For the sake of the people
9 July 2019
I am glad that, for the first time in many years, Friday’s State of the Province Address was not just a copy and paste of previous years’ speeches because, over the past decade I have grown very bored of listening to the same old uninspiring rhetoric.
The Hon. Premier’s different take on SOPA, while not without its faults, was refreshing.
The Hon. Premier has clearly been studying best practise within the DA-run Western Cape government. Banning of blue light brigades and costly vehicles for himself and his cabinet, not to mention committing to lifestyle audits and pledging to develop a provincial ministerial handbook to further tighten up on unnecessary expenditure, are initiatives that mirror DA policy that has already been implemented where we govern. We therefore welcome these initiatives.
Cutting the costs of SOPA by doing away with the red carpet, the round tables and the fancy meals for select guests only, was also the right thing to do.
The Premier, however, should do himself and this province a favour and look into the current fiasco at the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature precinct. Had this project not been so direly mismanaged from the start, we might have been able to officially kick off the First Session of the Sixth Legislature, at the legislature building itself, at an even lower cost.
But this is a story for another day, a story that demands consequence management - something that the Hon. Premier will have to insist upon at all levels of government if he is indeed serious about creating a ‘modern, growing and successful province’.
As the Hon. Premier himself stated, this government is just going to have to close its eyes and take the necessary disciplinary steps against all those who are reckless with taxpayers’ money, regardless of who they are.
But on top of that, this government is also going to have to work hard to weed out those leaders who are not willing to make the personal sacrifices required in the “war against poverty” - to borrow your catch phrase.
An ANC mayor who disconnects the electricity of poor debtors, while he himself is said to owe the municipality R200 000 but continues to receive electricity, is a good place to start.
Hon. Speaker, too many residents of the Northern Cape, including myself, are deeply unhappy about the status quo of this province, and rightfully so.
In fact, it has become somewhat of an embarrassment to tell others where we come from. In their eyes, the Northern Cape is dirty and neglected. It is a dead-end province, without hope, without a future.
It is a picture that all of us in this House are familiar with:
- Increasingly unaffordable living costs;
- The highest youth unemployment rate in the country;
- The hardest place in the country in which to find a job;
- An overly high dependency on social grants for survival;
- An overly high rate of addiction to substances;
- A visibly declining education system;
- The province where residents are most likely to become victims of robberies and housebreakings;
- An ailing government health sector;
- Roads that are not “car-worthy” and pedestrian friendly;
- Severely limited transport options;
- A critical lack of working opportunities; and
- Corruption around every corner.
The task at hand is undeniably huge.
While the Hon. Premier’s failure to address these and other issues will enhance the DA’s chances come the next elections, for the sake of the people of the province, it is not our desire that the Premier should fail.
In fact, we could not bear the intensified suffering:
- Of children, whose lives are threatened by malnutrition brought on by extreme poverty;
- Of mothers, who risk their lives when they give birth in state hospitals;
- Of the aged, who rely on their little bit of pension money to raise their grandchildren;
- Of our sons and daughters, who bid farewell to their families in search of a better life overseas; and
- Of the many others who experience untold hardships under this government.
Hon. Speaker, just like the ANC, the DA also received a mandate, albeit not from the overwhelming majority, to turn this province around. Although the DA has been relegated to the opposition benches for yet another term, we also need to make good on our commitment to those who gave us their voice and their vote.
For the sake of our people, I therefore pledge my support, not to the ANC, but towards the Hon. Premier’s vision of a “modern, growing and successful Northern Cape”.
I just hope that the Hon. Premier also has the full support of his cabinet. I say this because the wave of change sweeping through the provincial administration has come across somewhat as a one-man-show.
The Hon. Premier speaks about corruption, yet on your doorstep you have the Deputy Speaker, who you have chosen to serve in your team, who has become a law unto himself. The Hon. Deputy Speaker Matika is defying you. I have it on good authority that he is instrumental in the affairs of Sol Plaatje and stands in the way of discussing the Section 106 Report. I am getting the impression that the Hon. Deputy Speaker is missing the pot of Pharaoh - it seems like he wants to go back.
