Free State Premier, Sisi Ntombela, gave her first State of the Province Address (Sopa) since her election as head of provincial government in May. The speech focused on a number of pressing provincial matters but the hot topics remain the high youth unemployment rate as well as the dwindling state of local municipalities after absolutely none had received a clean audit from the Auditor-General in June.
Premier Ntombela expressed in her address that the local economy is growing at a low rate. “Our ability to set the Free State on a bold development path is based on our ability to grow our economy. Currently, our economy is fragile and unstable. Its performance is yet to inspire the level and kind of confidence we desire. The low growth rate of 0.9% in 2019, minimal investment and the complex trade imbalance have hampered our ability to grow the economy,” she said.
Ntombela announced that the creation of jobs for the benefit of Free State residents is a non-negotiable matter. However, presently the province’s youth unemployment rate stands at over 30%. “We have to give our children an education they will be able to use in such a way that they will not need to depend on government,” she said.
Provincial government has made agreements with experts, institutions and the private sector to tackle the issue in the year to come.
However, the financial health of local municipalities may negatively affect plans to grow the economy and create jobs in the long term. According to Free State DA Caucus leader, Roy Jankielsohn, the collapse of municipalities mean little opportunity for the investment need to create employment. “To deal with unemployment in the Free State we need huge investment and investment takes place in municipalities.”
Provincial Secretary of the Free State EFF, Bosanku Msimanga, also criticised the premier for not taking a major stance the pressing issues of the day. “The premier has missed an important moment to really redefine herself and move away from the cloud of Ace Magashule,” he said.