B Stevenson Speech Notes: Debate on the 2021 State of the Province Address

Issued by Bobby Stevenson, MPL
DA Leader in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature

I want to express my sincere condolences to all the members of this House who have lost loved ones during the last few months. We all either have family members or know people who have tragically lost their lives to the virus. Our hearts go out to all of you, who have suffered so much during this time.

Matthew 7: 25 says, “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, yet it did not fall because it has its foundations on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Honourable Premier, this province faces many storms; the storm of high unemployment, the storm of the virus, poor infrastructure, flawed education and health system and others.

Unless we build the Eastern Cape on the rock of good governance, this province will continually be undermined by the quicksands of cadre deployment, corruption, maladministration, factionalism and other weak areas of government. Honourable Premier, you need to build the Eastern Cape on the rock of good governance.

Honourable Premier, the Achilles heel of your government is the cadre deployment system, and you, Honourable Premier, have a total blind spot in this area, which results in you being out of touch with the harsh reality of the consequence of this policy.

Recently you were quoted in the Daily Dispatch on the 2 February 2021 saying, ‘Only the best ANC members should be deployed to state institutions.’ It is not a question about good cadres or bad cadres; it should be NO cadres at all! What an indictment!

The cadre deployment system is simply a new form of the old apartheid system of job reservation where it sets aside powerful positions in civil service that is supposed to be filled by staff who are non-political professionals. It is not supposed to be for ANC members who have proven themselves loyal to the party, but instead for people who have the ability to do the job.

Two decades ago, the then DA Leader Tony Leon warned that cadre deployment was and I quote ‘… a programme to destroy the proper distinction between party and state and that it would strike at the very heart of our democracy.’

Honourable Premier, we need competence, calibre and consequence management, not chaos, cadres and corruption.

One can never build the Eastern Cape on the rock of good governance as long as cadre deployment exists. We have seen what has happened in our various municipalities, and they are collapsing! One like Makhanda hasn’t had water for many days. There are others without electricity and functioning road networks. Municipalities are falling to the ground because of cadre deployment. When you hire people for the wrong reasons, you can never fire them for the right reasons.

Honourable Premier, you alluded to the fact that our towns are dirty and filled with litter. This is another result of cadre deployment as people are not doing their jobs. These towns don’t crumble overnight; it is like a sinner, one backslides slowly, and suddenly you find yourself in hell. Well, our municipalities in this province are finding themselves in a hell created by cadre deployment.

The opposite is happening in DA run municipalities. The potholes are being fixed, and street lights are being repaired. Look at Nelson Mandela Bay now. There is a new energy! People are feeling the difference of the DA and their coalition partners. There is new life! This is the DA difference because where the DA governs, SA works.

In your speech, you mention that only 421 public servants have been identified doing business with the state. If your government were practicing sound consequence management, there would be none at all! Civil servants cannot double-dip and take home a contract and a salary. Why has no one been disciplined?

Practice consequence management, Honourable Premier, and then you will build your house on the rock of good governance. This brings me to the subject of corruption.

I note that in your speech, you are now combining the old Anti-Corruption Council with a new forum. The point, Honourable Premier, is that your previous Anti-Corruption Council hardly met and certainly hasn’t done so in the last two years. It is no wonder that we have been branded as the epicenter of corruption. We don’t need a reshuffling of the deck chairs on the Titanic. What we need is action in fighting corruption and stamping it out. Then the right climate for good governance will be created.

Creating the right climate for good governance in this province is necessary to get the private sector to invest and create jobs. We need to move toward private sector-led development, as state-centered led development has failed dismally. It has a history of failed projects and investing without any return.

One has to look at the latest unemployment statistics that overshadowed your SOPA speech. That is the harsh reality of your governments’ policies.

The unemployment for the 4th quarter in the province increased to 47.9% up 2.1%, while the unexpanded employment rate increased to 52.4% resulting in another 148 000 people losing their jobs.

In contrast, in the DA governed Western Cape, they have the lowest expanded rate of unemployment in South Africa at 26.8% compared to our 52.4%. In contrast to us loosing 148 000 jobs, 121 000 more people gained employment in the Western Cape. The highest increase of all the provinces in South Africa. That is the DA difference because the DA builds its House on the rock of good governance.

In 2019 I introduced a resolution that this House approved on the 4th Industrial Revolution. The House resolved, amongst others, and I quote ‘…that the Office of the Premier must develop and present the Eastern Cape modernization comprehensive and integrated plan to this House within the 2020/21 financial year.’ That ends in March, Honourable Premier, and we are yet to see that plan. My biggest concern is that we are developing digital inequality in this province. A digital divide is a new form of apartheid. So far, your government has failed to ensure the rapid rollout of broadband, particularly in our schools, with over 4000 schools not having a comprehensive Wi-Fi network.

The Global Risk Report of the World Economic Forum state that this digital inequality is the 5th most significant risk today, along with youth disillusionment and social cohesion erosion. Your government needs to move with all speed to ensure a massive broadband rollout to all our schools so that all our learners have the opportunity to grow, develop and have access to a world-class education. There is no doubt in my mind that the learner, Reinhardt Buys from Pearson High School, had access to Wi-Fi. This is something that, sadly, the majority of learners in this province don’t have. You need to fix it, Honourable Premier, to create equal opportunities for all our learners and ultimately to create a better society.

Honourable Premier, we need to change the Eastern Cape’s trajectory away from a failed state towards a compassionate and capable state that works for ALL the people. We need to chart a new course for this province to relieve the misery that so many are experiencing. We need to put this province firmly on the path of opportunity and prosperity. We need a forward-thinking and innovative government that will build the Eastern Cape and get it back on track to work for ALL the people.

The Democratic Alliance stands ready to fix this mess upon the rock of good governance and get it back on track because where the DA governs, South Africa works!

Honourable Premier, this province requires bold and courageous leadership to put it firmly on the high road of opportunity and prosperity.

Let me conclude with the last few words from a poem called ‘The Hill we Climb’ from Amanda Gorman, which was read at the inauguration of President Joe Biden –
‘When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid,
the new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.’