The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written a formal appeal to the Free State Premier, Sisi Ntombela, requesting that her government employ qualified unemployed civil engineering graduates in her province.
The DA said the Free State provincial government, especially under the reign of the former Premier, Ace Magashule, had a history of sending students to universities in China, Turkey and Cuba.
However, upon completing their studies, these graduates have been fighting since 2019 to get employed as per the terms in their contract with the Free State provincial government, said the DA.
The political party said the students have since approached them to interfere on their behalf.
The DA said the graduates received bursaries under the tenure of former Free State Premier Magashule to go and study abroad at universities in China owing to a skills deficit in the Free State province.
“According to the terms of these bursary agreements, the graduates upon the completion of the studies, would return to the Free State where they would be employed by the provincial government,” said the DA.
This has not happened.
In her presentation of the 2021 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) budget speech for the Free State province, Finance MEC Gadija Brown said the Free State economy has recorded three consecutive declines in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Brown said the total value of the Free State’s economy was estimated at R160.8 billion in 2019. In recent years, the provincial economy has had to contend with long-standing challenges emanating from low consumer and business confidence.
She said as a result of “the devastating impact of Covid 19, the Free State economy is projected to have contracted by a momentous 6.8 percent in 2020; decreasing the value of the economy to approximately R149.8 billion”.
She added that all sectors of the provincial economy contracted during the hard lockdown, except for agriculture, which benefitted from favourable weather conditions and large sections of the industry remaining open during the national lockdown.
The DA said the hiring of these unemployed graduates, who have the necessary skills in civil engineering and as artisans, will be able to assist in growing the Free State’s economy.
“As the Free State’s economy battles to get going again, owing to the pandemic which has brought local economies to its knees, the province cannot afford for skilled young artisans to be stuck at home unemployed.
“We need these skilled young artisans in the frontline of the Free State’s economy, in order to build and facilitate economic growth in the province,” said the DA.
The political party said it is unfortunate that many students and graduates from the Free State continue to have to struggle to find employment in the province, especially after having signed contracts with the provincial government.
“If graduates can uphold their obligations in terms of contracts entered into with the provincial government, then the provincial government ought to uphold their responsibilities in terms of these contracts,” said the DA.