On Lesufication

Andrew Donaldson writes on the Premier's efforts to crush unemployment in Gauteng


THE weeks before a general election are typically characterised by a pronounced increase in guff and hot air from those standing for office. All manner of promises come on hard and fast, and there are thundering avowals on the stump to tackle the crises that beset the nation. Criminals will be dealt with. Health services will be improved. Land will be redistributed. Houses will be built. Poverty will be addressed. Foreign nationals will be rounded up and flogged.

The election manifestos are full of this sort of thing. The EFF’s runs to a staggering 260 pages, for example, and comes complete with several glossy photographs of a posturing Julius Malema in full-tilt Mussolini mode. The uMkhonto we Sizwe bunch’s manifesto, by contrast, is a mere 24 pages, although, to be fair, they are a new party just finding its feet. Besides, and unlike the Redshirts, the MKP doesn’t have a political school churning out graduates steeped in revolutionary thought and firebrand keen to display their radical intellect. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

As we’re well aware, runaway verbosity is the hallmark of the schooled fighter. And, dare we say it, even those who are only half-educated, like my old friend, Carl Niehaus, well-known boulevardier and now arriviste Effnik, have been known to cavil up a storm.

It is a little different with Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi. True, he too has an unhinged mouth and is given to making fanciful noises when confronted with a microphone. But he is also a man of action. Rash and disastrous action, it must be said, but action nonetheless. So, while he is able to talk the talk, as they say, it is the walking the walk bit that is woefully short of results. Nevertheless, Lesufi persists and, in this regard, is the personification of that old adage: if at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail and then fail again.  

Consider his performance at the launch earlier this month of the province’s much-vaunted mass skills training programme. It is a project of such ambition and scale, Lesufi declared, “that has never happened before” and that his staff would be confirming this with Guinness World Records, no less. 

The initiative, dubbed the iCrush ne Lova Jobs and Skills Programme, is an expansion of the Nasi Ispani project, which was launched last year and aims to create about half a million jobs for youths. This, according to the Citizen, will hopefully bridge the gap between the skills supply and the demands of the job market and thereby stimulate growth in the provincial economy.

“The programme,” Lesufi was quoted as saying, “offers carefully selected skills training opportunities for all ages: in construction, engineering, textile, wholesale and retail, furniture manufacturing, aviation, and entrepreneurial skills, among others. We are not taking under a 100 000, we are not taking under 200 000, we are not taking under 400 000, we are taking almost 500 000 unemployed people out of poverty and placing them on the path of human development.”

This, as mentioned, is not out of keeping with empty electioneering rhetoric. In practice, though, such a huge programme should start with tiny steps. And it did. Accordingly, it looks set to falter and almost certainly fail in a tiny steps kind of way. Forgive the cynicism, but it was not surprising to learn that more than 300 young people employed by Nasi Ispani at the Gauteng Department of Social Development in February have yet to be paid.

According to an advertisement that Lesufi placed on his X (former Twitter) account in November, the department wanted both unemployed graduates and matriculants for 311 positions that included nursing assistants, professional nurses, assistant community development practitioners, community development practitioners and social workers. Contracts were for ten months, and salaries ranged from R166 869 to R424 104. All positions were filled. 

Because no-one has been paid, many of these youngsters are now in dire straits. Some of those interviewed by News24 said they had been evicted from their homes as they had been unable to pay rent. Others said they could not graduate as they were unable to settle student fees. 

Their approaches to the department had been fruitless. They have been told “different stories”: payments would only be made “after the elections”; the “system” has not “captured” them as employees; there was no budget for their salaries.

In what could be considered a grimly ironic situation, the youngsters were tasked with working on the department’s war on poverty programme, profiling social grant applicants. Responsibilities here included the packing of food parcels. One woman, a communications graduate, revealed that when a number of her colleagues asked for a parcel for themselves, this was refused. “We are also in need at the moment,” she was quoted as saying. “Why can’t they offer us food? Imagine how painful it is to work with food, while you don’t have the food or the money to buy it.”

