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Township entrepreneurs have lashed the Gauteng government for its failure to spread opportunities and to regulate the liquor industry.

Hundreds of entrepreneurs gathered at the Phefeni Recreation Centre in Soweto for a small business sector engagement with economic development MEC Parks Tau on Wednesday.

The interaction with township businesses is aimed at getting more insight into problems that have restricted growth in the sector, thus leaving many youth unemployed.

Speaking to Sowetan on the sidelines of the engagement, Nthabiseng Matsele, who runs a company based in Naledi, which sources goods and services, said getting business from government departments had become almost impossible.

Matsele told Sowetan that in most instances, government officials inform her that as a registered supplier, her company would be picked up by software for the next business opportunity.

“But you wait and wait and the system never picks you to get work. It is difficult to get jobs from the government because they already have their people. They give you the same excuse that the price was high even if you know that is not the case. Even in the local councillor’s office they do the same thing. Because they don’t know you, they don’t give you work.

“We feel that our government, which talks upliftment, is not keeping its word. We feel as if the government is just pushing us down because we are not getting opportunities. How are we supposed to create the jobs that are needed if we do not get opportunities?” Matsele asked.

Matsele’s business, TshepoMaps Trading and Projects, sources stationery for schools, cleaning material and furniture for government departments.

Musa Ntshangase, secretary of the Gauteng Liquor Forum, said the sector has been overrun by illegal traders who have shrunk the market.

“Illegal liquor traders are mushrooming like bunnies. People know that if they lose their job,there is only one option, to go and sell liquor. Now we are losing business as too many of us in the township are competing for the same market.

“We are losing customers to people who do not know the law. They do not know what time they should open, what time they should close. We feel the current legislation is unable to control this problem,” Ntshangase said.

The Gauteng Liquor Forum has about 20,000 members – most of whom are in the township and who operate distributions centres, bottle stores, taverns and shebeens.

Provincial government has made a commitment to develop programmes that will grow the township economy, which has been depressed for decades. Among the interventions that the government wants to introduce is the Gauteng township economic development bill, aimed at removing all the hurdles faced by black businesses.

The procurement that Matsele is complaining about is one of the tools that are supposed to be used by the  government to grow township businesses.

Tebogo Sithathu, who runs a company called Vintage Heritage, which specialises in intellectual property, said the government has not opened doors for such unique enterprises.

“As young people we have ideas that we can bring to solve problems, even in the public sectors. We want them to open doors. For example, a lot of people wait in long queues when they visit public hospitals. As a solution, we can collate young people to develop an app which will enable people to queue from home and not wake up in the early hours of the morning,” said Sithathu.

Tau said the department is piloting a new database which will be used to spread opportunities among suppliers in the province. The database will for now be used for the agricultural sector, where all producers will register and their produce be pulled together to supply hospitals, government departments and even the SA National Defence Force.

“We are using agriculture as a starting point.”