John Cupido MPL (right) in the Raymond Mhlaba chamber at the Bhisho Legislature.

Honourable Speaker,Madam Premier, Members of the House, Guests of the House…

Year on year the State of the Province Address states some of the successes, the explanatory challenges and makes promises of better things to come… this year is no different.

As I become a more experienced Member of Parliament, I learn not only to listen to what is being said, but also, and more importantly, what is not being said.

There was no mention about any specific plans or increases for conservation in our province. In fact, the last budget saw a decrease of conservation spend. The poaching of rhinos has been rife within South Africa, with more than 64 of these beautiful creatures having been murdered this year alone. For the benefit of the members, that is more than one rhino killed every day this year so far.

As we know, for the time being the Eastern Cape has avoided major losses in comparison to other provinces and the Kruger National Park. However, mark my words and heed my warning… once they have depleted the rhino stock in other areas, or the intervention at the Kruger National Park by the Minister of Environmental Affairs proves successful, the poachers will be coming after our rhinos.

Financial resources need to be increased.  Deterrents to poaching, like the treatment of horns, needs to be investigated.  Our rangers need to be better equipped and capacitated.

The DA welcomes MEC Jonas’ commitment at the Post SOPA Engagement Breakfast to re-look the department’s budget and increase spending on conservation.

It is imperative that conservation becomes a priority in this province before our rhinos become extinct and we have nothing to market to potential tourists.

This brings me to the next notable exclusion…Tourism.

For a province that relies on local tourism to advertise the economic potential we have, it concerns me that it is omitted from the address… One of the economic drivers and sustainable job creators of the South African economy are the Small to Medium Enterprises. The development corporations usually only concentrate on winning over big business, when with the same effort, smaller businesses that in the end collectively create more employment, can be targeted. During my time as a member of the one of the business chambers, I learnt very quickly that many of those businesses moved to the Eastern Cape because the director came to the province on holiday and saw the potential.

Tourism must be taken seriously, not only because of the direct jobs that are created, but also of the knock-on effect that it creates in our economy. A dilapidating and diminishing tourist market could very well mean a faster decreasing economy.

However…What is an economy if we don’t have healthy people to work it?

The most notable omission in the Premier’s address is plans to reduce the health care infrastructure backlog in this province of almost R2 billion. Health care infrastructure does not only include hospital buildings and such, it includes essential equipment such as x-ray machines. It is inconceivable that the Department of Health expects heavily injured patients to travel hundreds of kilometres, on our terrible roads, from one hospital to another just to get an x-ray as part of a diagnosis.

At the Post SOPA Engagement Breakfast the MEC of Health wrote the backlogs off as purely historical and conceded that the budget does not address the issues.

Yet, the Premier states in her address that preparations are well underway for the NHI.

Hospitals should be places of caring, but we read in the media of how TB patients at the Nessie Knight Hospital in Qumbu are forced to sleep with human faeces and urine dumped in their ward by nurses eager to go home.

Why is it that as Members of Parliament we get text messages like this:

“My name is Mr. Mfengwana… My Mom, 83, is in Livingston Hospital – Yesterday I went to visit her & found her on the floor, today my sister found her in wet blankets, how do I get superintendent so she doesn’t die in that facility because of negligence – please, please help me Sir.”

I know for a fact that many, if not most of the Members of this House, regardless of party affiliation, receive messages like this… The immediate problem is fixed, yet the there is no corrective measures taken to not allow this to happen again.

Health care in the Eastern Cape has become so bad that there are shuttle services making a living from taking pregnant women from our province to the Western Cape to give birth, and when the baby is strong enough to travel, brings them back again.

What does that tell you about this ANC led province?

Political will and strong leadership is needed to correct the glaring atrocities happening in this province. The consistent excuse of it takes time to fix things is not good enough when things are moving backwards.

As Parliamentarians we need to take corrupt, lazy and incompetent officials head on. If we don’t do this, we are just as bad as they are.

There is a saying that goes: All that needs to happen for evil to triumph, is for good people to do nothing.

Let’s do something right … Let’s do what we were elected to do.

Thank you.

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