Another State of Business Address and the neglect of the majority by the Western Cape provincial government
23 February 2021
The South African Communist Party (SACP) in the Western Cape notes the State of the Province Address as delivered by Premier Alan Winde on 17 February 2021. The address was truly reflective of the ideological character of the organisation that leads our province. Therefore, to call it a State of the Province Address is an insult to the majority of the people of the Western Cape. Rather, it should appropriate its true name as informed by the content of the speech which is the State of Business Address.
The speech had nothing to do with the majority of the people of the Western Cape but addressed the interests of big business. The endemic challenges and solution-driven proposal about problems facing the Western Cape had no one to address. Hence, to us as the SACP in the Western Cape, challenges that affect the working class require no narrow self-serving government to address, this largely because they have been continuing unabated and we strongly believe much of the challenges that the working class is currently faced with have reached the state of being humanitarian crisis in the province.
The state of the Western Cape health facilities has been known to be prone to overcrowding in hospitals, and this crisis predates Covid-19. In the Western Cape, the public health system remains in shambles with hospitals that are debilitating. Community health clinics which are the first point of contact for the people have always been known for overcrowding and long queues, with citizens being turned back in some instances. Part of the reason for the pressure in hospitals that are in the metro was largely because of the demolishing of GF Jooste hospital by the provincial government. To date they have been unable to rebuild the hospital.
Further, the Western Cape has seen 275 099 positive cases of coronavirus and 10 965 deaths. The Premier portrays the provincial government to have been consistently fighting against the surge of Covid-19. The reality, however, is that the Western Cape has been ball-watching in the fight against this pandemic from the first hard lockdown. Premier Alan Winde has never supported the idea of a lockdown to curb the spread of the virus because to him and his organisation they believe in the motto thus, Profit First, the rest shall follow.
The Western Cape provincial government became a champion of rebellion against the national government on the implementation of lockdown regulations, while the people of the Western Cape largely complied with national regulations, though they were consistently confused by the Western Cape government’s irresponsible message. The reckless public message and conduct of the Western Cape government were purely responsible for the surge during the first wave. It is communities themselves and organisations like Khayelitsha Development Forum that took leadership whilst the provincial government was being rebellious.
Fighting crime and making our communities safer
The State of the Province Address by the Western Cape Premier demonstrates a government that exists outside of the Western Cape’s concrete realities. The Premier did everything possible to avoid what is actually happening on the ground, but only focused on some fictitious idealistic situation that does not define the realities in the province today. His public relations exercise would not say that he leads a province that is the capital of all forms of crimes. The City of Cape Town is a well-known murder capital of South Africa. The reason to avoid mentioning this reality is a clear demonstration of a failure and unwillingness to fight crime.
In his speech, the Premier continued to imagine South Africa as a federal state than being a unitary state. He talks about strengthening the role of Provincial Ombudsperson. But he does not say anything about a 2013 report of the same Ombudsperson that is gathering dust as its recommendations have never been implemented by the same government. The Province was directed to enhance visible policing by ensuring that all communities have access roads and streetlights are working, amongst other things. Once again, the Premier still drives the campaign to further deepen divisions within the South African Police Services (SAPS) in the Western Cape as they have done over the years. Thus, his idea of strengthening oversight has nothing to do with actual oversight but the desire for control of the SAPS. Hence, as a second option, he builds his army calling it law enforcement, something which we do not need. The coexistence of the SAPS and battalions of law enforcers have proven not to be a good idea in a democratic country. One of the sad realities was when law enforcement shot and killed an undercover police officer, a subsequent investigation to which the City of Cape Town never cooperated.
Further, the exclusion of communities in the fight against crime shows that the anti-crime fight claimed by the provincial government is not genuine. The abrupt ending of the Bambanani neighbourhood watch still haunts many of our communities. Crime will only drop when communities are involved, when apartheid spatial planning is no longer pursued, when unemployment is ended, when poverty is understood not as a choice but an agenda of the capitalist class, and when class inequality has been ended. The fighting of crime needs no promotion of federalism, but objective pursuance of a non-racial and society of equals. On this score, the SACP in the Western Cape maintains its call for an end in proliferation of policing, but, rather, an establishment of an integrated policing.
The continued empty rhetoric of the so-called “housing opportunities” by the current government in the Western Cape whilst they refuse to build houses for the poor is appalling. The reality is that Western Cape has a housing backlog of 400 000 but the pace of the government will never reduce such a margin. The housing question in the Western Cape is a humanitarian crisis, therefore it requires a government of the people to resolve it, not the current government of the rich few. The Premier delivered his speech in Genedendal, in Overberg District, an area where farm evictions are a daily activity unjustly pursued against farm workers. He made no mention of such injustice. This includes gentrification that is forever meted on the people of Woodstock and Salt River.
Thus, the challenge of housing has caused many communities to be affected and infected by Covid-19, not because they could not observe Covid-19 safety protocols but due to the state of their human settlement as many squatter camps are very dense. Secondly, Covid-19 presented an opportunity for the de-densification of the squatter camps but the federalist approach of the Western Cape government made the programme fail the people as the DA government at all levels decided to frustrate the programme.
Housing is a humanitarian crisis in the Western Cape because there are perpetual disasters that are seasonal. During the Winter season, communities are subjected to floods and in summer they are vulnerable to shack fires. In his speech, the Premier decided to ignore the recent incident that displaced more than 7000 people in Masiphumelele and Taiwan. So was the perishing of four children in Nyanga in a hole as a result of sand mining. The collapse of infrastructure in many communities is a result of overcrowding deepened further by the provincial government’s unwillingness to build houses for the people.
The Premier remains in the oblivion of the underperforming Western Cape department of education. The lack of adequate support for working-class schools remains the challenge that impacts negatively in the outcome of matric examinations. The overcrowding of schools and understaffing remains a dominant feature of Western Cape schools.
Lack of proper planning for an academic year continues to persist. As a result, there are more than 10 000 learners not yet placed in schools, up from 6 000 last year. This challenge is compounded by the reality of employing a pensioner to be a HOD of education, a flagrant violation of the Public Service Act.
On the economy
The Premier presented no economic intervention or plan. The emphasis on a national project like Saldanha IDZ and Atlantis SEZ, both of which are national initiatives, is a clear indication that the provincial government has no plan at all.
Federalism and Constitution
The SACP has long advocated for the review on the need for provinces as they were always a threat to the unitary state that people envisage. The Western Cape is a full-blown federal-state given the conduct of those who are leading it. The provincial constitution is used to undermine the constitution of the country. It is the very narrow argument the Premier has been advancing to undermine the lockdown regulation by promoting chaos on beaches.
The SACP in the Western Cape condemns the ongoing attempt by the Western Cape government to opportunistically subvert the country’s constitution to the so-called provincial constitution. This is the very same constitution that has made the Western Cape remain racially biased, keep apartheid spatial planning, and subject the working class to poverty and underdevelopment for the benefit of the capitalist class. The Western Cape constitution promotes no social emancipation but is a paper that defends big business.
The empty speech of the Premier will make no fundamental impact on the people of the Western Cape. Inequality, poverty, unemployment and exploitative racial conditions will persist. In addition, the scourge of crime, particularly the heinous crimes that have defined the Western Cape, will continue to keep the majority of the people living in fear.
Issued by Benson Ngqentsu, SACP Western Cape Provincial Secretary, 23 February 2021