Debate on the State of the Province Address

CONTRIBUTION BY

THE HON. MR MB GWALA MPL

NATIONAL CHAIRPERSON OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY

THE OFFICIAL OPPOSITION IN KWAZULU NATAL

KwaZulu Natal Legislature, Pietermaritzburg

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Honourable Speaker,

Honourable Premier and Colleagues

Let me first register the apology of the Hon. VF Hlabisa, Leader of the Official Opposition and President of the IFP, for not being present today. He has been asked to speak at the Black Business Summit to provide guidance on the economic distress our country finds itself in.

The present crisis requires leaders of integrity to speak the truth and provide hope.

Honourable Speaker; when we listened last month to the State of the Nation Address and when we listened yesterday to the State of the Province Address, we were reminded of that famous book, “A tale of two Cities” in which Charles Dickens wrote the following –

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

This great writing best depicts the scenarios we are experiencing in South Africa and KwaZulu Natal today. We are in a time of extreme opposites and very little in-betweens. We have high levels of unemployment and very few employed. We have a huge gap between very few well-to-do and a majority poor, very few haves and a majority have nots. We are at a time of great controversies and contradictions. We are at an historic crossroads as a nation.

We want to grow the economy of our Province. But we have elements undermining and disrupting our efforts to this objective both within and outside Government. We want to fight corruption, but we have elements from within which are promoting corruption and capture of the State. We want to fight crime and violence, but we have elements within government which are colluding with criminals. We want to fight evil, but elements from within are undermining these efforts. We want to promote good governance and the rule of law, but the agents of darkness are fighting hard to erode this.

We are at a time when greater cooperation is needed between and amongst all the citizens of goodwill of our Province, so that together, we can work for a prospering KwaZulu Natal.

But it all starts with Government. Your Government, Mr Premier, must begin to walk the talk and honour promises and commitments made. During every State of the Nation and State of the Province Address, Government promises jobs. But our Province continues to lose jobs. Unemployment has risen to 26.1% in KwaZulu Natal.

Economic growth for South Africa which was estimated at 1.4% at the beginning of 2019, ended up at 0.7%. The important economic sectors of mining, farming and manufacturing all recorded a sharp decline. The contracting economic growth for South Africa is so bad that it is below the population growth of the country, KwaZulu Natal included.

This poor performance of the economy is further exacerbating unemployment pressures, poverty and inequality in the Province. Actually, South Africa is recorded as having one of the highest gini-coeffients in the world.

As of today, Government debt is at R3 trillion; which is between 60 and 70% of the GDP. Minister Mboweni has estimated that this debt will rise to 80% of the GDP by mid-2020. We borrow more than we are able to generate. Moodey’s has long downgraded us from stable to negative.

Our country is in a recession and we cannot hide that truth or separate this Province from the reality of economic collapse. As much as the IFP compliments the Premier on what is being done, we would be abandoning our responsibility if we pretended that it is enough to rescue KwaZulu Natal from distress. It doesn’t come near to solving our problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

The State of the Province Address is intended to report on the progress being made. Let us therefore consider the commitments of SOPA 2019.

To mention but a few, the following projects were promised to stimulate the economy:

  • The Mkhuze Airport City Development valued at R2.8 billion

  • The Durban EyeWheel based in eThekwini at R375 million

  • A R35 billion world-class beachfront promenade on Durban beachfront which would include residential units, business outlets and restaurants, 5 to 6 hotels as well as A and B grade blocks

Where are these projects, Mr Premier?

You promised the drilling of oil and gas as part of the ocean’s economy, and the building of a fish processing facility and provision of refrigerators to cooperatives by EDTEA. You said that, soon, the RBIDZ would have a sod-turning ceremony for the construction of a R1.3 billion Palm Oil Refinery. Where are these projects, Mr Premier?

You said that plans were underway to ensure that KwaZulu Natal remains a leading destination for domestic tourism. Instead, SAA has been put under business rescue. In their bid to stay afloat, they have shut down all their flights to and from King Shaka International. With the national carrier slapping the Province in the face like this, how can the Province achieve its objectives?

The Premier committed to the creation of 30 000 jobs through targeted foreign direct investments in the next five years. In addition, more than 10 000 jobs would be created through intensive export promotion. Can the Premier give an account in respect of developments with the creation of these jobs?

