THERE seems to be a consensus about the role of small businesses in South Africa’s economy. As a result, Msunduzi Municipality has put the emancipation of the small businesses high on the economic development agenda in order to grow the local economy. This became evident when City Mayor Themba Njilo welcomed the Minister of Small Business Lindiwe Zulu, who had a delegation in tow accompanying her. These include Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Bulelani Magwanishe, Economic Development Deputy Minister Madala Sisuku, Small Development Deputy Minister Cassel Mathale, Environmental Affairs Deputy Minister Barbara Thompson as well as local resident and Chairperson of parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Small Business.
“We saw it fit as a department that we collaborate with other relevant departments with the aim of supporting some 30 local co-operatives. We had to support these small businesses, also known as the Kings of Midlands and which were established many years ago and never enjoyed any form of support for the longest of time with no expectation from government,” said Minister Zulu.
In her address, she conceded that there were points of contention and these were on the side of government and these entailed, amongst others, not having a clear line of sight of the intricacies of taxi operations. She also went further by emphasising the importance of collaboration amongst the various tiers of government.
“We are here in Msunduzi to illustrate to communities that if national government works hand in hand with local government, services can be expeditiously delivered to the people that we serve. The main objective of this programme is to emancipate businesses owned by the previously disadvantaged people in our communities because no one person must be impeded from prosperity. We will be back in April to ensure that what we are supporting continues to grow,” she said.
Talking about the investments they have reaped, chairperson of the Kings of Midlands who is also the Deputy Chairperson of Santaco Nkosinathi Nkomo revealed that this initiative started in 1994 when they opened a fund to assist each other with capital to buy taxis as opposed to enriching foreign financial institutions. Talking about their aspirations going forward, Nkomo said: “It is our dream to open service stations, wheel and tyre outlets as well as spares shops. We are certain that we will not short-change the government because we want other areas to take a leaf off our book. We want to be a shining example, not just in the Msunduzi area but in the rest of the country.”
The City Mayor was beaming with excitement as this intervention gives life to the municipality’s goal of developing the local economy. “What is taking place here directly supports programmes we had put in place as a municipality. If we fail to take advantage of the opportunities that have been put before us, it would be counter-productive. What has been accomplished by the taxi owners illustrates what it is that we can achieve together because alleviating our people out of the poverty quagmire is the responsibility of all of us, not just that of government,” said Njilo who was visibly elated.
Head of the municipality’s Sustainable Development & City Entities Ursula Ntsubane elaborated on the programmes designed to assist small businesses, with a special mention of the Kings of Midlands: “As the Kings of Midlands made a request for assistance with a location for their operations, as the municipality, we are in the process of identifying a piece of land in order to enable them to grow their operations. It also gratifies me seeing an entity this old as a lot of the time businesses are not likely to last more than two years. It is our responsibility to ensure that residents get the requisite training in order to operate their businesses optimally. We are very happy that we are working with national government to ensure that services are delivered to our people.”