I want to know what the Hon. Premier will do to ensure that the Section 106 report of Sol Plaatje gets discussed?
My recommendation is that the Hon. Premier not only ensures that he has the backing of his entire cabinet, but that he showcases their support as well. Show Kimberley and the Northern Cape who is in charge and start with Hon. Matika.
Hon. Speaker, the DA will steer clear of futile sparring matches with the ruling party. But do not get me wrong, as the main opposition, we still have a constitutional duty to hold the ANC government accountable, to expose mismanagement and corruption, to highlight service delivery failures and to conduct oversight inspections of organs of state.
We will strive to do this, not just for political gain, but rather to help move this administration out of its comfort zone and keep this government on its toes. Once again, this we will do for the sake of the people of our province.
In as much as we are willing to support the Hon. Premier, I therefore also call on the Hon. Premier, to support opposition parties to fulfil our mandate.
We require truthful and factual answers to parliamentary questions, as well as access to organs of state to conduct regular oversights. If not, how will we ever know that the Hon. Premier and his team are fulfilling the many promises made to the people?
In the spirit of working towards a common goal, I wish to go one step further today by showing that the DA is indeed committed to becoming an agent of change.
Hon. Speaker, earlier this year, together with Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Anton Bredell, we conducted an oversight inspection of the Homevale Sewerage Treatment Plant. The plant was completely dysfunctional, posing a health and safety risk to workers. It was, however, clear that the plant has very good infrastructure, which if utilised correctly, could see it transformed into a first-class plant.
In this regard, I hereby offer to personally facilitate the process of bringing a team of experts from the DA-run City of Cape Town to Kimberley, to assess the city’s dysfunctional Homevale Sewerage Works and to help the municipality develop a plan to ensure that the plant gets up and running before it culminates in disaster.
The offer is on the table.
See it as an extension of an olive branch to bridge the conformist system of South African politics; to enhance our multi-party democracy: and ultimately to get Kimberley and Sol Plaatje municipality working, so that we can get this province working again.
It is time to put our best foot forward because God knows, our people deserve better!
Hon. Speaker, the days of blaming the unfavourable national equitable share formula for the province’s failures, must come to an end.
Let me remind this House that the R7,2 billion irregular expenditure incurred by this provincial government over the last five years, could have built 45 000 RDP houses, with flushing toilets and water, just about eradicating the province’s massive housing backlog of over 53 000.
Let me also remind this house that, with the R2 billion spent on the yet to be opened new mental hospital, we could by now have had a functional psychiatric unit in each of the districts. The list can go on and on.
My advice to the Hon. Premier is therefore not to entertain run-of-the-mill excuses from officials or cabinet members for their own poor performance. The problems facing provincial government today are largely due to an inherent lack of accountability, not so much a lack of funding.
In fact, as we speak, Treasury and the Legislature are grappling with writing off accumulated unauthorised expenditure amounting to more than R550 million, that was incurred by provincial departments from 2010/11 to 2015/16. Once again, this was due to a lack of accountability.
Hon. Speaker, not only has there been a dire lack of accountability with regards to the handling of state funds, but also of government projects.
In this regard, I have noted a number of well-meaning, yet recycled initiatives announced by the Hon. Premier. They have been cited over many years in former Provincial Growth and Development Plans and Annual Performance Plans but have never properly taken off:
- The Inspire Programme, a collaboration of the South African government and the Finish Government, led to the development of the Northern Cape Information Society Strategy. This strategy was developed in 2009 and concluded in 2012 and it lies at the Office of the Premier. Pilot classes were launched and implemented and funded in terms of a Smart Class at Moremogole College and the Teacher Training College. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. An information society strategy lies on your desk that simply requires to be reviewed and updated. Would that not be better value for money?
- In addition, the Department of Science and Technology already launched the Northern Cape phase of the wireless mesh network technology demonstrator project in John Taole Gaetsewe district municipality in 2014.
