Speech by Athol Trollip – Reply to Sopa address

The debate on premier Phumulo Masualle’s State of the Province Address will take place this afternoon and tomorrow in the Bhisho Legislature. (Subs:  Tuesday and Wednesday, 1-2 July 2014).

Below is the speech by the DA Leader in the Legislature, Athol Trollip.

Hon Speaker

Hon Members and Members of the public. It seems somewhat farcical to be debating the SOPA for the second time in one year, especially since very little has changed and what we had was essentially the passing of the baton from one ANC Premier to another.

However it must be noted that if the DA continues to grow at the rate that we did (of 63% in this past election, the passing of the baton will soon be from an ANC Premier to a DA Premier.)

Thank you Hon. Premier for your congratulations for our election to this house. The DA is indeed proud of becoming the official opposition and of achieving almost three times more votes than the next biggest opposition party.

We also take our role of being the official opposition very seriously and in this regard I wish to quote the words of Ayn Rand (Russian Jewish American philosopher) from 1957:

“When you see money flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors.  When you see that men get richer by graft and pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you.  When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming self-sacrifice, you may know that your society is doomed.”

Hon. Members I would venture that if one measured our society against this yardstick, we would be found wanting.

In this regard Hon. Premier, I commend you for undertaking to introduce radical new measures to combat fraud and corruption in government institutions. You said that all public office bearers and government officials facing serious fraud and corruption charges will be relieved of their duties until finalization of the investigations”.

There is however a most concerning irony in this regard as your new MEC for Finance, Hon.  Sakhumzi Somyu saw it fit to go to Buffalo City last week to tell his comrades to stay in office, despite the ANC Spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa’s call for them to take leave of absence. In a radio discussion with MEC Qoboshiyane after the SOPA , he said that the implicated and charged elected office bearers and ANC officials would be referred to the Integrity Commission.

One of the resolutions emanating from the 53rd ANC National conference in Mangaung was the establishment of Integrity Commissions at all levels of the organization. These commissions were meant amongst other things to ensure “that urgent action is taken to deal with public officials, leaders and members of the ANC who face damaging allegations of improper conduct. In addition, measures should be put in place to prevent abuse of power or office for private gain”.

We know that the people from BCM that have been charged are ANC representatives and office bearers. Why have they not been brought before an ANC Integrity Commission or suspended until resolution of the investigation as per your recommendation? Is it because there is a lack of “preparedness to take tough decisions” or is this made more difficult to implement by the fact that the President of the ANC himself is implicated in so many cases of abuse of power for alleged personal gain?

I wish to remind this house what happened in Kenya regarding the establishment of a ministry to combat corruption as described in Michaela Wrong’s book entitled “It’s our turn to eat” John Githongo was forced to flee his ministry and his country of birth for fear of his life, because his colleagues didn’t like being investigated and exposed for corruption.

I fear that corruption has become so pervasive in this province that those who try to root it out, will come under similar threat.

Your call for “all of us to stand together in partnership to fight the cancer of corruption and to work in partnership with a greater sense of urgency as well as improved accountability” is also commended and all I can say in this regard is “from your lips to God’s ears and those of all your colleagues in local and provincial government”.

Your warning that, “In this administration there is no space for non-performing public office bearers and government officials”, and that “those placed in positions of responsibility have to get their act together and lead their department’s or face the consequences” will either come to define your term of office as a singular success or it will define your tenure as a failure if you don’t have the courage to take tough decisions.

With regard to the now notorious Buffalo City corruption scam, I read with interest Redi Tlhabi’s column in the Sunday Times, entitled “How low will we go before we say enough is enough?”

She says, “If the hawks are correct, then this would have to be one of the most obscene and rotten acts of selfishness we have ever seen”  (I assume because these people determined that the death of Madiba signaled their “turn to eat”)

She went on to say “The question that fascinates me now is why the public’s response to this story has been so emphatic. Why are members of the public not even entertaining the idea of giving the accused the benefit of the doubt”?

