Reply to State of the Province Address

BY Bobby Stevenson MPL, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature

The Premier repeated the phrase that the state of the province is sound on more than one occasion during his speech. If you believe that you are living in your own echo chamber.  There is a reality gap and trust deficit between what government says and believes and what the government delivers and the actual reality on the ground.

The people of this province want change, not just new buzz words like “radical economic transformation” which we all know is a catch phrase for benefiting an existing elite while the unemployment numbers continue to grow in this province.

There can never be economic transformation when resources are skewed by jobs for pals, contracts for comrades and tenders for tjommies

All one will continue to get is radical corruption and looting like Mqnuma municipality purchasing 20 black plastic bags for R197 a pack when we all know the cost is less than R30 or Buffalo City councillors claiming costs to attend bogus conferences.

This is symptomatic of the radical rot in this province and a culture of greed and corruption that has infested the government. This structural corruption is a cancer eating away at the capacity to govern. Unless there is radical transformation within the hearts of the leaders in government throughout this province, the only thing that will continue to change is the declining fortunes of the ANC at the ballot box.

Honourable Premier, when I read through the State of the Province Address, I didn’t see a single reference to the word “game changer” or drivers for change.

I expected you to identify the critical success factors that will bring about the implementation of those game changers. Instead what I read was a collection of ideas that are not anchored in a futuristic vision of where you see the Eastern Cape going.

The problem is that the ANC is still locked into talking about the Democratic Revolution, whereas the world that we find ourselves in is going through the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A very significant point in your address was that the provincial planning commission is to be re-established. This commission needs to work on a continuous basis if this province is going to have clear plans going into the future. The future is changing all the time, and this province needs to be preparing for it. Otherwise, we will be left behind.

I would have expected the Premier’s State of the Province Address to spell out quite clearly the game changers to put this province on a new path.

One of the key global drivers for change in this world which we live in is the issue of technology. In the United Kingdom learners start on computer programming in Grade 1. In the year 2030, 20% of all jobs in the world will require knowledge of computer programming. In this province, only 10.8% of schools have computer facilities, and 5.7% have computer or science laboratories.

Honourable Premier, the education system in this province is preparing learners for jobs that will not exist and is not preparing them for jobs that will exist in 2030. If we are going to prepare our learners for jobs in the future we need to put a major emphasis on STEM subjects, namely being; Science, Technology, Engineering and  Mathematics. Yet basic literacy remains a problem with our province which is the lowest in the country when it comes to young people.

Our education system in its current form will continue to fail learners as long as your government is too afraid to implement competency testing and performance contracts for principals-something in operation in the Western Cape.

Inspectors need to be brought back into the classroom. These small steps can go a long way to improving the state of education in this province along with the rapid roll out of technology in our schools.

Honourable Premier, when we look at the importance of technology in schools, we need to understand further that the world of work is changing. In one province in China last year, 40 000 workers lost their jobs to robots.

What will happen in this province to jobs once the technological wave that is sweeping this world starts to really make its impact felt here? As a matter of urgency, we need to re-engineer our education system to prepare our learners for the new world of work that is going to await them. That is part of radical transformation that this province requires.

Reasons need to be found for why so many learners fall out of school between grade 10 and 12. In 2014 there were 154 220 learners in grade 10 and in 2016 only 82 902 in grade 12.This means 71 318 learners dropped out to add to the numbers of the lost generation in this province. These are indeed frightening statistics.

A second key driver for change is the economy and linked to this is the importance of free broadband rollout. The provincial government must take urgent measures to bridge the digital divide between the insiders who have access to Wi-Fi and outsiders and those with little or no access.

The lack of access to Wi-Fi or digital apartheid is stunting our provincial economy. For every increased 10% of the population that has access to the internet, the economy grows by 1,3 %. The DA believes that every resident in every town and every village should have access to a limited amount of free Wi-Fi.

Without it you cannot access job information, tender opportunities, bursaries and internships, do research and run or market a business. This will not only be a massive game changer to boost our economy but also a life changer for those who can access new opportunities.

Another life changer is the Mzimvubu Dam project which has languished in the doldrums like the rest of the economy of this province since it was first announced with great fun fare by the President in 2012.