A department spokesman, Themba Gadebe, has however told News24 that the employees would be paid within a fortnight. There has been no explanation for the delay in the salary payments — and no mention of the elephant in the room: Gauteng, the country’s richest province, is allegedly flat broke.

True to form, the fact that the province is apparently unable to fund job creation schemes has not stopped Lesufi from launching such initiatives. Last week, he told unemployed military veterans in Soweto that he was going to train them up as traffic wardens as part of the Nasi Ispani programme.

“We are proud that we’ve taken 2 500 military veterans out of unemployment,” he reportedly said. “Today, 10th April, as we honour Chris Hani, we reaffirm our resolve to take care of our freedom fighters. Less talk, more work.” 

This “work”, he continued, would entail assisting in the fight against crime. As he put it, “The veterans will supplement the work of law enforcement agencies across Gauteng to eliminate crime, corruption, lawlessness and vandalism in communities. They will act as force multipliers, ensuring the safety of residents.”

Let’s ignore, for a moment, the fact that the Nasi iSpani project was intended to provide jobs to people under the age of 35 — meaning that, in order to qualify for the programme, these military veterans would have been five years old or younger when a democratic South Africa first went to the polls in 1994.

But if you can’t pay the rabble … well, what could possibly go wrong?

Travel news

Botswana is one of four countries reported to have entered talks with the UK’s Foreign Office to replicate Britain’s proposed Rwanda migrant deportation scheme. This is according to documents which have been leaked to The Times and which reveal that, for the past 18 months, the UK government has been on a transglobal safari to find countries that may be interested in what Downing Street has described as a “third-country asylum processing deal”.

According to the newspaper, several South American countries, including Paraguay, Peru, Brazil and Colombia, had been considered but were viewed as being “less likely to be interested” in the controversial scheme. Angola, Sierra Leone, Togo, Cape Verde and Senegal were among the African countries placed on a “reserve list” should other states balk at the opportunity of being paid to take the UK's unwanted boat people. Other African countries including Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia and The Gambia “explicitly declined” to enter discussions with the Brits, the newspaper reported.

Botswana, Armenia, Costa Rica and Ivory Coast have however been identified as destinations to prioritise, and the UK has pressed ahead with talks with representatives from these countries. However, according to The Times, progress with all four countries has stalled because of the “ongoing problems with the Rwanda deal”. The so-called Safety of Rwanda Bill, which will confirm that country’s status as a “safe third country” destination for asylum seekers who arrive in the UK as illegal migrants, is however expected to be passed into law by next week. 

Once that happens, it will apparently cost the UK more than £540m to send just 300 people to Kigali. The UK, in other words, is throwing serious money about in order to discourage asylum seekers from seeking a better future for themselves as fruit pickers in the Home Counties. Botswana should grasp this opportunity with both hands. Perhaps some arrangement can made whereby the UK even gets a few elephants out of the deal.

One caveat, though. Once in Gaborone, these migrants should resist the temptation of crossing the border into South Africa. That way, sad to say, lies only xenophobia, uncomfortable questions about elbows, and perhaps incarceration at the notorious Lindela repatriation centre in Krugersdorp. Partly owned by the ANC Women’s League, the centre is intended to profit from the misery of others, and is perhaps more wretched than anything Rwanda has to offer these unfortunate people.

Pocket rocket science

Since they’ve taken the trouble to do the research, some comment on WorldData’s global survey on erect penis sizes is perhaps warranted. Pole position, if I may, goes to Ecuador, where average length is 17.61 centimetres. Cambodia’s at the bottom of the log, at just 10.04 centimetres. While the purpose of this study is not clear, not to mention the methodology, one thing is certain, at least to the regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”): the men in Ecuador are shameless liars.

South African men, incidentally, were not canvassed by WorldData. Perhaps this is all for the better. This sort of scientific inquiry is likely to result in episodes of extreme violence in the Free State. Quite the opposite might happen in certain areas of Cape Town and could, in fact, lead to rather special friendships.