- The Central Chronic Medication Dispensing and Distribution is not new, it is just not fully operational yet. At present, a total of 53 164 patients are already enrolled on the programme to enable them to receive their pre-packed chronic medication at an approved outside pick up point. The challenge, however, is that 96% of these patients still receive their parcels at a health facility.
- This is also not the first war on poverty and unemployment to have been declared. Think back to the Balelapa Project launched in 2010, and the subsequent war room on poverty.
Hon. Speaker, is it not time that the Hon. Premier also starts holding government officials accountable for spending money on plans that were never implemented, or implemented without success?
Hon. Speaker, I must also express my scepticism in response to pronouncements on the long-awaited Bloodhound Project. I am not averse to this scientific project. However, this project has been coming on for almost a decade. While it is a worthy project, it is not, and never has been, the answer to the Northern Cape’s tourism industry.
We have seen time and time again that basing economic growth on mega projects only leads to disappointment. We therefore call on the Premier to rather work towards the Northern Cape becoming a destination of choice in its own right.
In response to the focus on skills development and tertiary education in the province, I urge the Hon. Premier to ensure that established centres of learning are working before looking towards expansion.
Hon. Speaker, both the Henrietta Stockdale Nursing College and the EMS Training College continue to face the threat of loss of accreditation. A combination of issues relating to the finalisation of the curricula, college infrastructure challenges, no internet connectivity, no budget allocation and staff shortages are the main culprits.
Let us therefore fix what we have first. Both the skills of nurses and emergency care practitioner are sorely needed in the Northern Cape and it is critical that the two respective colleges are nurtured towards good health.
I further wish to caution the Hon. Premier in his somewhat conformist quest to establish a Northern Cape State Mining Company. As well-meaning as his intentions may be, state-owned entities have a dismal track record and are well known to require constant bailouts to stay afloat. Even here in the Northern Cape - just look at Alelxkor.
I daresay, there are more creative ways to grow the economy than falling into the trap of yet another state-owned entity.
With large mining houses said to be procuring around R18 billion in the province, there is massive scope to focus on procurement as a major driver of job creation in the Northern Cape.
The province could look towards developing a mining services network that would cover aspects of technical mining services, catering, transport and entertainment for local procurement, with a focus on developing a logistical hub in Upington.
The DA also proposes greater focus on mineral beneficiation as a major job creator and enabler in the province. At the same time, constraints to beneficiation, such as policies, access to raw materials at developmental prices, infrastructure, limited innovation and required critical skills, must be addressed.
This will entail developing partnerships in fields such as copper smelting, zinc beneficiation, iron and manganese beneficiation, with an end goal in developing iron, zinc and manganese refineries within the Northern Cape, particularly in Postmasburg, which is the railway hub of Transnet and dispatches the 200-wagon train daily to Saldanah Bay for the export market.
As refineries are heavily energy intensive, these refineries would need to be linked to independent power producers in the renewable energy strategy.
The DA therefore supports the advancement of a solar revolution in the Northern Cape, which has yet to be transformed into the green economic hub that it should be.
Currently, 70% of SA’s renewable energy manufacturing takes place in the DA-led Western Cape, resulting in our country being the fastest growing green economy in the world, according to Moody’s.
Imagine the additional benefits for the Northern Cape, which is twice as big as the Western Cape, if this province could amplify this programme.
Imagine just how many jobs could be created.
I have already looked at potential partners, like Feldheim Municipality in Brandenburg and Ascha Municipality in Bavaria, to partner with the Northern Cape to make this province ready for the green economy and to establish a model town in the Northern Cape that is 100% dependent on renewable energy. I will gladly share my thoughts with the Hon. Premier, if he so wishes.
In concluding, I wish the Hon. Premier well in his endeavours to transform the Northern Cape.
We are 100% behind change that will improve the lives of all our people. We are also 100% behind efforts to create a unified, tolerant, non-racial and non-sexist society.
We will closely monitor government to ensure that the many promises made during the 6th Legislature are implemented. And if they are not, we will be there to hold you to account, and to take over the reins of this province come 2024.
Issued by Andrew Louw, DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader, 9 July 2019