President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ambitious drive to inject much-needed jobs into South Africa’s COVID-19 ravaged economy is beginning to bear fruit.
This much is evident in the second progress report on implementation of the Presidential Employment Stimulus released by the Presidency on Tuesday. The stimulus, which targets the employment of 600 000 youths, was announced by President Ramaphosa during his address to a joint sitting of Parliament in October.
As part of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, the Presidential Employment Stimulus is designed to respond to the rise in unemployment caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
In the past year, about R13 billion was allocated to the stimulus from President Ramaphosa’s R100 billion job protection and creation support package announced in April as part of the country’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The remaining R87 billion will be allocated over the next three years.
The Presidential Employment Stimulus supports a range of opportunities through the expansion of public employment as well as job retention in vulnerable sectors.
In addition to employment opportunities, the stimulus provides crucial support for livelihoods in the creative sector, the agricultural sector and the early childhood development sector.
Eleven national departments and all nine provinces are responsible for implementation of programmes supported through the employment stimulus.
“Its aim is to support livelihoods while the labour market recovers – investing in public goods and services, enhancing skills and employability, and boosting demand in the economy at the same time,” reads the report.
The report said the Department of Basic Education has completed its recruitment of education and school assistants at schools in every province. About 94% of assistants had been placed, and received training in curriculum support, ICT, maintenance and other skills during the December/January period.
“Calls for proposals issued by the National Arts Council and the National Film and Video Foundation were oversubscribed, and awards are now being finalised. These funds will support new work, enable public and community art projects, and protect jobs at cultural institutions and businesses in the creative sector,” reads the report.
The Presidency said the Department of Social Development was providing crucial income support to the Early Childhood Development sector, which has faced severe challenges during the pandemic. This programme will provide support to 110 000 ECD practitioners, helping them to stay open or reopen.
Applications for this support can be submitted until 19 February 2021.
Shifting focus to the Subsistence Producer Relief Fund, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development was allocated R1 billion to provide production support vouchers to 74 626 subsistence farmers across the country. The Presidency said the department was currently on track to exceed this target.
The fund supports self-employed farmers back into production after the disruptions caused by COVID-19 as well as rebuild and strengthen local food value chains. This includes rural and peri-urban farmers as well as those engaged in urban agriculture.
Successful applicants receive a voucher for production inputs that can be redeemed from participating suppliers. Award sizes range between R1 000 and R9 000, depending on scale and commodity type.
“Over 178 000 people applied for support via the USSD platform set up in the period 10 December to 22 December 2020. The criteria included a points system for age, gender, military veteran status and for key forms of vulnerability, such as child-headed households. The vouchers are to support existing farmers, not start-up farmers,” reads the document.
On 23 December 2020, the approvals process began.
After applying the criteria, 131 595 applicants were pre-qualified, triggering visits for physical verification of the information provided.
The Presidency said the DALRRD had used the verification process to create jobs for youth, recruiting former National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) and unemployed agricultural graduates to support the department in this process. They are working with local extension officers in each Province. Thus far 1 464 jobs have been created with appointments continuing.
By 5 February, 33 241 applicants had been visited to collect proof of identity, geo-locate them and to verify their production status as per the advertised criteria. DALRRD is also using this process to build an online geo-spatial data-base of subsistence producers, which has not existed previously.
Meanwhile, in parallel, processes of issuing eVouchers and appointing approved suppliers are being finalised.
Eleven national departments are responsible for implementing the various programmes supported by the Presidential Employment Stimulus. The Project Management Office (PMO) in the Presidency is responsible for overall coordination of the stimulus.