Keynote Address by TW Nxesi MP, Minister of Employment and Labour at the Public Employment Service Branch Performance Award
24 October 2019

​​​Department of Employment and Labour Public Employment Service Branch Performance Awards

Programme Directors
Director General
The Head of PES, Mr Morotoba
Inspector General, Deputy Director Generals and Commissioners 
Senior Management and staff of the Department
Most importantly, the Award winners.
I am indeed honoured to stand here before you today on this important occasion – testimony to the fact that we promote the developmental agenda of our beloved country. 

It is proper and befitting that we are gathered in this fashion to celebrate the achievements of the Branches, Provinces and Labour Centres and the officials that serve in them. Our service delivery points form the backbone of the new Department of Employment and Labour, and taking time to recognise excellence amongst us, serves to encourage us as we strive to improve service delivery to our people.

By the way, I like the quotation you have inscribed on the back of the programme for this evening. I quote:
“Excellence is never an accident, it is the result of high intension, effort and intelligent execution.” [End quote – profound words indeed.]

In other words: when we do well – as an organisation or as individuals – it is because of our commitment, hard work and because we have taken the time to rigorously plan and diligently implement. Excellence is not a chance occurrence.

That is why this quotation aptly brings together the intent of this strategic planning conference with this Awards Ceremony which recognises excellence as a consequence of proper planning and execution.

We are appropriately gathered in the province which gave birth to the first president of a democratic South Africa and the father of our nation uTata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela This places an added responsibility on each of us to work that much harder to emulate what he stood for, to make South Africa a better place for all its people. 

We face many challenges as a country:
A sluggish economy 
Global economic uncertainty and rampant nationalistic protectionism
High unemployment – especially amongst the youth
Persistent poverty and inequality, and
A Fourth Industrial Revolution which brings with it disruption and new opportunities - in equal measure.
On the political front, we face a massive problem of corruption and a fight-back by the corrupt forces –seeking to frustrate attempts to defeat corruption and rebuild state institutions – a necessary pre-condition for any return to growth and jobs.

Now we can lament in the face of these challenges, or we can organise and act to change the situation. The Director-General mentioned during his opening address yesterday that, it is during these difficult times, that Public Employment Services kicks into action to support those that need assistance. We need to gather our strength and our collective wisdom, to come up with innovative solutions to address the plight of the unemployed. We need to stimulate demand for jobs, we need to encourage entrepreneurship - to help our workseekers to earn a livelihood. We need more demand led public programmes, like EPWP. I would like to see the new Department of Employment and Labour lead the challenge of raising the bar as we move workseekers to either jobs or self-employment opportunities. 

I see from the programme of the Strategic Planning Conference that PES is already grappling with some of the big questions. Examples include:
The future of work and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. By the way this is not something that will happen some time in the future. It has arrived. Just look at the conflict in the banking sector.

Another debate you will be having: the role of PES in the presidential Jobs Summit Agreements implementation process. This is crucial, colleagues. This is a lead project and priority of the Presidency – and our performance in this respect will determine how we are judged.

The Draft Labour Migration Policy you discussed today – I am very interested to see the outcomes of this. We need to help facilitate regulation and bring order to this difficult area, mindful of the sensitivities involved, including:
o Relations with our neighbours to the north;
o The divisive cheap labour policy being adopted by employers;
o But also mindful of the skills and economic stimulus that immigrants can bring;
o Whilst ensuring that South African nationals are not squeezed out of employment in certain sectors.
o But what we must all agree - is that the violent and unlawful attacks on non-nationals and their property that we have witnessed – can never, under any circumstances be justified.

Equally important, I am sure, were the inputs yesterday on Employment Policy, Public Employment Schemes and Labour Activation Programmes.

Crucially important also, must have been the DG’s input yesterday on ‘Repositioning PES in the newly reconfigured Department of Employment and Labour’ – taken together with today’s Break-Away Sessions – particularly Group 3: ‘Coordination and partnerships in employment interventions beyond DEL’. Crucial factors for the success of the President’s vision include the following:
o Coordination and alignment between government departments, at all levels, and public agencies – what the president refers to as ‘joined up government’. As senior management and officials, I urge you to work together, the silo-based actions must end, we need collective action;
o Private-public partnerships. The Youth Employment initiatives coming out of the Presidency are a deliberate strategy to cast the net ever wider – beyond PES – but PES must still be there to provide leadership, guidance and experience;
o The other theme you will have heard from the President is the need for social dialogue and a social compact. Clearly DEL has a major role to play there – through Nedlac and our role in the implementation of the Job Summit Agreements. We cannot tackle unemployment alone. We need to work with our social partners to find each other, to collectively solve problems, unblock barriers and accelerate the implementation of interventions that will support job creation.

