J Cowley Speech Notes: Debate on the 2021 State of the Province Address

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL

Honourable Speaker, Hon Premier, hon members of the legislature; officials and guests, I greet you all
Madam Speaker, candy floss is made up of large holes held together by a few thin strands of fragile sugar.

While it may look appealing, it has no substance, and it does not provide one with sustenance.
Sadly, this year the Premier’s speech was candy floss. After digesting it, we remained hungry for the substance of realistic strategies and achievable goals to take our province forward. They were absent.

The Premier did mention the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital’s successes, which is at last stepping up and offering specialities that will positively impact health outcomes. What a pity that they had no water on Monday and could not do surgeries or even wash their patients.

However, his deathly silence on the issues which threaten the survival of the Health Department was deafening.

Not one word about medico-legal claims, which despite his Litigation Unit, have soared and now stand at R890M. Through you, Madam Chair, What are you planning to do about this, Hon Premier? Is there a revised strategy?

Not a whisper about the R4 billion in accruals which the department owes. Are accruals heading the same way as medico-legal claims? Through you, Madam Speaker, have your advisors offered any solutions to ballooning accruals, Hon Premier?

The Premier touched on the National Health Insurance project’s ideal clinics, which are well equipped and will improve health services. Madam Speaker, even the best-laid plans, when built on the quicksand of an incapable state and the weak foundations of corrupt, chaotic cadre deployment, will fail.

The NHI will fail, and here’s why:

1. The department’s infrastructure programme has proven again that it cannot plan, implement or finish any project with competence. Maintenance is painfully slow and far too costly. So the lifespan of our ideal clinics is compromised.

2. The department employs some of the most corrupt senior officials in the country, who are shifted from one programme to another to cover their tracks. Sometimes they are even made advisors. They are not competent enough to implement the NHI. Not surprisingly, some allegedly have fraudulent qualifications.

3. The over-bloated army of officials has destroyed efficiency and accountability, while frontline workers such as doctors and nurses remain critically low. Patients need nurses, not bureaucrats.

4. Patients cannot reach these clinics. The extensive challenges of the Emergency Medical Services were not mentioned. It is too often that urban patients wait for hours, and rural patients wait for more than a day for the ambulance to arrive.

Until these issues are addressed, our health system, whatever it is called, will continue to fail. Any solutions, hon Premier?

Madam Speaker, the Premier mentioned the good response of the province to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is disingenuous. Our frontline workers responded with diligence, and while they were working double shifts and getting infected, his health officials were fleecing his government of millions in PPE fraud.

Our frontline workers paid with their lives. Of the 663 health care workers who died from Covid-19 in South Africa, 262 of them, 40%, came from our province. No wonder we were sent a task team to mop up the mess.

Moving to DEDEAT….

Our two provincial SEZ’s have performed admirably despite the lockdown. They have initiated some smart projects in downstream Autoworks, which will see small and medium black-owned enterprises joining the mainstream auto industry.

The relocation of the Manganese storage facilities from Nelson Mandela Bay to Ngqurha by the end of the year is excellent news. I have seen the scoping report, and the proposed new storage facility will be far more compliant in terms of the NEMA and NEMAQA Acts than current storage facilities are.

However, when responding to my written question, the CDC failed to indicate whether there was any written agreement or Memorandum of Understanding with the Kalahari Manganese Fields to secure the supply of Manganese to Ngqurha. Surely this is the first step?

Madam Speaker, the heavy investment in aquaculture is concerning as it has had very little success in our province to date. We have seen two failed aquaculture projects at the East London SEZ, and another at Hamburg.

Who is advising the ECRDA on the Marine Tilapia project? The projected numbers of jobs and beneficiaries are unrealistic. It sounds, quite frankly, like a scam.

Furthermore, the upgrading of industrial parks is the only thing that ever actually happens at the industrial parks. How much has been invested in the parks to date, and at what return on investment?

Much was said about starting new businesses, but what is the Premier doing to keep existing businesses in the province? Employers are giving up, packing up and taking their skills, their jobs and their taxes elsewhere.

Madam Speaker, environmental crime is increasing, but critical shortages of law enforcement officers and biodiversity and conservation officers in the province cripple this remarkable team’s efforts. They cannot fulfil their mandate without more boots on the ground. Environmental crimes are a huge deterrent for tourists.

They don’t want to see dead rhinos and illegal dumpsites. They’d rather go elsewhere.

Madam Speaker, the Premier said last year that the promise of a better future is still alive.

Unfortunately people can’t eat promises. Our province requires a rock-solid foundation of good governance that can pull it out of the quicksand and set it on the path to better opportunity.

Instead of silence, we need workable solutions, which the DA implements where we govern – and let’s face it – where we govern, South Africa works.
Thank you.