Speech notes: Ross Purdon, Shadow MEC for Economic Development, speaking in the debate of the State of the Province Address, 23 February 2016.

The debate on Eastern Cape Premier’s State of the Province Address took place in the Bhisho legislature on Tuesday, 23 February.  

Our province and our country are in deep economic trouble.

We are like a patient in intensive care in hospital.  Patients in intensive care need the best people, the best facilities and the best treatment methods in order to survive.

It is common knowledge as to the reasons why we are so sick in the first place.  No one buys governments story that this situation is totally to do with the Global Economy Crisis.  Government continues to neglect its own failures!

These failures have been compounded by our energy crises, corruption, massive unemployment (especially amongst our youth), poor infrastructure development and a crippling drought amongst others.

All of these factors have led to our growth forecasts being revised to around 1% or less for this coming year.

We are going to need some really strong medicine to survive all of this.  In fact our real State of the Nation Address will be heard tomorrow.

Min. Gordhan has to convince investors and rating agencies that government is serious about addressing our economic and financial challenges.

All signs for Wednesday’s budget point to significant cuts and savings and all provinces will have to embrace these in order for us to survive.

In fact the President in his State of the Nation Address has already instructed Premiers and Mayors to cut spending and wasteful expenditure.

Hopefully we will hear these measures announced in our upcoming Provincial Budget as we did not, with all due respect Hon Premier, receive much information from you during the State of the Province Address.

What we were told about was the Expanded Public Works Program and the community workers program which are both very short term solutions for job creation and are not sustainable.  These should be cut substantially in our forthcoming budget.  We will wait and see.

A few weeks ago our Economic Development Committee visited the Alfred Nzo District Municipality on a follow up visit to projects funded by the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

I came home a depressed man.

Recommendations by the Committee in 2013 have largely been ignored.

For example, the Raohang Craft and Multi- Purpose Co-operative.  This co-op is meant to sew garments, curtains, school uniforms, upholstery and leather crafts.

The Department funded the building – it cost R1, 5 million back then and the DTI provided sewing and upholstery machinery to the value of R300 000.

On inspection our committee could not see the value of the building and the worst of all there is no electricity at all.  How can the Co-op sew anything without electricity?

How can this be allowed to happen?

We were also told that a motivation for a R500 000 top up was being prepared?

We also visited the Umzimvubu Peach Value addition co-op.  This is based near Mount Ayliff and its main business is meant to be agro-processing.

This co-op was funded by the department to the sum of R2, 1 million with the Municipality adding further funds totalling about R800 000 so close on R3 million has been spent and nothing is happening there.  Yes, there are some trees which did not look healthy, but there is certainly no processing taking place.

When we asked where the equipment was we were told it is next door.  There was no equipment at all!

It is interesting to note that in the 2013 report it was noted that R1, 6 million had been spent on the project but no comprehensive report had been submitted to detail the expenditure.  The committee asked for a report to be submitted within 30 days.

The committee is still waiting.

Hon Speaker,

These are just two examples of how hard tax payer monies are being squandered and the department has to take full responsibility!  Where has the money gone!

We notice that the Hon Premier has tasked the department with the consolidation and coordination of support to all co-operatives.  This will be an interesting exercise as at the moment co-ops and other projects are being set up to fail and this cannot be allowed.

Hon Somyo, through you Hon Speaker, must take a long hard look at your underperforming department.

Based on what I have seen in my short term on oversight visits the Head of Department should be fired.  In fact I seriously wonder if the HOD ever visits the rural projects.

With our massive unemployment figures the current situation is simply unacceptable.

I would also like to suggest that our committee receives a report from all the LED managers in our Municipalities as to what they are actually achieving?  I think we would be horrified!

There are too many people employed by the department and municipalities who are not performing at all.  There is little or no development taking place.

Job creation has to be the most important focus area in the year ahead and government has to create the environment for this to succeed.  The Department is failing the people!

Hon Speaker,

Our Honourable Premier touched on tourism during the SOPA.  It was interesting to note the increase of domestic arrivals in our province.  It is not clear though where the tourists are coming from and where they are visiting.  Are they visiting the East, the West, coastal areas or rural areas?  We do not know because there does not seem to be a co-ordinated effort when it comes to tourism.  We have National, Provincial and Local Tourism bodies not communicating with each other.

Tourism can be a major driver for job creation in our province if we do it properly.  We seem to be the forgotten province and are being left behind by other provinces.

Sadly our product is not enhanced by our aging infrastructure.  Yes, the proposed new Wild Coast Toll Road will unlock more beautiful destinations but this will take time and will we be able to afford it?  The truth is our access roads to many of our coastal resorts are in a shocking state and chase many potential tourists away.  The lawlessness on our roads and in our cities is also not helping our cause.  Has anyone driven through Mthatha lately?

We are not celebrating the Mandela legacy and we should be.

This province has a strong historical background of heroes and battlefields.  Other provinces are showing theirs off and have overtaken us.

President Mandela’s gravesite should be a major tourist attraction with tourists wanting to pay respect.

President Kennedy’s grave in Arlington Cemetery in Washington remains a major tourist attraction and he has been gone for over 50 years now.

Hon Speaker,

We are also chasing away tourists by neglecting our sports stadiums and facilities.  There is still no movement on Bayworld although MEC Majodina told me this was imminent.  As well as a prime tourist attraction this facility plays a major role in education.

Most of our sports stadiums are an embarrassment.  I hosted visitors from England at the recent international match at St Georges in Port Elizabeth.  The toilets were blocked at lunchtime and they vowed never to return.

We keep letting ourselves down.

There seems to be much excitement about the new developments at the Mthatha Stadium.  It has been reported that R10 million will be sourced from the Lotteries Commission.  It was also reported that MEC Majodina said government needed R750 million to complete the project.  That is nearly the equivalent of the entire annual budget of the Department!  R10 million does not go too far if you need R750 million so lets’ not get to excited just yet!

Hon Speaker,

Finally, I would like to bring the light of the former E.P Kings Rugby players to this house.

The EP Rugby Union failed to meet a deadline to pay a group of contracted EP Kings Players.  These players have not been paid since September of last year.  The players have taken the Union to court and a liquidation application is to be heard on March 10 in the High Court.

The treatment of these players by the EP Kings management is a DISGRACE.  These are young men with young families who week after week, month after month have put their bodies on the line for our province.

As SARU have taken over the Southern Kings franchise we, the DA, appealed to them to assist the stricken players but it is now clear that no help will be forthcoming from them.

I hope the players are successful in their legal challenge but legal cases take time and money which they do not have.

Cheeky Watson’s handling of the EP Kings Franchise and its affairs has been a travesty and this whole dilemma requires an urgent and comprehensive investigation as well as a forensic audit in order to hold all of those responsible for this mess to account.