Colleagues, the reconfiguration of DEL is but a part of the wider reconfiguration of government. It is a work in progress, but we are already starting to see some of the implications for this Department, including the President’s mandate:
To coordinate all government efforts to create jobs and reduce unemployment, and
To change the approach of the Department from mere compliance enforcement to facilitating job creation.

We are already seeing some practical implications for the Department – in terms of leveraging resources for job preservation, creation and training for the needs of the labour market. We will also need to look at ways of strengthening the role of Nedlac, as well as the entities of the Department.

There will also need to be a wider discussion on where DEL fits into the reconfigured government as a whole.

Ladies and gentlemen, research indicates that a powerful driver of unemployment, inequality and poverty, is lack of skills, education and training. This is an area where PES has to work with the UIF, the CF and the Setas, to collectively find solutions. This goes hand-in-hand with the need to focus on employment and on training that is linked to actual employment and the needs of the labour market at the end of the day. 

Programme Director(s), in my first months with DEL, I have been at pains to point out that with the addition of the ‘Employment’ mandate to the Department, the ‘Labour’ mandate is in no way diminished. I have given assurances that the Department will continue to regulate, inspect and enforce to ensure decent work, safe workplaces and healthy industrial relations. That mandate does not change. The Inspector-General remains. The CCMA remains. The mandate to enforce compliance remains.

But I have also said that we have to engage with business, and where there is unnecessary bureaucracy and delays we address that. Another, favourite theme of the President: easing the cost of doing business.

Labour Centres must become more productive, reduce the red tape, make faster decisions; because our people are disconnected - they don’t have money for transport; they find it difficult to access you. When they do get to your offices make it worth their while, give them a “wow’ service – a first class service. Many CDPO’s are in the room today, I am putting out a call to you to serve with diligence, weed out inefficiency, and reward those that are star performers. 

The Employment Services Act 4 of 2014, makes it illegal for job seekers to be charged for placement services. Private employment agencies must register with DEL, to prevent the exploitation of our people. Our inspectors must ensure that the any abuse of worker seekers is dealt with.

I am told that there are more than 280 employment service practitioners and 146 employment counsellors, including 9 highly qualified principle psychologists in our labour centres. I like to hear how you are enhancing youth employment opportunities including: 
Promoting experimental ways of providing young people with mentoring, entrepreneurship opportunities, linkages to the labour market and useful work experience;
Identifying projects where young people in schools, spend time in places of work, to get a sense of what a working environment is like and get early exposure to possible career opportunities;
Identifying and supporting programmes that take school learners for holiday jobs, helping some to work their way up into the system and find viable career paths;
Entering into well-targeted partnerships with Public and Private sector entities to enhance employment and opportunities for young people;
Hosting Jobs Fairs, Job Exhibitions - where both public and private sector come and showcase career and employment opportunities in their entities and where young people and the unemployed can be encouraged to apply.

Word of mouth or tips by employees and family members remain a predominant method of how work-seekers get introduced to the world of work. Young people who live in poor neighbourhoods with dysfunctional schools and little support do not have these avenues. They have little, if any, access to social networks that could link them to job opportunities. Their contemporaries and their parents are likely to have been unemployed themselves for substantial periods of time. They struggle to access appropriate training opportunities to improve their employability, or set up their own businesses. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the number of cell phones in South Africa surpasses the number of people living here. Labour Centres need to have free Wi-Fi to fuel job search activities. I am encouraged to have launched the first Youth Employment Centre in Cape Town. We need more of this.

As a Department, we call upon provincial governments, district and local municipalities, traditional councils, civic organisations, employers, labour movements, and registered private employment agencies, to unite in promoting practices that will assist the unemployed, particularly the youth, in order for them to access employment opportunities. This will enhance social cohesion and help to build societies and communities we can be proud of as a nation.

Placing an individual in a job does not only fulfil the financial and emotional well-being of that individual, but equally importantly, it contributes significantly to the edification of the moral fibre, peace and stability of society at large. The struggle to eradicate poverty and underdevelopment in our own country is fundamental to the achievement of our own national goal to build a caring and people-centred society.

Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate the Director-General, the PES branch, CDPO’s and the amazing staff that have led to the branch achieving a 100% performance against their targets. 

It only remains for me to congratulate the Award winners. So whether, as individuals, or as PES structures, the award you are receiving signifies that you have been recognised by your peers for the quality and excellence of your work. 

You are living proof of the view expressed by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle – which echoes the sentiments of the quotation contained in your programme. I quote from Aristotle:

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation… We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” [End quote]

Enough from me. I would not like to stand between this audience and the dinner which is to follow. I wish you an enjoyable evening and all the success for the future. 

Together let’s move South Africa forward. Thank you.