Good governance can unlock job growth

30 Apr 2024 in News

Ashor Sarupen | 29 April 2024

Ashor Sarupen writes on why a DA-led coalition govt is SA’s best bet

South Africa’s daunting unemployment crisis has only worsened since the ANC pivoted from pro-growth policies at that fateful Polokwane conference in 2007.

What followed was a series of ANC-manufactured political crises whose fault lines became embedded in South Africa’s governance architecture, leading to state capture under Zuma and the coal cartels and construction mafias that have subsequently seized control of the state apparatus. However, the seeds for the breakdown in good governance were laid during the Mbeki era, where cadre deployment and “tenderpreneurship” led to chancellor house kickbacks, and the state machinery was steered to benefit the party over the citizenry.

For most of its 30-year rule, the ANC has enabled this criminalisation of the state for its own purposes, and the steady erosion of good governance has been a key pillar of this project. Poor governance has driven job losses and economic stagnation – it has eroded the capacity of the state to deliver the essentials for the economy to function.

The ongoing crisis in Ditsabotla Municipality in the North West best demonstrates this. Clover was a major employer in the municipality, which was home to the largest cheese factory in South Africa. However, the municipality failed to fulfil two critical tasks – reticulate water and energy and maintain roads – which forced Clover to relocate its operations. Hundreds of jobs were lost not because of broader macroeconomic challenges but because of poor governance and the inability of the municipality to fulfil the most basic parts of its mandate.

South Africa’s eight provinces have become laboratories of how governance affects job growth – and the data is clear for all to see: the more corrupt the ANC is in a province, the worse it is for jobs, and the one province not run by the ANC, the Western Cape has proven itself to be the engine of job growth.

The Western Cape has thrived not in spite of governance but because of it. By prioritising efficient service delivery, investing in critical infrastructure, and getting the basics right, the provincial government has laid the foundation for sustained economic growth, which has resulted in job creation. Nearly 80% of the Western Cape workforce has jobs, whereas nationally, nearly one in three people in South Africa cannot find work.

Good governance under the DA is built on a model that prioritises the needs of citizens – of which jobs are the most important factor – and this is achieved by ensuring accountability within the civil service, embracing innovative solutions, transparent financial management (as affirmed by the auditor general), responsive government, and a forward-thinking orientation.

Central to this model is that the government must accept that its role is to facilitate economic growth, not block it—as was the case in Ditsabotla and the North West more generally. The government can foster the environment for businesses to thrive by ensuring that the enablers work—and simple things like water, electricity, and roads are significant enablers that foster investment.

Furthermore, when governance is transparent, and institutions are accountable, investors are more inclined to invest capital, and the multiplier effect kicks in as secondary and support businesses are more likely to expand, and entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed, all of which contribute to job creation and economic prosperity.

In Ditsabotla, reports indicate that Clover could not even get a meeting with the municipal leadership, which is an indication of how untransparent and unaccountable that municipality is. There are hundreds of municipalities, provinces, and national government departments and critical government agencies that are ignoring requests for meetings with major employers every single day.

The path out of our unemployment crisis lies partially in voters choosing to elect a coalition government nationally that is committed to good governance—one that transcends political divides and places the country’s interests above party political interests (such as cadre deployment). The DA has not only embraced but actively implemented the principles of transparency, accountability, and effectiveness, and together with the MPC, voters can have certainty that a government underpinned by the DA will embed good governance into state machinery.

The lessons of good governance extend beyond provincial borders. The success of the Western Cape is not due to geography or luck – it has had its fair share of fires and flooding – which further underscores the critical role that competent and ethical governance plays in recovery and growth. In an election where provincial governments and the national government will change hands for the first time, voters now need to decide if the principles of good governance – integrity, accountability, and responsiveness – is a model they want exported from the Western Cape to the rest of South Africa.

Ashor Sarupen is theDA’s Deputy Campaign Manager and Deputy Chair of the Federal Council