By Cuma Pantshwa


  • President Mandela’s 2005 remarks at the global anti-poverty campaign underscored the importance of addressing poverty as a matter of justice and fundamental human right, highlighting the need for dignity and a decent life for all. 
  • The government’s efforts over the past 20 years, including flagship projects like the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) launched in 2004, have aimed at job creation, community upliftment, and poverty reduction. 
  • Led by the Department of Social Development, the Social Sector of the EPWP comprises several departments, collectively contributing to the provision of temporary work opportunities targeting youth, women, and persons with disabilities. Minister Zulu reiterated the commitment to creating work opportunities and building a thriving economy, aiming to alleviate poverty and reduce dependency on social grants.

It was in 2005 at the launch of a global anti-poverty campaign when President Mandela said that overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, “It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” 

The government has made great strides in creating jobs, uplifting communities and reducing poverty over the past 20 years. One such flagship project is the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), which was launched in 2004.

The EPWP is the national programme aimed at alleviating poverty and unemployment through work opportunities and skills development for poor, unskilled, and unemployed South Africans. The Department of Social Development has, in the last two decades, led the Social Sector of the Expanded Public Works Programme.

The Social Sector of the EPWP includes the Department of Social Development, Health, Education, Community Safety and Sports. Yesterday, at the 20-year celebration, Minister Zulu said that it is critical for the government to assist people with creating work opportunities and to help build a thriving South African economy. 

As a sector, these departments collectively contribute to the provision of temporary work opportunities targeting primarily the youth, women, and persons with disabilities through the EPWP. “We want people to be able to wake up and go to work so they can earn something and enrich their lives. EPWP allows people to contribute to their communities in many ways, like being involved in some of the community programmes we have implemented as a department.”

Over the years, DSD has invested in terms of creating coordination mechanisms that ensure unity and integration, pulling together the five departments towards this critical common goal.

Ultimately, the whole social sector contributes towards a bigger goal of pushing away the frontiers of poverty, and Minister Zulu reiterated this by saying, “We believe people must be able to earn their living. We’d also like to offload some abled-bodied individuals dependent on the social grant and have them working and earning much more than just the R350.”

At yesterday’s event, President Cyril Ramaphosa proudly celebrated the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) as a success story that has empowered communities. He pledged on behalf of the government to improve the EPWP to deliver five million work opportunities in the next five years. To date, the programme has created more than 14 million work opportunities across the EPWP sectors, involving over 300 public bodies across all spheres of government and non-profit organisations.

During this twenty-year period, the sector contributed over 2.9 million work opportunities, which provided a cushion to poor communities while also delivering much-needed public assets and services in fields such as child care, home-based community care, sports, community safety, and school nutrition. Minister Zulu was confident that as the Fifth Phase of the EPWP commences, the Social Sector will contribute a further 1 million work opportunities towards the overall 5 million target announced by the president.

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