There was a great expectation of tens of thousands of jobs flowing from the downstream activities, particularly for agriculture. Instead, it has become a victim of factional infighting as to how the contract is awarded. It has the potential to supply 720 000 households with clean water. Have any specific time frames been set as to when this project will actually get off the ground? 

Honourable Premier, another key driver for change is Safety and Security which is also linked to the economy.

The latest 2015/16 Victims of Crime Survey states that 26.9% of residents were prevented from keeping livestock and poultry due to fear of crime, the highest in South Africa.

Similarly, 19.9% of households were prevented from starting businesses due to fear of crime. This was also the highest percentage in the country. Likewise,90% believed that crime was committed because of drug-related needs.

Safety and security in this province can be greatly improved if we harness the new technologies that are available to us. Shot Spotter can triangulate gunshots in a community within three metres and within seconds notify a control room so a vehicle can be despatched. Time-over-distance cameras on our main arterial routes will be able to calculate whether or not vehicles are speeding.

Number plate recognition cameras on provincial patrol cars will be able to identify those people who are in stolen cars or have outstanding fines or warrants. Number plate recognition cameras along with CCTV in our main towns and cities will help to alleviate and bring down crime. Drones can assist with patrols in isolated areas and apprehend criminals on the run. All of this stems from a vision for the future.

Honourable Premier, another key driver for change is urbanisation. More and more people will, over the years to come, move to our cities. This is going to put increasing pressure on all services but particularly on our healthcare system.

One of the ways in which our health care system can be radically changed is using technology. Yet we find that doctors don’t have access to Wi-Fi in some hospitals which becomes important to access and share information. 3D printers can be utilised to manufacture hearts and ears and skin right here in South Africa. Do we have any in operation in the Eastern Cape?

The DA welcomes the improvement in the maternal death rate, the child mortality rate and the HIV prevalence rate.

Honourable Premier another issue that I wish to highlight is the whole debacle around the Algoa and Lorraine Frail Care Centres in Port Elizabeth. This is when I warned your government in this House in November that to close those centres without a plan in place was foolhardy.

It was an immoral act that was causing huge distress to the residents of those frail care centres. Two weeks ago my colleague Kobus Botha and I again warned against this step yet your government was obstinate. The National ministers of health and of social development had to intervene. The big question is why the contract was increased from around R8 000 per person in January 2014 to R18 000 a person. How much is outstanding that is owed by the Department to Life hospital group?

Honourable Premier, another key driver for change is the question of Good Governance. This means eradicating corruption, putting the right people in the right job.

Last year the provincial treasury could not spend R210 million on social infrastructure because of poor governance structures in Municipalities. Last year R530 million was lost by the Education Infrastructure grant because they could not spend the money. In the national adjustment budget, the National Department lost R50 million for school infrastructure in the Eastern Cape because they too could not spend the money.

Is anyone ever fired for non-performance in this province? The environment created by government makes a difference.

According to the latest Labour Force Statistics unemployment continues to grow in the Eastern Cape with an expanded rate of 41,3%. In Buffalo City, 26 000 people lost their jobs while in Nelson Mandela Bay there were 4 000 fewer people unemployed. Good governance works.

We need to create a climate in this province that is conducive to attracting investment. Only the private sector can create jobs. What is needed most is a province of entrepreneurs. Government must do its bit by eradicating corruption, fixing the infrastructure, improving safety, delivering services and governing well.

The consequences of not doing this are that people will vote with their feet.

According to the STATS SA Eastern Cape community survey for 2016, the net migration from this province was 489 686. That is almost 500 000 people who gave up on the Eastern Cape, and we know where they are heading.

The provincial government needs to identify the key drivers for change along with the critical success factors that will put the Eastern Cape on the high road to prosperity. 

This province requires radical change, and only the DA can rescue the Eastern Cape.  Honourable Premier, what this province requires is hope.

Hope is an energiser.
Hope creates forward momentum.
Hope creates change.

But hope needs to be linked to a vision. A vision of a province of rising opportunity for all. A vision linked to an inclusive future for all. The DA is that future.

 February 21, 2017
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