Building vibrant and sustainable co-operative enterprises that stimulate the social economy of the province

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Mr Mbulelo Jolingana
In laying down the foundation for the conference Mr Jolingana spelt out that the conference was held in line with the Eastern Cape Provincial Co-operative Development Strategy (2009-2014) and the main objectives of the 2nd Provincial Indaba were presented as follows;

  • to highlight the role played by Co-operatives in the economy.

  • to provide a platform for dialogue on movement building.

  • to promote research on key issues that affects the co-operative sector.

  • to provide a platform where co-operative enterprises, government, donors, academics and other experts (local and International) in the field of Co-operative sector interact and network.

  • to highlight and disseminate innovative and cutting edge information on best practices in the development of the co-operative sector in the province.

In view of the main theme four sub-themes were drawn to guide the presentations and discussions and these included:

  • Co-operatives Movement Building

  • Institutional Capacity Building for Co-operatives

  • Financing Model for Co-operatives Enterprises

  • Leveraging on Public Sector Procurement Opportunities


Dr Jabulani Mjwara

Representing the University of Fort Hare’s Vice Chancellor, Dr Mjwara in his speech, alluded to the Freedom chatter of 1956 which states that “The people shall share in the

Country’s wealth”. In addition to that everyone shall have equal rights to participate in the wealth and in its generation in the country. Dr Mjwara spelt out that in line with the Freedom Chatter the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in its preamble highlights the constitution’s primary purpose to restore the dignity of all the citizens of the country who were previously oppressed. Dr Mjwara stated that one of the forms of oppression of the Black majority was around access to knowledge and this was the cornerstone of racism in the country which took away the notion of self worth and dignity. The ultimate reality was that the Black and African majority were deprived of equal opportunity to education through segregated and unequal schooling which specifically aimed to under-skill them so that they could not compete in a job market. This effectively relegated the African majority to becoming a reservoir of unskilled labourers yet essential in building a White apartheid economy as we have come to know it today. Dr Mjwara noted that up to date there is a continued struggle to transform the education system so as to emancipate people to fully participate in the wealth and the economy of the country. The co-operative movement therefore has an obligation to change the negative construct of the apartheid regime.

He noted that the Institutions of Higher learning have a critical role to play in the realisation of this ideal, however at present these institutions are far from making a significant impact. He noted the need to refine the curricula and the methods of teaching people to meaningfully participate in co-operatives. Countries in East Asia and India have shown that higher education with good governance and sound infrastructure backed by well-articulated transformative curricula yield to massive improvement in development.

Giving an example of the IFCD Dr Mjwara underlined that through skills development the Institutions of Higher learning should transform the contribution of co-operatives to the country’s economy. Dr Mjwara asserted that there was a need to change the fallacy that co-operatives are for indigent people. To support his assertion he gave an example of a co-operative in China where young Computer Science graduates 10years ago formed a co-operative which now earns ten billion dollars a year.

Through focussed efforts in business, organisational and service innovation the co-operatives across the world are beginning to make rapid progress in building robust economic opportunities both within urban and rural spheres. According to the International Co-operative Alliance this organisation boasts 222 member organisations from 85 countries and representing more than 800 million individuals worldwide. Dr Mjwara argued that it is therefore not possible that so many people can all be wrong about co-operatives.

In his conclusion Dr Mjwara pointed out that the Higher Learning Institutions are and remain a critical component of ensuring that co-operatives are fully supported with skills and latest economic growth models, even if Governments can pour billions in this industry, if they are not backed by this they are bound to fail. The Institute for Co-operative Development was challenged to ensure that co-operatives are competitive, adaptive and offer solutions to the developing State. Furthermore, the Institute was urged to continue to offer excellent strategic support to co-operatives and to be a pillar of strength for co-operatives in the Eastern Cape, in the country and in the continent.


Mr Mcebisi Jonas
The honourable MEC Mr Mcebisi Jonas in his speech posed questions on whether the strategies and programmes set up to support co-operative development in the country have yielded the required outcomes. The MEC expressed the need for these strategies and programmes to be located within the broader initiatives to build the economy. He stressed that the dialogue should not be engaged in for discussion’s sake but that new ideas on co-operatives development should be generated. The MEC challenged the conference on the need for co-operatives to begin to inform Government on how to be more effective in its intervention.

He pointed out that there was a legitimate doubt the economy is in the right track which fact has seen the publication of the New Growth Path in recent months, alternative policy documents by Cosatu and Busa and considerable public debate. He identified some of the key challenges that contribute to the current economic underperformance as follows

  • the predominance of Monetary policy over Industrial policy which has resulted in an over-valued currency and high interest rates, leading to de-industialisation

  • the exceptionally poor socio-economic inheritance of democratic SA and the ongoing unstable global context,

  • ambivalence towards the private sector, capital expansion, and issues related to costs of doing business in South Africa.

  • the failure to invest sufficiently in skills development and logistics;

  • the failure to create a new efficient and professional government bureaucracy that is so crucial to stimulating capital’s development and social development generally.

MEC Jonas emphasised that unless the above factors are dealt with, the efforts to develop co-operatives will be undermined. In view of this the MEC upheld the need to broaden the effort to build sustainable co-operatives and locate them within the New Growth Path, IPAP2 and the Provincial Industrial Development Strategy. In view of the survivalist state of most of the co-operatives in the province the MEC spelt out a couple of steps that needs to be taken which include,

  • linking co-operatives development to a broader political co-operatives movement that is able to mobilise society behind the idea of co-operatives and this should be driven outside the state, although may be strongly supported by the state,

  • the need to be organised, with clear policy proposals and speak with one voice in interacting with Government,

  • consolidating state support programmes aimed at co-operatives development,

  • creation of one common platform with clear programmes around which the various organs of state collaborate. This must include Imvaba Fund, the Institute for Co-operatives Development, the regional co-operative development centres, and the relevant national agencies.

In his concluding remarks the MEC underscored the fact that it is a learning curve and much better results are expected in the near future. He highlighted the current focus on product development and market access support. On this pursuit the state markets will be key and the department is working with DTI on a range of designated products that will be locally procured.

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