Speech fails to move DA, Cope: Premier glossed over problems

TURNING the beleaguered provincial Department of Education around and job creation were chief among Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet’s priorities when she delivered her State of the Province address at the Bhisho Legislature yesterday.

Marking the halfway point of her first term at the head of provincial government, the Premier’s speech again focused on six priority areas: Job creation; Structure development; Rural development; Strengthening education and health; Fighting crime and corruption; and Building a developmental state.

The Education Department has come under fire from national government and stakeholders for disastrous management, which has led to over 6 000 vacant teacher posts, and the suspension of the school nutrition and scholar transport programmes.

Kiviet blamed the department’s woes on poor human resources planning and management.

She said the department must fill all vacant teacher posts in six months.

“As we move forward we are determined that educators be appointed in schools with a 50-100 percent vacancy rate and to schools without maths and science educators with immediate effect,” she said.

The Premier also said measures had been put in place to ensure that learner and teacher support materials would be at schools by the end of the month.

Scholar transport would also be reinstated for deserving schools and pupils by the end of April.

The problems she listed were also highlighted by national Education Minister Angie Motshekga and President Jacob Zuma this week, when they spoke of a possible takeover of the Education Department in the province.

In a bid to address government’s mandate of job creation, Kiviet said all provincial departments had been instructed to fill all funded vacancies by the end of June.

She also announced a number of infrastructure developments to accelerate service delivery and lure investment.

Among these are various projects in Mthatha, and over R900 million additional housing infrastructure for Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City metros.

She also announced that R1.5 billion will be made available, in the next three years, for Mdantsane’s Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, St Patrick’s in Bizana, and St Elizabeth and Frontier hospitals in Lusikisiki and Queenstown.

She said the province would continue to lobby government and Stateowned enterprises to support key strategic projects in the province, including the Umthombo-Petro SA project in the Coega IDZ, which could create 22 000 jobs.

Kiviet said lessons learnt from the “successful” Rural Development Pilot in Mhlontlo meant the project could be rolled out to six wards in six districts, and more than R100 million was committed for revitalising agricultural schemes.

She said efforts to fight corruption in the province were finally yielding results, citing the troublesome Department of Health, where 122 employees had been dismissed for corruption, as an example.

Kiviet’s speech received lukewarm reception from the two main opposition parties in the Eastern Cape with Democratic Alliance MPL Bobby Stevenson, saying Kiviet’s speech did not really touch on the province’s problems.

“The Premier correctly focused on jobs and development. However, she did not make any game-changing announcements. One would have expected something very substantial to the education crisis.

“For example, we would suggest a skills audit to root out the poor management in that department.

“There was nothing said about the possible financial over-expenditure in the province of R3.7 billion. There was nothing said about the water crises in this province.

“The Nelson Mandela Metro could run out of water in August if there is no intervention. She simply glossed over the problems at local municipal level,” said Stevenson.

When she dealt with corruption he had expected something significant like tender reform, he added.

The Chief Whip for the ANC’s official opposition in the Legislature, Cope’s Mbulelo Ntenjwa, said: “The area I think we are not happy about is the area of rural development. The Premier seems to be piloting this rural development and is not able to account how much impact the project had at Mhlontlo.” —