She says it’s “because we have been here before, so many times before. And those accused of stealing from the public purse are seldom exonerated. The Eastern Cape in particular, is among the provinces that constantly perform below par when it comes to service delivery and financial controls”.

This lament or refrain is tragically an indictment of your party and its preceding governments. We have got a bad reputation because we deserve it!

Hon. Premier, you took your cue about the state of local government from the President who in his State of the Nation Address said that peoples experience of local government should be a pleasant one. This is an oxymoron because local government experience in this province for everyone is not a pleasant one.

You both spoke about revitalizing local government and in this regard I must commend Cacadu district municipality for being identified as one of the top 11 performing municipalities.

There was regrettably though a long list of municipalities from this province, including the Amathole, OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo district councils that require intervention from the inter-ministerial task team under Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Minister Gordhan has already identified that “good municipal management is only possible if the necessary skills are in place”. This remains a major challenge in our municipalities compounded by cadre deployment.

He also identified that the most important aspect to successful local government is determined by “the attitude or inclination by officials and leaders to serve the residents in their areas of jurisdiction”.

This I am afraid is where we perform worst! And the ANC in this house must take note that your electoral support at provincial level might have remained constant in May, but don’t expect the same favor at local government level in 2016. We will also be paying special attention to the two Metros and Kouga, Koukamma, Baviaans, Camdeboo and a number of other municipalities in 2016. The DA is determined to establish a blue footprint at local government level in this province to showcase the difference between DA government and that of the ANC. Lumkela, Nathi Siyaqhuba.

We will soon see if Minister Gordhan’s threat of withholding conditional grant funding from councils that continue to sweep embarrassing forensic reports under the table will in fact materialize. The track record unfortunately shows that what the ANC says and what it does, are two entirely different things. Comradely countenance trumps consequence and accountability!

Hon. Premier, with regard to economic growth and rural development you said that “all the noble goals set out above can only be achieved through partnerships between government and the private sector”.

I could not agree more Sir!  However partnerships flourish only where there is mutual trust, honesty and integrity. In this regard your colleague, Minister Nkwinti is doing nothing to foster any of these critical ingredients.

Unyanisile, Nkulumbuso Xa usithi “Mawethu, makhe siphakamise isyantya sokwenza izinto: bangafi abantu yindlala umhlaba ungenzi nto”.

This speaks volumes as there is simply too much land lying fallow that is not being productive for us to render the land that is productive, unproductive due to short sighted and incoherent land reform policies that will compromise national stability, food security and already unacceptably high levels of unemployment and resultant poverty.

Your instruction to the MECs of Roads and Public Works, Finance, Local Government and Traditional Affairs and Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, to come up with a plan to maintain and develop the rural road infrastructure is critical to our success as a province that depends heavily on agriculture and tourism. Our shocking road network has a massive financial cost especially on agricultural products destined for export.

In this regard the Sunday’s River road network and the main road linking it to the Port Elizabeth ports, requires urgent attention as it, and the citrus black spot challenges, serve to threaten the viability of this economically critical sector.

The issue of Shell Gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing and the Nuclear Power generation both require much more public engagement and the government has a responsibility to provide all the necessary guarantees regarding public safety and environmental protection. The DA agrees that economic growth cannot happen without reliable energy supplies. This however cannot be provided at all cost. We are the custodians of this land for future generations and we are not entitled to squander and destroy their birthright through unsustainable and irresponsible energy provision practices.

In conclusion sir, you will also have to reverse the developing trend that is seeing more and more senior and competent administrators resigning or being made scapegoats for incompetent and corrupt elected representatives as this scourge will ensure a failed provincial government and province. You will also have to do something about the sex for jobs scandal if our new interns and aspirant youth in learnerships are not to be preyed on.

Good luck, we will be monitoring your government’s progress and the performance of your executive. If you won’t hold them to their delivery agreements – we will!!