Gauteng MEC Jacob Mamabolo says ‘Nasi Ispani’ has nothing to do with elections

Jacob Mamabolo delivered the provincial medium-term budget policy statement on Tuesday.

Gauteng MEC for finance Jacob Mamabolo has said the Nasi Ispani youth employment programme is not an electioneering tactic.

Mamabolo delivered his provincial medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) on Tuesday in Johannesburg.

Speaking to The Citizen, Mamabolo shunned public perceptions about Nasi Ispani being a political move to win votes for next year’s elections.

The Nasi Ispani jobs campaign is an initiative by the Gauteng Provincial Government aimed at addressing unemployment and promoting access to job opportunities available within the Gauteng Provincial Government.

Launched in June this year, the programme has created thousands of jobs for unemployed youth in the province.

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Electioneering or an act of service?

While many have welcomed the much-needed opportunity to put bread on the table, be it for a short while, others have questioned the timing – asking whether it could be a ploy to garner votes for the polls next year.

So, could it be part of electioneering? Mamabolo said no.

“Nasi Ispani started before we got close to elections,” he told The Citizen.

He said government should not be expected to pull back on initiatives out of fear of being accused of trying to gather votes ahead of the upcoming elections.

“We mustn’t criminalise an election – because it’s bad to do good things during elections? No, government runs throughout,” said Mamabolo.

He further urged South Africans to focus their attention on whether or not an initiative yields good results, as opposed to speculating on the intentions behind it.

“We can’t sit and fold our arms, and say we’re suspending helping people,” Mamabolo said.

“So, when people say we’re doing things for the elections, really?”

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Long-term solution?

South Africa’s youth unemployment rate sits at 43.4%, signifying the urgent need for long-term solutions to the country’s job crisis.

While youth employment campaigns like Nasi Ispani contribute to alleviating poverty in the short-term, many have questioned their sustainability.

Mamabolo acknowledged the limited lifespan of the initiative, but said it’s better than nothing.

“We’re creating in the short-term, revenue for people, youngsters – we’re giving them hope,” he told The Citizen.

“It is better to give somebody a job opportunity now, which is real, than to give them future hope which they can’t see – it’s an abstract promise,” he added.

Mamabolo further explained that Nasi Ispani was more than just about creating short-term jobs, instead it’s about the “compensation” of employees in the provincial budget.

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‘Nice Christmas’

Mamabolo is optimistic the project will drive growth in Gauteng by fostering the economic participation of previously unemployed youth.

“In the long-term, the very same people we’re assisting now can get job opportunities going forward,” he said.

Praising the programme, Mamabolo said thousands of Gauteng youth now had the chance to earn a decent living.

“They now have money like others… they’re going to have a nice Christmas,” he told The Citizen.

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Not for the long run

“Don’t look at the gift horse in the mouth,” said Independent economist Prof Bonke Dumisa.

Speaking to The Citizen, Dumisa advised beneficiaries of government employment programmes to embrace the opportunity, without being overly suspicious of ulterior motives.

“Those initiatives, if ever they are beyond reproach and there is no smell of corruption linked to them, must be accepted,” said Dumisa.

However, he cautioned South Africans about the short-term gains of initiatives like Nasi Ispani.

“People must always know that such initiatives are never meant to create long-term employment,” he told The Citizen.

“For us to deal with unemployment, we must overhaul our entire education system,” Dumisa concluded.

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