The “biggest disgrace” under President Jacob Zuma’s presidency is that two million more South Africans have joined the ranks of the unemployed, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane said on Saturday.

Speaking at a youth rally in Khayelitsha in Cape Town, he said a meaningful discussion about South Africa’s future and the future of young South Africans could not be held unless the chronic jobs crisis was acknowledged.

“The dream of [19]’94, of an equitable and prosperous society, can only be made possible by economic growth that creates millions of jobs and opportunities for South Africans that are left out. Our youth unemployment rate remains more than four times higher than the global average.
Close to six million young people cannot enter the job market, participate in our economy and start to build a life for themselves. There are no jobs for young people. It is just that simple,” he said.

“Despite this, where we [the DA] govern, you find the greatest hope of finding work. From Cape Town to Midvaal, the facts are clear. In the Western Cape, unemployment is lower, more jobs are created and the local economy thrives.”

The biggest disgrace under Zuma’s presidency had not been the millions squandered at his private homestead at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal, or the Gupta family’s landing a private aircraft at Waterkloof Air Force Base, or his failure to comply with the public protector’s report on Nkandla, he said.

“It’s not his push to sign off on a trillion-rand nuclear deal. It’s not the Gupta brothers offering Cabinet posts. It’s not even the crash of the rand following ‘Nenegate’.

“The biggest disgrace is that under President Zuma’s presidency, two million more South Africans have joined the ranks of the unemployed and the hope of finding a job for the nine million unemployed South Africans has all but evaporated. Moreover, there has been a sheer lack of will and an inability to defeat our country’s unemployment crisis,” Maimane said.

Yet, despite this, the ANC government found it appropriate to announce that Zuma would “be handed a brand new luxury presidential jet – estimated to cost the public R4-billion”. This despite the fact that Zuma’s current jet remained, in terms of aircraft standards, relatively new and fit for purpose.

“R4-billion could pay for over 606 000 work opportunities for young South Africans and could be used for supporting 80 000 new entrepreneurs with a R50 000 start-up grant each. It could pay for over 53 000 full NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] bursaries to cover fees, accommodation, transport and textbooks for young South Africans. We unanimously reject this sheer waste of public funds in order to pay for the president’s ‘Nkandla Air’ vanity project,” he said.

“We therefore petition President Zuma, as the head of state, to reverse the decision to procure a new presidential jet for his official travel. Given our current economic climate and our country’s unemployment crisis, South Africa cannot afford to spend R4-billion on a luxury jet for the president which he simply does not need. We have today launched an online petition in this regard. I urge every single South African to sign this petition.”

“Zuma ought to put the country’s needs ahead of his own wants and reject this frivolous and disproportionate spending while people continue to suffer and live without hope.”

“South Africans want jobs, not jets, President Zuma. Our young people deserve better,” Maimane said.
– African News Agency (ANA)