more than just seven municipalities, as projected in the Department’s APP target.

Under Programme 4, which deals with Business Regulations and Governance, I welcome the Department’s intention to provide technical support to 41 municipalities that will be assisted with Business Licensing issues. Township economies need to be revitalised and given that much-needed boost, as this will serve to create jobs, as well as promote tourism in those rural areas.

Hon. Chairperson, on the issue of tourism, I am very concerned that in Programme 6, which deals with Tourism Development, there were 22 vacant posts. Such a vital Programme certainly cannot function optimally and deliver on its mandate if its organogram is so depleted.

Hon. Chairperson, while we were on oversight visits to areas affected by the social unrest, I was dismayed to see Ithala Properties have been badly neglected, in terms of maintenance and security. Those buildings housed many factories, providing hundreds of sustainable jobs but the state of neglect is very concerning. I am aware that R160 million was set aside for this purpose before the unrest. I hope that the Department will ensure that this issue will be back on track.

Whilst the Department must be commended for wanting to support various enterprises, it is disheartening that the loans given by the KZN Growth Trust Fund to companies such as Goodlife, HBM-SA, INSA and MicroFinish - to the tune of over R184.7 million have not provided the desired outcomes. Some of these companies are dysfunctional, with problems ranging from infighting among shareholders, to a company that was given a loan of R19 million but they then provided invoices from dubious suppliers, forcing the Trust Fund to go to court in the hope of recovering about R12.2 million. As a province, we cannot afford to lose much-needed funds and I will encourage the KZN Growth Trust Fund to be more circumspect and careful when engaging with such companies in the future.

I am very concerned about the plight of young students who enrolled to study at the Sharks Board School of Excellence. These students paid thousands of rand to study, in the hope of graduating and getting employment. I met with these students – and was told very sad stories of how they were hoodwinked. Some of them attended graduation ceremonies and received what was to be certificates or diplomas, but those documents are not worth the paper they are printed on. The courses were then transferred to the Moses Kotane Institute, but it is still not clear if the Institute is accredited and registered with SAQA. These young people are now left unemployable four or five years later, with no qualifications and thousands of rands poorer. I urge the MEC to ensure that those who are responsible for this debacle are brought to book and that the students are compensated in some tangible way.

Hon. Chairperson, I conclude on a high note by stating that the progress being made and opportunities being presented in the cannabis industry are very encouraging going forward.
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