11 March 2005
The state’s expanded public works programme (EPWP) will see between R15-billion and R20-billion pumped into South Africa’s economy over the next five years, with the aim of employing a million people by 2010.
The EPWP is a labour-intensive programme aimed at promoting economic growth and sustainable development by offering people part-time jobs while they gain various skills.
Through the EPWP, employment opportunities will be created in government-funded infrastructure projects, environmental and cultural programmes, and social programmes involving home-based care and early childhood development.
“The centre-piece of the EPWP is a large-scale programme of using labour-intensive methods to upgrade rural and municipal roads, municipal pipelines, storm-water drains and paving, as well as fencing of roads, community water supply and sanitation, maintenance of government buildings, housing, schools and clinics, rail and port infrastructure, electrification infrastructure, and so on”, Mbeki said after the Cabinet approved the programme in 2003.
According to EPWP coordinator Shaun Phillips, the programme will spend at least R15-billion on labour-intensive jobs over the next five years. This, he said, would translate into the building of 37 000km of roads, 31 000km of pipelines, 1 500km of stormwater drains and 150km of urban sidewalks.
President Thabo Mbeki announced plans for the EPWP in May 2004. By September 2004, says Phillips, the programme had been launched in all nine provinces, and by March 2005 R1.4 billion had been spent on the programme, creating over 82 000 job opportunities.
Those taking part in the programme receive training funded and arranged by the Department of Labour, as well as a stipend of R35 a day on average, depending on the nature of project.
“The EPWP is not a solution for poverty in South Africa”, Phillips told journalists in Johannesburg this week. “The main aim is to create job opportunities and improve the level of education and training.”
Tying in with existing programmes
The EPWP will tie in with various existing poverty relief programmes, including the Land Care, Faranani-Pushing Back the Frontiers of Poverty, People and Parks, Coastal Care, Sustainable Land-based Livelihoods, Cleaning up South Africa, and Growing A Tourism Economy programmes.
Mbeki cited the highly successful Working For Water and allied programmes – Working on Fire and Working for Wetlands – as examples of projects that would sustain the EPWP.
The Working on Fire Programme operates on a budget of about R30-million and has over 300 projects around the country, providing work and training opportunities to some 21 000 people.
The EPWP is modelled on the “Zibambele” programme initiated by the KwaZulu-Natal department of transport in 2000. Zibambele maintains the province’s rural road network while providing poor rural households with a regular income.
Households working on the Zibambele programme receive R334 for eight days’ work a month to maintain a length of road to an agreed standard. In 2002/2003 there were approximately 10 000 Zibambele contractors maintaining approximately one-third of KwaZulu-Natal’s rural road network.
The Limpopo Government has named its own rural road rehabilitation project “Gundo Lashu”, TshiVenda for “Our Victory”. Over 200 people in the Sikhunyane community in the former homeland of Gazankulu are already employed in the programme that will link their village up with the outside world.
Mbeki, speaking at the launch of Gundo Lashu last year, said the success of the programme would depend on strong partnerships between the government, labour, business and communities.
The programme, Mbeki said, focused on the unemployed, particularly those who were marginalised from the mainstream of the economy. “We want workers to gain skills while they are employed and increase their capacity to continue working elsewhere once they leave the programme”, he said.
Although funded through the department of public works, the EPWP will involve all spheres of government and state-owned enterprises – and will also look to the private sector for additional support.
The Business Trust, an initiative of South African companies in partnership with the government, has set aside R100-million for the programme. And Absa, one of the country’s major banks, has offered to provide financial assistance to contractors taking part in the programme.