Gauteng Economic Development MEC Lebogang Maile engages with local stakeholders during the provincial government’s latest Township Economic Revitalisation roadshow in Claremont.

The Gauteng Provincial Government is committed to creating an environment conducive to the revitalisation of township economies, says MEC for Economic Development Lebogang Maile.

Maile was speaking during the provincial government’s Township Economic Revitalisation roadshow at the Danie van Zyl Recreation Centre in Claremont, west of Johannesburg, this week.

The meeting – attended by scores of Johannesburg residents from areas such as Westbury, Bosmont, Claremont and Roodepoort – was also addressed by City of Johannesburg Member of the Mayoral Committee for Economic Development Councillor Ruby Mathang and local councillor Theresa van der Merwe.

“We’re serious about township business revitalisation. We’re working on a strategy to run this programme in a coordinated way. We need to look at the whole value chain and support local businesses,” Maile said.

This week’s gathering was the 42nd since the roadshow started. About 50 townships have already been covered.

“The townships can only succeed when different community-based businesses, cooperatives and other businesses are better organised and cooperate among themselves,” the MEC said.

Maile, in answering questions from the audience, said Gauteng and South Africa were battling the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. Communities and the government needed to find solutions together, he said.

“These are the three biggest challenges we face. The South African economy is controlled by very few people … About 80% to 90% of the economy is in the hands of white monopoly. In every sector there are three to five companies that dominate,” Maile said.

He said stokvels generated about R25-billion, “which should give members a lot of clout but did not”.

Maile said the government had limited resources to fund SMMEs, but added that those with viable and innovative ideas would be assisted.

MMC Mathang said there was “a lot of energy on the ground”.

“People should take the initiative and not wait for the government,” Mathang said. “As government, we want to latch onto the energy on the ground. That is why we are partnering with communities. Unemployment cannot be solved by big business alone. People on the ground can make sure that we create jobs and end poverty. We want to empower communities.”

Cllr Van der Merwe was pleased with the turnout and encouraged locals to register their businesses or cooperatives so they could tap into the numerous opportunities that would be brought about by the City of Johannesburg’s Jozi@Work programme.

Chantelle Coulter, who runs a non-profit organisation for abused women and children in Roodepoort, said she was encouraged by Maile’s address.

Her concern, though, was that while letting communities run local projects like grass-cutting was a commendable thing, nepotism would get in the way. She wondered how everyone would “get a piece of the pie”.

Pastor Owen Delport, of the AFM Church in Bosmont, said churches were not getting government funding although they were the first contact place for people in distress.