City of Joburg Council Chair of Chairs, Colleen Makhubele, has slammed the city for failing to meet its SMME targets and creating SMME-specific policies. Speaking to Vutivi News, she said that the city’s executives were not putting in enough effort to reaching young people in business. Makhubele was appointed to oversee the City’s Section 79 committees in January this year by Mayor Mpho Phalatse. It provides oversight for the city’s portfolio committees, which includes the portfolio of economic development.
In a wide-ranging interview about the state of SMMEs, the township economy and the informal sector, Makhubele did not pull any punches. “We know that in the last financial year, the city did not meet its targets in terms of SMME development, which is sad because the city undertook to develop 16,500 SMMEs, and we only gave opportunities to 14,000 SMMEs,” she said. “This in fact tells me that we have not achieved our target, and now the city wants to lower the target because of the non-achievement.”
Makhubele said that this resulted in young entrepreneurs becoming frustrated because of a lack of opportunities and funding. “For a city as big as the City of Johannesburg, 16,500 SMMEs is not a lot compared to the number of SMMEs that reside in the city alone.” Makhubele also criticised the city’s absence of clear-cut policies specifically for SMMEs.
The city did not have a policy that spoke about youth development, she said. “We borrow from the national policies especially from the National Treasury, which pronounced that 30% of procurement must be subcontracted to SMMEs,” she said. “Therefore, in the absence of such a policy, this becomes a preferential procurement policy and not one that is for SMMEs.” Makhubele told Vutivi News that in the absence of an SMME-tailored policy, there was no legal ground to hold the city accountable for failing to meet its targets.
To illustrate the consequence of not having such a policy, she used the example of the 16,500 SMME targets that were not fulfilled. “We don’t know how many women-owned SMMEs or men-owned, or youth-owned SMMEs are targeted, or how many disability-owned SMMEs are targeted,” she said. “For a city like ours, we should be receiving reports that we received 50,000 applications where we could only accept 16,000.
“The city’s budget is around R73 billion annually, and out of that amount, R7 billion should have gone to SMMEs,” she also said.
Makhubele said it was time for officials to be held accountable.
“We really need to put pressure on the city’s executives and ensure that they go out there and deliberately look for SMMEs that they can help because the unfortunate thing is that SMME owners are not politically connected enough to get these opportunities,” she said.