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Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 20th Anniversary Celebrations of the Expanded Public Works Programme, Buffalo City Stadium, East London

Programme Director,
Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Mr Sihle Zikalala,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Premier of the Eastern Cape, Mr Oscar Mabuyane,
Premiers and MECs
MPs, MPLs and Councillors,
Traditional leaders and leaders of faith-based organisations,
Representatives of business, labour and civil society,
EPWP participants,
Fellow South Africans,

Molweni eMonti!

Sanibonani. Dumelang. Goeie Môre, Kgotsong, Lotjhani, Ndi matsheloni, Nhlekanhi. Good Morning.

Ndivuya kakhulu ukuba lapha nani eBuffalo City, ePhondweni.

Ndivuyela nokuboba abantwana benkululeko, ooTintswalo.

Ibali likaTintswalo ndilibalise ePalamente ekuqaleni kwalo nyaka. 

uTintswalo ngumntwana owazalwa wakhulela enkulelekweni. 

uTintswalo ngumntwana owafumana amathuba ngamathuba okuphucala ubomi bakhe ngenxa yenkululeko.

Ayilobali lomntwana wentsapho efumileyo enezinto zonke. 

It is the story of the children born in 1994 in Bhisho, in Mdantsane, in King William’s Town, around Buffalo City and around the country, who were given a chance in life and a chance to succeed. 

Children whose parents never had that chance because they were born into a world of apartheid oppression. 

It is this Government that has supported the children of poor families to access healthcare and education, to receive free basic services, to obtain social grants to help them and their families, and to attend university and colleges for free.

Once they finished their schooling journey it has been this government that has continued to provide opportunities to young South Africans to obtain employment, to become self-employed, to become entrepreneurs and to improve their skills.

It has been this Government that has designed programmes to support the unemployed with work opportunities that at the same time enable them to make a difference in their communities.

Enye yezo nkqubo ezitshintshe ubomi babantu yile EPWP singayo namhlanje.

For the past twenty years, the Expanded Public Works Programme has transformed the lives of millions of young South African men and women born into democracy.

In 2004, the EPWP was officially launched in Limpopo to create work opportunities for South Africans who were unable to find employment in the formal economy. 

Since then, 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 as implementing agents.

We have said that the EPWP is changing lives and transforming communities, and the evidence is there for all to see. 

We have seen EPWP beneficiaries who are part of the provincial roads programme hard at work repairing our road infrastructure to make it safer for commuters. 

Through the EPWP infrastructure projects, Welisizwe rural bridges are constructed and maintained to create better access to markets, school and clinics. 

We have seen the beneficiaries of the Working on Waste environmental programme helping to clean and green our streets and our communities. We have seen the Working for the Coast teams helping clean up our country’s beaches. 

We have seen EPWP participants from the social sector involved in Early Childhood Development, community home-based care, school feeding and community crime prevention. 

We have seen how participants in the Community Works Programme have been hard at work in our communities, planting food gardens and assisting at elderly care homes.

Just very recently, we saw the great work done by the teams of Working on Fire in battling fires in the Western Cape. 

This is an EPWP environmental sector programme that has become so renowned across the world that the teams are called on by other countries to assist them with firefighting. 

Some of the young men and women of this programme have gone on to be trained as emergency response personnel, as members of the South African Police Force, and even qualified as pilots. 

Since its inception, the EPWP has been a great success thanks to the collaboration between different Government departments and agencies.

We are on course to meet the target of five million work opportunities for this fourth phase of the Expanded Public Works Programme. 

Over these past five years, no less than R41 billion has been transferred to poor households, ensuring that participants and their households live above the poverty line. 

The activities EPWP participants have been engaged in go far beyond earning a livelihood to support themselves. They are contributing to building a better South Africa that is caring, that is united and that leaves no-one behind. 

The preamble of our Constitution enjoins the state and social partners to work together to “improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person”. 

The EPWP is testimony to the vision of a developmental state that is pro-poor and is focused on tackling the root causes of poverty, unemployment and inequality. 

Today we heard encouraging testimonies from the beneficiaries of the programme. 

I have been to the exhibition stand. The stories there reflect the reach and impact of the EPWP in all nine provinces. This reminds us that despite the odds that we face, our Government and social partners are working together to change the lives of the most vulnerable. 

The National Development Plan, which is our blueprint for transforming South Africa, calls for an expansion of public employment with a specific focus on youth and women. 

It further emphasises expanding the nation’s skills base through better education and vocational training.

It says that greater attention must be given to continuous training for existing workers and to providing career paths for all workers. 

South Africa is still grappling with high levels of unemployment.

Youth unemployment is more than 50 percent.

The Expanded Public Works Programme, alongside other public and social employment programmes, remains a critical policy instrument to tackle unemployment and reduce poverty. 

Over the years, the programme has fostered a sense of ownership and participation among communities, empowering them to address local needs and build resilience. 

This collaborative spirit has not only yielded more effective projects but has also nurtured a sense of collective responsibility and self-reliance within communities. 

While we celebrate achievements of the past, we must also use this 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.

We need to improve the quality of the work experience provided to participants and the quality of the services delivered to communities and society. 

We need to mobilise the nation behind a revitalised portfolio of public employment programmes.

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

Public employment can also assist in tackling a wide range of social challenges, such as gender-based violence and substance abuse. It can also support early childhood development. 

Public employment has a vital role in tackling environmental challenges, supporting clean energy installation, and catchment management to improve water quality and limit the risks of floods. 

It can include the digitisation of public records, giving young people a first step into this growing sector of our economy. 

Let us use our creativity and initiative to create work that inspires and excites participants and society.

We are confident EPWP Phase 5 will rise to the challenge. The new phase has committed to more programmatic approaches to public employment, to enhance the quality of delivery. It has committed to increased youth participation and strengthened skills development.

This phase will also focus on more targeted exit strategies for participants through training, enterprise development and linkages to other employment opportunities. 

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. 

Today, Government signs a pledge to work together to achieve these improvements and to deliver 5 million work opportunities in the next five years. 

We call on social partners and the private sector to work with our Government during Phase Five to lend a hand in creating jobs and work opportunities for South Africa’s youth, women and persons 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.

We will continue to expand public employment through the EPWP, the Presidential Employment Stimulus, the National Youth Service, and others.

We will also assist civil society organisations that are creating work opportunities.

We will continue to support entrepreneurship and job creation by increasing support for small enterprises and cooperatives in our townships and villages.

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

Fellow South Africans,

When I told the story of democracy’s child, Tintswalo, in this year’s State of the Nation Address, many young South Africans stepped forward to say proudly that they too were beneficiaries of the great change this country has undergone since 1994.

But many also said they have yet to reap the benefits of democracy.

I say to those young South African men and women that we will not leave you 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. 

Our continued commitment to public employment is part of that promise. 

A promise to rebuild South Africa together. A promise to leave no-one behind. 

Working together, let us make the next phase of the EPWP, as part of a revitalised portfolio of public employment programmes, an even greater success. 

Let’s get South Africa to work.

I thank you.

 Union Building