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Skills and access to finance were the overriding needs of small businesses in the townships, an IDP and budget meeting is told.
SMALL business owners need skills training, machinery and funding to help their businesses grow.

MMC Chris VondoSeveral City officials including MMC Chris Vondo came out to listen to people's viewsThese were the dominant issues raised in the economic development cluster at the City’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and 2012/13 budget regional stakeholder consultation, held at the Pimville Multipurpose Centre on Friday, 4 May.

The five-year IDP and budget are geared towards achieving the ambitions contained in Joburg 2040, the City’s long-term Growth and Development Strategy. The consultations are a means for residents to make inputs in how the city is run. Their discussions will be considered when the final IDP and budget are drawn up.

On the day, the meeting was divided into three clusters – economic development, health and social development, and governance. Present to listen to residents and citizens were the members of the mayoral committee for economic development, Sello Lemao, and for community development, Chris Vondo.

The economic development cluster was largely filled with small business owners.

Money and machinery
Mpho Phala, a resident and owner of a small business in Soweto, said: “We have the potential to grow our businesses, but we do not have the necessary equipment and machinery needed to make our businesses work.

“A lot of township-based businesses become stagnant and some end up closing down because of this challenge.”

Silas Dlamini from Protea Glen said the City should help small businesses with skills training and sourcing funding. “We are not saying give us money; all we are requesting from you is information and referrals to other institutions that can help us access funds.”

He said they also needed skills that would help them to run professional enterprises. “Skills training is important to us as township businesses. We need to grow into professional enterprises.”

MphoSmall businesses need support, says Mpho PhalaThey asked Lemao to ensure that abandoned industrial buildings and vacant schools were handed over to small businesses to operate from them. “We must track down the owners of these buildings so that we can reach an agreement with them, to see how we can convert these into useful facilities,” said Gloria Fisher, another resident.

In response, Lemao urged the people to organise themselves: “Get together, combine your queries, come sit down together with us so that we come up with a practical and workable way forward that will benefit everyone.

“Your suggestions will help us to amend some of our programmes in the department and will be included in the City’s IDP and budget plans,” he said.

Mobile clinics
In the health and human development cluster, Vondo and his team were also down to work, taking note of the public’s input. People from informal settlements such as Elias Motsoaledi and Slovoville told Vondo that they needed mobile clinics to operate five days. At present they were open only three days a week.

They quarrelled that ambulances were not able to reach them because of bad gravel roads. “We have to carry patients to the main road. Because our streets are very bad, ambulances cannot drive on them,” said Bheki Moatse from Slovoville.

There was also a dire need for recreational facilitates in informal settlements. “Our children do not have a place to play after school. This is the reason why most of them end up enslaved to drugs and alcohol,” Moatse added.

Another cry was about non-operational community recreational facilities. “We have community centres that are always closed. We don’t know who uses these centres,” was one comment.

After listening intently to their views, Vondo assured people that the City would hit the ground running in attending to their queries. It was aiming high and would work together with all spheres of government, civil society and the community to improve people’s lives.

“Changing the city’s course is about re-directing our efforts to improve service delivery. Changing the city’s course is about improving stakeholder relations,” Vondo said. “It is the right of every citizen of the city to access an ambulance on time, to access recreational facilities.”

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