By Sinazo Mkoko

Mpumalanga, the province of the “sunrise”, a home to a global icon, Esther Mahlangu, whose work is featured in collections across the globe, the province where the country’s largest and most loved park – Kruger National – stretches across to neighbouring Limpopo, is one of the country’s richest provinces in the tourism sector. The province is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, from the deep green forests, to picturesque landscapes and savannahs replete with ‘the big 5’.

Growing the economy

The Mpumalanga provincial government is forging forward with its plan to support local and inclusive formal and informal economic development that will benefit those who reside in this province. In efforts to achieve this, Mpumalanga municipalities have been urged to consider reviewing their by-laws so that they are biassed towards strengthening support to the ever-growing informal economy in the province.

The MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism in the province, Vusumuzi Mkhatshwa, was addressing executive mayors in the province and their respective Members of Mayoral Committees (MMCs) responsible for local economic development, during an engagement, aimed to discuss various economic development issues. 

Hon. Mkhatshwa said the municipal by-laws, in their current form, are not transformative or developmental in respect of the informal economy, and unless they are reformed swiftly, the province may not be able to achieve the goals of addressing the perpetuity of the informality of the sector. “I am aware that municipalities started reviewing their by-laws in 2018, but the review process has not been concluded to date. It therefore behoves this MunMEC, to find a lasting solution to this context-specific matter because it affects the informal traders disproportionately,” he said. 

He urged the municipalities to consider standardising their by-laws, so that they “become the same, and are applied uniformly across all municipalities in the province” adding that that the informal economy should be prioritised, continuously supported and nurtured, given its significant contribution to job creation and to economic growth activities of municipalities.


Boosting tourism

The local municipalities were also encouraged to establish desks dedicated to tourism, “given that this function does not receive the particular attention it deserves from some municipalities.”

Hon. Mkhatshwa stated: “In the context of tourism, a sector which we have characterised as a goose which lays golden eggs for our provincial economy, it is not finding sufficient and desired expression in municipalities; most municipalities do not have tourism desks or personnel dedicated to specifically deal with the tourism sector issues. In most cases, the tourism function is situated within the Local Economic Development (LED) units, and usually LED managers have a lot on their table to deal with, thus, it is critically important that there is a dedicated person dealing with tourism, so that the sector enjoys the overwhelming support of the municipalities.

The executive mayors agreed that their respective by-laws were not favourable to the informal sector and they were lagging behind in giving the sector the priority it deserves and vowed to improve the current situation. The members also unanimously agreed that the by-laws should be reviewed and amended accordingly, so as to favour and benefit informal traders operating in respective municipal spaces, as part of revitalising the township and rural economies.


Provincial Economy Summit

Local councillors urged that the issue of revitilising small industries in their respective spaces, should be discussed during the planned August Provincial Economic Summit, as this will boost job creation opportunities. Mpumalanga is set to host the Economic Summit, during which the Premier, Ms. Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane, will officially launch the Mpumalanga Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (MERRP). The aim of the MERRP is to mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and people’s livelihoods and place the provincial economy on a growth trajectory that creates more job opportunities through a massive infrastructure economic and social rollout programme.

Presenting at the National Council of Provinces in September last year, the provincial government stated that while the COVID-19 pandemic had put at risk achievement of the envisaged priorities in the National Development Plan (NDP) and Mpumalanga (MP) Vision 2030, there came an opportunity to reshape the provincial economy by building a new, inclusive economy that benefits all people of Mpumalanga.  “The MERRP identifies critical actions and key outcomes that should be taken in the short and medium terms in order to put the province on a positive trajectory”. 



Mpumalanga Department of Economic Development and Tourism