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President Cyril Ramaphosa believes that the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) remains a critical policy instrument to tackle unemployment and reduce poverty as government grapples with high levels of joblessness.

The President has since pledged on behalf of government to improve the EPWP and to deliver five million work opportunities in the next five years.

President Ramaphosa was speaking on Tuesday at the 20-Year celebration of the EPWP and launch of Phase 5 of the programme in Buffalo City Municipality, Eastern Cape.

The President painted the EPWP as a success story that has empowered communities to address local needs and build resilience.

The country’s commander-in-chief said since 2004, the programme has created more than 14 million work opportunities across the EPWP sectors, with more than 300 public bodies across all spheres of government and non-profit organisations (NGOs) as implementing agents.



“The EPWP is changing lives and transforming communities, and the evidence is there for all to see,” President Ramaphosa told the crowd.

Through the EPWP infrastructure projects, President Ramaphosa said Welisizwe Rural Bridges are constructed and maintained to create better access to markets, schools and clinics.

READ | Zikalala announces construction of over 100 Welisizwe bridges

Beneficiaries include those cleaning streets and beaches, and those involved in Early Childhood Development (ECD), community home-based care, school feeding and community crime prevention.

According to the President, some of the beneficiaries have gone on to be trained as emergency response personnel in the South African Police (SAPS) and even qualified as pilots.

While there are many achievements, President Ramaphosa urged government to use the 20-year milestone as a springboard for even greater achievements in the years to come.

“We must build not only on lessons from the EPWP but also from the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has, over the last few years, demonstrated that public employment can go to significantly greater levels of scale.”

However, he acknowledged that the quality of work experience and service delivered to the communities needed to be improved.

According to the President, government also needs to mobilise the nation behind a revitalised portfolio of public employment programmes.

This, he said, will include urgent service delivery priorities such as road upgrading through pothole patching and block paving, and infrastructure maintenance.

VIEW | Celebration of 20 years of the EPWP

20-Year celebration of the EPWP. 20-Year celebration of the EPWP.

The President is of the view that public employment can also assist in tackling social challenges, such as gender-based violence (GBV) and substance abuse.

The programme will also support tackling clean energy installation and catchment management to improve water quality and limit the risks of floods.

President Ramaphosa said it could also help in the digitisation of public records and give young people a first step into this growing sector of the economy.

Deepening youth participation

The President believes that the EPWP Phase 5 will rise to the challenge by increasing youth participation and strengthening skills development.

“As we enter this new phase, we must reiterate that there can be no space for corruption, nepotism or favouritism. Effective and fair recruitment practices must be applied.”

He called on social partners and the private sector to work with the State during Phase 5 to lend a hand in creating jobs and work opportunities for South Africa’s youth, women and people with disabilities.

“Working together through public and social employment programmes and by providing support for small enterprises and cooperatives, we can create more jobs at a much faster pace while improving the delivery of basic services.”

The President has vowed to continue to expand public employment through the EPWP, the Presidential Employment Stimulus, the National Youth Service, and others.

In addition, he stated that government will assist civil society organisations that are creating work opportunities.

The Head of State also promised to back entrepreneurship and job creation by increasing support for small enterprises and cooperatives in townships and villages.

“We will continue to prioritise young people in public employment programmes, in work-based learning programmes, in artisan training and entrepreneurship programmes.”

He assured the young South African men and women that government will not leave them behind.

“We are determined to reach you, one and all, to help you and to support you. This is the promise of democracy and freedom,” he said. – 

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