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Entrepreneurs let down by Gauteng government agency

10 July 2017 - 08:23 By Sipho Mabena
File photo.
File photo.
Image: Supplied

The multi-million rand Gauteng Enterprise Propeller‚ a provincial agency meant to finance and nurture entrepreneurs‚ has left a string of broken promises and shattered dreams in its wake.

Thousands of rands worth of tools funded by the agency for budding entrepreneurs are gathering dust at their homes‚ unusable because the agency has failed to follow through.

Some of the would-be entrepreneurs promised R35,000 grants have received nothing but business cards and signboards.

The agency is part of the province’s grand plan to stimulate economic growth‚ job creation and skills development through assisting small‚ macro and medium enterprises.

The embittered entrepreneurs said this was merely a pipe dream.

Panelbeater Themba Masilela’s business‚ Masilela’s Foundation Automotive‚ registered in August 2015‚ exists only on paper but he got a brand-new welding machine worth R6 000 and an auto body repair kit worth R2,000 through the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller.

But right now the equipment is gathering dust in his RDP house in Winterveldt‚ north of Pretoria.

“I responded to an entrepreneur roadshow organised by the agency here in the township. I attended a workshop and was helped to register the company.

“I was sent from pillar to post when I enquired about the R35,000 business grant I was promised. In August last year I think they got tired of my pestering and called me to collect my tools at a local supplier‚” he said.

Masilela‚ 38‚ was given an R8,000 grant‚ so he bought the welding machine and the auto body repair kit.

That was the last time he interacted with the agency.

This is a far cry from the agency’s noble promises of access to finance‚ personalised service‚ advice and guidance‚ access to support skills and aftercare service through relationship managers and mentors.

“What car can I possibly repair with only a welding machine and an auto body repair kit? For a basic start‚ I need at least R56,000 worth of tools and equipment. The promised R35 000 grant would have gone a long way‚” Masilela said.

According to the agency’s 2016-2017 annual performance plan‚ it spent more than R154.7-million in 2013-2014‚ R153-million in 2014-2015 and R260-million in 2015-2016.

The document states that in 2016-2017 R176-million would be made available to assist SMMEs‚ R188-million in 2017-2018 and R199-million 2018-2019.

Abel Molefe‚ a backyard mechanic in Atteridgeville‚ west of Pretoria‚ said he was shocked when he arrived at the agency’s Hatfield office after being called there to collect his material.

“I was given business cards and a signboard with the name of my business. When I asked what happened to my grant‚ I was told the service provider had disappeared with the funds‚” he said.

Touchesmove Chingange‚ 60‚ a Pretoria mechanic‚ said the co-operative he started with four other mechanics collapsed after it was failed by the agency.

All they have to show for their grant is a signboard outside Chingange’s Atteridgeville home and fuel-system cleaning materials he cannot use without a compressor.

“They are very good at promising but zilch on delivery. All this talk of ‘township economy revitalisation’ is pie in the sky‚” he said.

Castro Ngobese‚ a spokesman for the Gauteng department of economic development‚ said he needed more information to investigate the claims but said that last year the agency supported 4,609 SMMEs and 1,413 co-operatives‚ creating 8,672 jobs‚ and would continue to do so.

A total of 746 township-based informal businesses were also supported‚ he said.

Ngobese added that the agency would continue providing assistance to SMMEs and cooperatives through the grant funding programmes with its township economic revitalisation strategy.

- TimesLIVE

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