First on EWN: Jay Naidoo believes agri sector key in job creation drive

Naidoo says politicians can’t kick-start the economy, no matter their promises to the contrary.

Former Cosatu General Secretary Jay Naidoo sits down with Melanie Verwoerd for a one-on-one interview. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Former Congress of South African Trade Union general secretary, Jay Naidoo, believes that the agricultural sector is key to creating the millions of jobs needed in South Africa.

The one-time minister said that politicians can't kick-start the economy, no matter their promises to the contrary.

Naidoo, who is currently involved with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, said that unemployment will decrease when the South African government focuses on creating self-sustaining local economies.

He said that our way of thinking is wrong when it comes to job creation. People should be able to grow their own food, produce useful goods and then use the latter to generate an income.

"Why I think land is so important, that land is a fundamental issue of dispossession. But it is also the foundation of citizenship."

The former minister emphasised that it is not as simple as giving people land. What, he asked, were the other barriers preventing small farmers from achieving success.

But with understanding the food value chain, that whatever they produce, can be sold in a market. So what is it that business can do to promote a small farmer?

What is it that white farmers can do to help the farmworkers that help build their wealth?

Naidoo says past ideological models do not serve the needs of a modern South Africa.

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Naidoo said that while South Africa is in, what he called "a crisis," the country's leaders should focus on helping citizens improve their lives, rather than calling on President Jacob Zuma to step down.

He said that he was concerned that both politicians and citizens were not adjusting to the demands of the 21st century.

Naidoo said that the country will only survive if its people are able to create work and income for themselves, since very few jobs are available.

He said the moral and political crises, at all levels of government, are depriving citizens of their most basic rights, including access to water, health care and quality education.

He queried the level of debate at national level. Naidoo said that leaders appeared to be more interested in making a political noise about the president, than doing painstaking work at the grass-roots level.

"So what happens if he resigns today? Do you think the situations of people in villages, informal settlements, young people in schools that are deprived of a proper education is going to change?"

Two decades ago Naidoo was the minister responsible for implementing the Reconstruction and Development Program during Nelson Mandela administration.

He said the challenge is to continue focusing on helping citizens improve their lives.

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