Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson’s speech at the launch of the Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme
Umtshezi Local Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal Province, 31 March 2015
The leadership of Umtshezi Local Municipality,
The Chief Whip,
The Speaker of Council,
All Councillors present,
Members of the Media,
All protocol observed
Twenty one years ago, we witnessed the birth of a new South Africa that for the first time enshrined in law the principle of equal rights for all who live in our great country.
Under the leadership of the African National Congress, we have progressively worked towards the realization of a South Africa that guarantees a Better Life for All.
We have one of the best Constitutions in the world: with its cornerstone the Bill of Rights that affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom. But these aren’t just fancy words on paper: we have since then seen the passing into law of a host of regulations that give effect to this Bill of Rights.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as I stand before you today I am proud to say that under this government: the protection of the environment has been and continues to be a priority.
In 1994 we inherited a system where the protection of the natural environment – and all this country’s natural resources, either was either minimal, or for the benefit of the very few.
The laws of South Africa recognize not just the rights of current generations, but those of future generations to environmental protection.
Section 24 of our Constitution recognizes environmental rights as a basic human right. It states that “everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.”
Importantly, we are guided by the principle of sustainable development and the use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.
Ladies and Gentlemen, colleagues, the EPIP environmental projects, such as those we are launching here today in the uMtshezi Local Municipality – are perfect examples of how we are balancing the twin imperatives of economic development, with environmental protection.
All with the ultimate aim of enabling our people to lead lives of dignity through paid employment.
Through the Expanded Public Works Programme, this government, your government – has been making significant strides in our fight against unemployment and poverty.
The Department of Environmental Affairs continues to prioritize job creation not just in the province of Kwa-Zulu/Natal, but countrywide.
To this end, we are funding the implementation of environmental projects such as those we launch here today, using the labour intensive methods championed through the EPWP.
In addition to job creation, we also continue to prioritize our support of SMME’s, enterprise development and growing skills. These are all priority areas aligned with the National Development Plan.
The Department’s Environmental Protection and Infrastructure projects are grouped into seven focus areas, namely the, Working on Waste , Working for Coast, Working for Land, People and Parks, Wildlife Economy, Youth Environmental Services and Greening and Open Space Management. (We also have a Natural Resource Management focus, with a further seven programmes, including Working for Water, Working on Fire and Working for Wetlands.)
The “Working For” programmes are in their very essence about supporting natural resource conservation ethics, whilst at the same time addressing poverty through job creation.
The two projects being implemented in the uMtshezi Local Municipality: the KZN Street Cleaners for Umtshezi and the KZN Rehabilitation of Existing Parks and Planting of Trees have so far resulted in the creation of 235 gainful employment.
Allow me to briefly highlight some of the work that has been done by these two projects.
The KZN Street Cleaners for Umtshezi project is part of the overall Umtshezi Community Parks and Street Cleaning initiative. So far this project alone has created 99 work opportunities. Of these, 65 are women, 70 are youth and 2 are people living with disabilities. Between November 2014 and February 2015 we achieved an impressive 6278 person days.
The KZN Rehabilitation of Existing Parks & Planting of Trees project has created 136 work opportunities for locals. Among them 95 women, 90 are youth and 2 people living with disabilities.
We achieved 5391 person days between the months of January and February 2015.
Not only this, but through these same programmes non-accredited training opportunities have been facilitated for the people of uMtshezi – so that when they leave these projects, they will be able to seek gainful employment elsewhere.
Furthermore, we haven’t just spoken about small business development and support: but actually implemented it. Local businesses have benefited because we have sourced protective clothing, training materials, equipment and other services for the projects – directly from our local businessmen and women.
These projects don’t just play a critical role in restoring, rehabilitating and enhancing open spaces in our communities, to make them cleaner and greener, and a better space for our all to enjoy, including our children. They also play a major role in contributing towards climate change mitigation, through the minimisation of biodiversity loss and the use of greener technologies to mitigate against environmental degradation.
We know that without the involvement of the Umtshezi Local Municipality, none of this would be possible. I would like to applaud them for the crucial role they have played from the outset: providing the necessary documents required, fast tracking the recruitment of local people, and providing their continuous support overall.
The Department has also made significant investment in youth development initiatives within the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
They include Youth Jobs in Waste and Youth Environmental Services programmes which respond to the multiple needs of young people: by enabling them to access new opportunities for employment, income generation, skills and personal development. All of these initiatives are aligned to the targets of the National Waste Management Strategy of 2009, and are supported by the Resolutions adopted at the recently held National Waste Summit.
There have been innumerable, tangible outcomes and benefits as a result of these investments.
Ladies and gentlemen the African National Congress led government has so far committed R85 393 312 towards the Youth Jobs in Waste Programme - which started in June 2013 and will end in November 2015.
This project has so far employed 838 youth, 1538 women and 18 people living with disabilities. The youth were placed in 50 municipalities across different district municipalities.
Between August 2012 to March 2016 a further R15 000 000.00 was committed towards Youth Environmental Services.
The list could go on.
All of our government’s, yourgovernment’s initiatives - give meaning to the term sustainable employment creation and its attendant spinoff benefits. Ladies and Gentlemen, through these programmes we are truly working together to Move South Africa Forward!
As we continue along the path towards Radical Socio-Economic Transformation, we know that without sustainable livelihoods, there canbe no sustainable development.
And in this we count on you to support such initiatives: let us work together, with our partners in the private sector, to see that more such success stories are realized.
It isn’t just for the sake of those who stand here today that we as government place such a premium on job creation in the environmental sector. It is for the younger generation, for our children, that we are laying the groundwork. It is a future that we look towards with optimism: it is a future that is clean, that is green, and that is sustainable. And above all, it is a future wherein all our people, may lead a life of dignity.
I thank you.