Speech Notes: Bobby Stevenson MPL, DA Leader in the Provincial Legislature: State of the Province Address debate 28 February 2018

BROKEN PROVINCE IN NEED OF URGENT FIXING

Hon. Speaker, Hon. Premier, MEC’s, Members of the House and visitors.

I do not wish to stand here and gloat with regard to the chaos which is currently engulfing the ANC in this province. However, this factional deadlock needs to be resolved urgently as nobody can lead a province when you are looking over your shoulder. You cannot drive a car forwards looking in the rearview mirror. You will certainly crash.

We are living in a broken province, which is in urgent need of fixing and of total change. Our economy is broken, our houses are broken, with at least 113 000 needing to be fixed. Our local government system, in parts, is broken along with our roads. Only 25% of our roads are in a fair condition, whereas in the Western Cape, it is 95%.

Our education system is so broken that schools are being carried away, brick by brick. Our hospitals have broken equipment and face massive shortages of personnel.

My colleagues will deal more broadly with these issues.

The economy of the Eastern Cape has the highest unemployment rate in the country, sitting at 35, 1%, with the expanded rate of unemployment, now at 44, 8%. This means that there are now 754 000 people in the Eastern Cape who are out of work.

During the last year, the number of the unemployed rose by 70 000 people. In the Western Cape, as at the end of the fourth quarter, the province recorded the lowest in the official unemployment rate in South Africa, which is now at 19, 5%. During the last year, 106 000 jobs were created in the Western Cape, while 70 000 were lost in the Eastern Cape.

In his speech, the Premier noted that 18 553 jobs have been created over the last four years. The fact of the matter is that our economy is broken and we are going backwards in this province, as far as jobs are concerned. This is the direct result of the poor state of governance in this province as well as the general economic mismanagement by the national government of our economy.

Citizens of this province now face the added burden of a 1% VAT increase, so that we can pay back the money that has been looted through state capture.

This all results in a negative migration of 489 686 people leaving the Eastern Cape between 2011 and 2016. This has also had a major impact on the province’s equitable share of national revenue, resulting in a drop of R10-billion since 2013.

One of the ways in which the province can intervene to assist small business that are the main drivers of employment is through ensuring that they are paid within 30 days. According to an answer to a question which I received in October last year, the total amount of R466.2-million was outstanding to suppliers in an excess of 30 days. There was a total of 7 269 businesses that were owed money in excess of 30 days. This has a huge impact on the operation of those businesses and non-payment often forces closure.

If the government is serious about getting the economy going, then one of the ways to do that is to ensure that suppliers are being paid within 30 days.

One of the major problems that young graduates face is getting their first job. A way of dealing with this is to have a massive internship program as what happens in the Western Cape. Having some sort of job experience is the first step on the ladder to full employment. This is something that all provincial departments should be encouraged to embark on.

One of the issues that concern the Democratic Alliance is the ongoing maladministration in the province. One such issue that has been in the news is the Liquid Telecommunications contract which National Treasury opposed, along with SITA (State Information Technology Agency). We are told that this a piggyback contract based on one that was engaged in the Western Cape. As far as I am aware, piggyback contracts have to be at the same rate.

So I would like to ask the Premier to explain to this house, is this piggyback contract at higher rates than what was engaged in in the Western Cape, and why is it that his department has embarked on this contract against the advice of National Treasury and the State Information Technology Agency.

Then, Hon. Speaker, there is the forensic investigation conducted by Provincial Treasury into the relationship with the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) and the Health Department, regarding the maintenance and the implementation of contracts. When will the Department of Health take action when it comes to the implementation of any recommendation by Provincial Treasury?

Then, of course, there is the shadow of the Nelson Mandela funeral fund scandal that still hangs over this province. In the search for scapegoats and rooting out the guilty parties, it mustn’t be forgotten that it was the whole provincial cabinet that approved the method of funding.

One of the biggest drivers of structural poverty in the Eastern Cape is the broken state of our education system. This is why it is important that those who do well are recognised by the department.

A learner from the Global Leadership Academy in Jeffrey’s Bay, Heather Diogo, achieved 96.7% for her National Senior Certificate Qualification. This was the highest mark in the province. She has not received a bursary or any recognition by the department for this achievement because she goes to a private school. This private school in Jeffreys Bay has a good working relationship with the department and its fees are half of a third of some of the ex-Model C Schools in Port Elizabeth.

I believe that it is only fair that the department recognises everyone who wrote the National Senior Certificate. We need to honour and recognise the bright minds that we have in every school in this province, so to inspire others to excel.

I would appeal to the Premier and the MEC to intervene in this case and assist to give Heather Diogo a bursary so that she can fully afford her studies.

I then note that the Premier wants to have a conference of the senior management service to address the issues of poor implementation and encourage a new culture of getting things done. The root cause of problems in this province is the ANC policy of cadre deployment. If you want to change attitudes and if you want to change the culture, then you need to get rid of that policy. It results in incredible damage to our institutions. State capture is the example of where this policy leads.

There is an underlying culture in this province that drives poor performance and corruption, and that is the culture of FEAR.

It is the president of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, who stated:

“In any society where fear is rife, corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched.”

People turn a blind eye to corruption and maladministration for fear of the consequences if they either discipline or expose those responsible. Until politicians and civil servants in this country have the courage to put the Eastern Cape on a new moral path, we will continue to be swamped by scandal after scandal. It is time for the righteous in this province to stand up and be counted. A new Democratic Alliance-government will break the stronghold of fear that grips this province.

For the Eastern Cape to move forward, we need a growing economy that can create jobs, we need a functioning government that is responsive to the needs of citizens, we need a decent education system, health care system, housing program and better roads, as well as a safe and secure environment.

We need to fix what is broken in this province. What we need is total change and a new government that can put this province on the high road to growth, prosperity and new opportunities.