Speech notes: Nqaba Bhanga 6th Legislation 2019 SOPA debate

Hon. Speaker, Hon Premier, members of the executive, members of this House, officials from different Governmental Departments, dignitaries and invited guests.

All protocols observed.

On Friday Premier Oscar Mabuyane referred to the late Premier, Raymond Mhlaba, who gave the first State of the Province Address in this chamber on the 8th of August 1994.

This was a key moment in the history of this province.

Next year Oom Ray would be celebrating his 100th birthday. I wonder what he would have thought, had he been sitting in the gallery last week, listening to the premier’s speech.

Madam Speaker, 25 years on and the ANC is still standing in front of this house, promising the same things, while the people of the Eastern Cape – the people who in Oom Ray’s own words, placed their confidence in the ANC to restore their identity as a nation and to improve their material conditions – continue to be forgotten.

Twenty-five years down the road and we are still speaking about

  • transformation and job creation
  • Education, skills and health
  • reliable and quality basic services
  • local government and
  • safe communities

Madam Speaker, like many seated here today, I have travelled the length and breadth of this province in recent months.

I don’t know what their experiences have been, but what I have seen is not a restored nation. It is not a province where material conditions have improved.

UNEMPLOYMENT

In his first state of the province address, Oom Ray told this house, and I quote:

I need not remind any Honourable Members that the levels of unemployment… constitute a shameful and explosive crisis. This crisis must be addressed.

In the Eastern Cape it is estimated that of the economically active labour force, close to one out of every three are unemployed at present.

The truth is that this has not been addressed Madam Speaker. The crisis has deepened.

The Eastern Cape unemployment rate continues to soar, and is the highest in the country, at 37,4%.

More than half of the youth are looking for work.

In fact, these numbers would be even higher, if it wasn’t for the millions of people who have left the Eastern Cape over the past 25 years, in search of work elsewhere.

YOUTH

Madam Speaker, the Premier spoke of a commitment to halve the unemployment rate of the province by 2030, with a specific focus on youth employment.

This past weekend, he launched the R150 million Isicialo Youth Fund, to promote entrepreneurship.

Madam Speaker, how many similar Funds have been established over the past 25 years?

Where are the jobs these funds have supposedly created?

When the funds dry up, so do the jobs, because the businesses these funds support are not self-sustainable.

Perhaps, like the President, the honourable Premier plans to create these jobs in the public sector?

I wonder how many youth will be prepared to work without getting paid? Like the government employees at the Amahlati municipality, who were last paid in April.

The only government posts that need to be filled should be critical vacancies.

If the province is to be put back on track, we need to reduce a bloated state and the public sector wage bill, not increase it further.

Madam Speaker the truth is that the Democratic Alliance has shown that unemployment can be addressed.

The Western Cape’s expanded unemployment rate is by far the lowest in the country, at a massive 14 percentage points lower than the national average.

The only way to create jobs, sustainably lift millions out of poverty, and give people the hope of a future of shared prosperity is an economy growing at much higher levels.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

In his speech, the Premier also spoke about how Government will be upgrading the infrastructure of Industrial Parks, at Komani, Vulindlela, Fort Jackson, Somerset East, Butterworth and Dimbaza, to create jobs in these small towns that were once vibrant economic hubs.

We want to thank the Premier for heeding the notice of motion put before this House by the Democratic Alliance in August last year.

It was the former Honourable Andrew Whitfield, who called for a study on the revival of abandoned industrial and manufacturing parks, such as Dimbaza, so as to ascertain the viability thereof and to propose alternative uses.

It was also the honourable Whitfield who called for Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism to present a clear plan to revive the manufacturing sector in the Eastern Cape, with a view to embracing the fourth industrial revolution.

And it was the honourable Whitfield who called for the commitment that Government complies with the 30-day payment requirement in order to stimulate small business growth and job creation.

 

NIEU BETHESDA

Madam Speaker, on Friday the honourable Premier said: “We must talk less, we must do more, and we must open lines of communication with our people.”

I want to ask the Premier if he has heard of a village called Nieu Bethesda, approximately 50 kilometres from Graaff Reinet.

During the build up to the elections, I met with the community there, and heard how they have struggled for years to get even the most basic of answers from various government departments.

This is a community that is desperate for answers, Madam Speaker.

They want to know why the Department of Social Development has misled them about funding for community projects in the area.

They want to know why the millions they were told that had been allocated by Rural Development and Agrarian Reform to purchase farms in the area were then diverted to buy farms in Graaff Reinet instead.

They want to know why they still don’t have an ambulance to transport their sick and why they don’t have a high school for their children.

