CONSIDERATION OF REPORT OF PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM ON OVERSIGHT VISITS TO PROJECTS FUNDED BY THE DEPARTMENT AROUND CHRIS HANI DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL
Shadow MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism

Honourable Speaker, Fellow South Africans… I greet you with the universal greeting of peace, As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

From 20 to 22 August 2019, the portfolio committee on economic development, environmental affairs and tourism visited various projects it funds and supports in the Chris Hani district.

Madam Speaker, one can not express the importance of economic development enough. Economic growth in our province will result in the creation of job opportunities, which this district and our province is in desperate need of.

In the state of the province address, Premier Mabuyane made a very bold statement saying that his administration aims to reduce unemployment in the Eastern Cape to 18 % by 2030.

Unemployment is currently at 37,4% in the Eastern Cape; the expanded unemployment rate in EC is 48,3 %; and Youth unemployment is currently at 47,1%.

Five industries shed a total of 69 000 jobs in the Eastern Cape in the 2018/19 financial year. These industries are agriculture, mining, utilities, trade and finance trade. DEDEAT aimed at growing employment in the province by 1.9 % but instead it decreased by 3,1%, even worse than the 2017/18 financial year.

These are dismal statistics and touch the heart and soul of the people of the Eastern Cape.

As the DA we will support the Premier in initiatives to increase employment. At the end of the day, we are all here to better the lives of those residing within the Eastern Cape. The reality is that the current approaches taken renders the Premier’s aims a pipe-dream.

Take the following as an example:

DEDEAT funded three entities from the Chris Hani district, namely Mabija civil and construction; Black Spot Media; and Paradigm Boutique Hotel. The total amount funded for all three is R2, 808 249. The number of jobs created as a result is a pitiful 44. This is a drop in the ocean for the almost 1 million people who reside in this district.

Between 2015 and 2018 the Department of Economic Development provided funding support through the Local and Regional Economic Development (LRED) fund to emerging enterprises across the entire province. They spent R56.5 million on 28 businesses to create only 918 jobs which means that in the Eastern Cape Province the LRED fund spent R61,500 per job.

I asked the Premier during the SOPA debate to look to learn from the Western Cape which has again managed to increase employment year-on-year, with an additional 18 000 jobs added to the provincial economy over the past year. More importantly, the Western Cape experienced Labour Force Absorption and Labour Force Participation rates of 53.8% and 67.6%, respectively

Tourism can be a catalyst for job creation and economic growth in this district and in the Eastern Cape as a whole. In a time where the country is in an economic slump, people cannot afford to travel like they use to which means people vacation closer to home.

We need to capitalize on this. This is the ideal time to grow the tourism industry in by promoting our tourist attractions with vigor. In order to keep people in the province or to attract those from other provinces, we need to ensure that bookings and access to information is made easy.

We can improve on simple things like ensuring that websites are working, that phones are being answered, that emails are responded to. These are simple steps that can be taken in order to promote our province and its beauty.

When visiting the Chris Hani district municipality website, under the tourism section, you will find that the district promotes four tourist attractions, namely, trout fishing in Dodrecht; Great Fish River canoe marathon; the Mountain Zebra National Park; and the Queens Hotel and Casino.

When you select to “click here” for further information, the link takes you to a website that simply states, “Bad Request (Invalid Hostname)”. Although this district is rich in natural beauty and fundamental history, it is merely mentioned on the district website, with no real means of exploring the vast array of tourist attractions in the Chris Hani district.

Madam Speaker, SA Tourism shows that of the 17.2 million trips taken by domestic tourists, only 9% were destined for the Eastern Cape. This is a decline of 3% compared to the previous year, and a 5% decline since 2015. In the Western Cape the tourism industry grew by 3.5%.

The Eastern Cape government is failing dismally with regards to tourism and this is made evident in more than one example.

Earlier this year I visited the Kei Mouth caravan park, which is known to the Premier and the MEC of Economic Development, as letters have been sent by myself and community members of Kei Mouth.

This community is dependent on tourism as one of its key economic drivers and is being held ransom by an unresponsive municipality, which has let one of its key tourism destinations fall to wrack and ruin.

The Caravan Park used to be one of the areas greatest attractions, and was often fully booked during peak season, with the influx of tourism bringing much needed revenue and creating jobs for the community.

This came as no surprise, as it reportedly takes up to a month for the municipality to respond to booking enquiries, and several guests, who have managed to secure spots at the caravan park, have been robbed.

Whilst we continue to only pay lip service to tourism, the Western Cape government has been able to successfully capitalize on the tourism industry. In Q2 of 2018, the estimated Total Foreign Direct Spend in the Western Cape reached R4.7 billion.

Of particular interest have been the phenomenal success achieved by the Air Access team to land 13 new direct flights and 750 000 new seats directly into Cape Town. The success in Air Access has also stimulated the logistics around cargo and this in turn boosts the export of goods produced by the Agri-processing industries.

Madam speaker whilst our province continues to suffer a jobs bloodbath, our environment is taking a similar beating.

The Department licensed Ezibeleni landfill site is non-compliant and is a source of air pollution. Even though the site is owned by Enoch Mgijima local municipality, DEDEAT is responsible for the licensing of the plant.

This Site is just another example of the environmental crisis facing our province, there have been numerous issues surrounding waste management in the province. Last week I visited the Chris Hani District Municipality which is willfully directing raw, untreated sewage into nearby rivers.

To my horror, not only was raw effluent flowing from numerous manhole covers into settlements, and down the streets where children play, but the Treatment Works, which cost taxpayers in excess of R67-million, has been vandalised and remains non-operational.

Instead of fixing this issue at hand, the municipality deliberately dug multiple trenches to redirect the flow of raw untreated sewage into the Slangrivier, which runs into the Mbashe river. These trenches are blatantly illegal and a gross violation of basic human rights. People who live close to these rivers use the water for drinking.

The same issues were discovered by my colleagues, the Hon Odendaal and Cllr Marina Van Syl elsewhere in the province.

Madam Speaker, It was Albert Einstein that said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is insanity.

I know that there is usually an outcry from members of this house when one mentions the successes of the Western Cape. It is not a sin to learn from others who have succeeded. In fact, it shows maturity and a sense of wanting to learn and grow.

I want to say to this provincial government, don’t let ego stand in the way of bettering the lives of those around you and opening yourself up to learning from the likes of the Western Cape government.

We must change our approach if we are to halt out jobs bloodbath and environmental crisis.

If you refuse to do so then our people will have no choice but to vote in those willing to take a brave new path.

The results of by-elections yesterday both in Ekhuruleni and in Hoffmeyr are a stark warning to the ANC.

The DA accepts the report.