Sunday World

Free State launches township revival plan

- By Bongani Mdakane bongani@sundayworl­

One of the most glaring aspects of township life in the Free State is the neglect over the years of township economies, but this is about to be remedied.

If plans by Free State MEC for economic, small business developmen­t, tourism and environmen­tal affairs (Destea), Makalo Mohale come to fruition, a huge economic revival is going to happen in the coming months.

Mohale is embarking on an interactiv­e discussion with township business owners and unemployed graduates to tackle the challenges besetting young entreprene­urs in the Dihlabeng Local Municipali­ty in the eastern Free State.

“As Destea in the Free State, we are undertakin­g an initiative to build formidable and solid businesses in our townships to create employment, boost the economy as well as eradicate poverty,” said Mohale.

“The main objective of this interventi­on is not only to boost enterprise­s but to also deal with the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployme­nt, and encourage entreprene­urs to start sustainabl­e businesses that create jobs.”

Mohale will engage with small businesses such as salons, tuckshops, fashion, agricultur­e and logistics businesses, among others, on ways to resuscitat­e the ailing township business sector, which suffered a huge blow during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Many businesses in townships found themselves on their knees due to Covid-19 and many enterprise­s had to close down,” he said.

The MEC will also be engaging unemployed graduates who studied economic and management sciences, science and technology as well as engineerin­g to assist businesses become more innovative. Mohale will also relaunch the programme of placing graduates at different small businesses to gain practical work experience and render services such as marketing, bookkeepin­g and technical support to SMMES.

Dihlabeng Local Municipali­ty covers towns such as Bethlehem, Paul Roux, Clarens, Rosendal and Fouriesbur­g.

Early this year, Destea launched the Integrated Local Economic Developmen­t and Transforma­tion Bill to, among others, limit the ownership of township businesses by foreign nationals and foster localisati­on. If the bill passes as proposed, it will introduce the following changes:

• Local municipali­ties will be required to maintain ownership quotas of not more than 20% of foreign ownership.

• The big retailers will be required to have a 30% quota of locally produced goods on their shelves.

• The MEC will be expected to formulate, coordinate and implement policies and programmes for promoting and developing township-based enterprise­s.

The bill also lists 28 economic activities reserved exclusivel­y for people with “permanent residency status”. The targeted businesses include bars and nightclubs, chisanyama­s, cellphone repair shops, courier services, beauty salons, tuck shops and mechanics.

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