 They want to know why they are losing jobs, and why projects such as the tarring of roads have come to a standstill.

Madam Speaker, this community has written to the office of the premier on various occasions, and if they are lucky enough to get a response, they are told that the issues they have raised have been resolved.

But they have not.

Madam Speaker, I want to tell the Premier that representatives of the Nieu Bethesda community are here today, they are sitting in the gallery. 

They have travelled all the way from Nieu Bethesda because they want to open the lines of communication. They also want less talk and more action, Mr Premier.

The Democratic Alliance stands here on their behalf today and asks that their concerns be heard.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Madam Speaker, the truth is that there are many communities with similar stories to those of Nieu Bethesda. Communities scattered across the length and breadth of this province that have been neglected, forgotten and ignored.

The truth is that several municipalities across the province need urgent intervention, with many unable to deliver even the most basic of services to the people.

Instead of serving the people of this province, our municipalities are pumping raw untreated sewage into their drinking water. They cannot keep the lights on, or the water flowing to our taps. They cannot collect the rubbish or maintain the roads.

Our municipalities are failing Madam Speaker.

Just last week, the Auditor General highlighted the poor state of municipalities across the country.

Only two municipalities in the Eastern Cape, Senqu and Joe Gqabi District, received clean audits.

Irregular expenditure for municipalities grew to R25,5-billion, with R7,3 billion incurred in the 2017-2018 financial year.

This is a crisis Madam Speaker, and if the Honourable Premier wants to lure investment to this province, he needs to start with getting local government’s house in order. 

CRIME

Madam Speaker, the Premier briefly touched on the issue of crime on Friday.

The truth is that gang violence in Nelson Mandela Bay is out of control.

The coloured community is suffering, and young people are losing their lives daily, caught in a hail of bullets as rival gangs fight for territory.

Children like 17-year-old Zavier Jassen and 12-year-old Alvineesha Brookes, who lost their lives.

Like three-year-old Clinton Williams, shot in the stomach, who miraculously survived but will have to live with that trauma for the rest of his life.

Madam Speaker, when the DA governed Nelson Mandela Bay, we established the metro police, introduced shot spotter technology and donated land for the building of a second police station in Bethelsdorp.

What is being done now?

The Honourable Premier speaks of Agriculture being a gateway out of poverty and unemployment, yet our farmers and farmworkers live in constant fear because the ANC government does not deem rural safety a priority.

South Africans cannot continue to feel unsafe in their homes, their places of work or walking down the street.

Our communities cannot continue to be warzones. They deserve safer communities and an honest and professional police service that actually serves them.

However, this province remains severely under-resourced, under-trained, under-equipped and under-staffed.

CORRUPTION

Speaking of crime Madam Speaker, we need to talk about corruption.

Madam Speaker, in his speech on Friday, the Premier dedicated just seven lines to the issue of corruption and appeared to be more concerned about the reputational damage it has caused the ANC, than the untold damage it has caused to the communities of this province.

It is not enough to pay lip service to the fight against corruption, we need to root it out.

Corruption is eroding the very foundation of the previous administrations that the Premier wishes to build on.

In his speech in 1994, Oom Ray said

The Provincial Government is committed to the process of democracy, transparency, accountability and an administration that is free of corruption.

He did not say an administration that will tackle corruption.

He did not say an administration that is perceived as not being corrupt.

He said an administration that is FREE OF CORRUPTION.

The only way that will happen is if there are actual consequences for abuse of funds.

We want action taken against public representatives and government officials guilty of corruption; and follow through that will lead to convictions and jail time for offenders.

It is high time that people who have been stealing money from the people of this province face the consequences of their actions.

IN CONCLUSION

Madam Speaker, my honourable colleagues will respond further to specific issues raised by the Premier in his speech last week.

But before I leave this podium I want to remind this house what the Honourable Raymond Mhlaba expected of us all, when he said:

This Government is firmly committed to the concept that Government employees are first and foremost public servants, with the emphasis upon serving the public. At all times they must view and conduct themselves as working for the upliftment of the poor and the disadvantaged majority.

As public servants, right up to the level of the MECs, we are not the commissars or dictators of development. Rather we are the facilitators and co-ordinators of development. We are the custodians of the people’s scarce resources.

Next year if this Government wants to honour Oom Ray’s leadership, sacrifice and legacy, let it be through our actions and our service to the people of this province.

Let us honour him by showing the people of the Eastern Cape that we will live to the standard that he called us to.

Let us never forget that we will succeed only if we are united and committed to nation building.

I thank you.