Last year the Democratic Alliance called on Premier Oscar Mabuyane to show strong leadership during his inaugural State of the Province Address.
We called for a commitment that action would be taken against public representatives and government officials guilty of corruption, follow through that would lead to convictions and jail time for offenders, and to make the urgent intervention in collapsing municipalities a top priority.
But, despite the countless promises, there has been little to no action in this regard.
The crisis in local government structures is deepening, with several municipalities across the province in dire need of urgent intervention. They are unable to deliver the most basic of services to the people they are meant to serve.
It is also clear the Premier’s interventions to address the staggering unemployment rate in the province are not working, and a more concerted effort is required.
The Eastern Cape continues to haemorrhage jobs, with unemployment growing to a staggering 39,5% for the fourth quarter of 2019. The expanded unemployment rate is also up to 47,7%. Not only is the province the worst preforming in terms of job creation, it has the highest unemployment rates in the country.
If we are to turn the province around, we need to start by fixing these local government structures.
We need Premier Mabuyane to show leadership in addressing the bloated public sector wage bill and follow through on the rationalisation of Provincial State Entities that are draining the fiscus with little to no real returns.
The wage bill for the 2019/20 financial year is R54,1-billion, which equates to 65.7% of the total budget, and is an increase of R2,9-billion compared to the previous financial year. This is 5.7% above the targeted cost of employment, and is, by far, the single biggest cost driver in the province.
Failure by government to address the ever-increasing COE will lead to the systematic collapse of service delivery in the province, as less and less money is left for infrastructure, goods and services.
We also need Premier Mabuyane to show clear and decisive leadership in dealing with the prolonged drought and changing climate patterns which are placing ever more pressure on our water resources. Farmers are facing financial ruin and towns and cities are on the verge of collapse as water sources dry up.
We need to secure our water sources, ensure infrastructure is repaired and maintained to prevent losses between source and end user, and prevent water contamination, such as what we are seeing at municipalities where raw sewage is allowed to flow freely into our water sources.
The Premier needs to look at improving the conditions at schools, specifically addressing the backlogs in school infrastructure projects. At the current rate of completion, it will take the Eastern Cape Education Department 36 years to eradicate pit latrines at our schools.
How can we talk about embracing the fourth industrial revolution and introducing coding and robotics courses, if we cannot even provide basic sanitation for our children?
The first step in finding solutions, they say, is to acknowledge that there is a problem.
If we have any hope of saving the Eastern Cape, the Premier needs to be honest and acknowledge the problems we are facing in his SOPA address on Tuesday.
But he can’t stop there. He then needs to bring solutions to the table, and most importantly, he needs to implement them.
We cannot continue to do the same things and expect different results.