The Premier committed that the Province was going to spend R12.250 billion in 2018/19, and R13.264 billion in 2019/20 on infrastructure development in the Province. But even with this kind of budget committed, the people of KwaZulu Natal have continued to suffer enormous backlogs of infrastructure and poor service delivery with no noticeable changes in their lives. Hence the service delivery protests in KwaZulu Natal almost every day.

It is our duty as representatives of the people to tell it like it is. We are all fighting for the same things. We are all worried about poverty, unemployment and inequality. We therefore welcome statements of intent on how our Government will meet the huge and dire challenges before us. But there needs to more than good intentions. Good intentions will not save this Province.

During the response to the State of the Nation Address in Parliament, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi urged that the focus be placed on Local Government, for this is where our people’s needs are best understood and met. The resources of State therefore need to get from the top, down to municipalities where they are needed.

Accordingly, we were pleased to hear the Premier say that attention will now be focussed on the local sphere of government. During the Budget Speech, the Minister of Finance indicated that R426 billion has been allocated to local government. He emphasised the need to build new infrastructure and to maintain existing infrastructure.

The IFP contends that more than anything else money is needed to assist our people towards self-help and self-reliance. We need to assist and support projects of agriculture and small businesses, so that families can put food on the table. It is good that money will be allocated to learnerships and the Expanded Public Works Programme. But unless we focus first on empowering, equipping and assisting our people towards self-reliance, poverty and hopelessness will deepen.

We need to take concrete steps, particularly to address unemployment. The tourism and hospitality sectors are amongst the highest employers of our Province. The farming sector also provides thousands of job opportunities. But both Government and employers are letting down the citizens of our Province in the provision of employment opportunities in these sectors.

The labour law is very clear. Foreign nationals can only be employed in scarce skills where South African citizens are not available with those skills. Even before you employ a foreign national in a scarce skill area, there is a process which involves a number of departments and their approvals and clearances.

Admittedly, being a waiter/waitress in a restaurant or hotel is not a scarce skill. Being a petrol attendant at a filling station is not a scarce skill. Being a truck driver is not a scarce skill. Being an Uber driver or metered taxi driver is not a scarce skill. Being a farm labourer is not a scarce skill.

But check who in our country are employed in these jobs. Because of the poor application of the law by our Government, many of these job opportunities which could have been available to our citizens have been denied to them by the illegal employment of foreign nationals through cheap labour practices.

As a result of this concern, the IFP will be introducing a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament to force the application of quotas in the employment of foreign nationals, so that companies and employers will be forced to prioritise South African citizens for available job opportunities.

We need to equip the next generation to take up jobs and create jobs. Education is a key to our future success. Let me therefore congratulate MEC Mshengu and his entire team at the Education Department for remarkably improving our NSC 2019 results. Well done MEC and Bravo to the Matric Class of 2019! On behalf of the IFP I wish to extend our gratitude also to all the educators, parents and learners, and everybody else involved. We thank the Unions for their visible cooperation with the programmes of the Department.

But, Hon. Mshengu, this was largely an improvement in quantity. Let us now work towards achieving improvements in both quantity and quality. A sizeable number of our matriculants have been denied access to universities because of the low level of points that they have scored.

When commitments are made towards the education of our youth, these commitments must be honoured. In 2019 government committed to the migration of the responsibility for ECD centers from Social Development to Basic Education, and the process towards two years of compulsory ECD for all children before they enter Grade 1. This has not happened. Government committed that over the next six years, it would provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device. This too has not happened.

Indeed, good intentions are not enough.

KwaZulu Natal has continued to suffer water shortages and simple non-delivery of water. It has continued to suffer electricity outages. It has continued to suffer bad roads, especially in the rural areas, and potholes in tarred roads. Bridges have been washed away and for more than ten years there has been no reconstruction. Disasters have swept houses away and there has been no reconstruction. Schools continue to suffer falling structures, no libraries, no laboratories, no ICT classrooms. Sanitation in schools is a disaster. Maintenance and refuse removal are non-existent in towns, townships and cities. Health infrastructure is crumbling, putting the lives of patients and health workers in danger. NGOs and NPOs continue to be ignored.

So, the 2018/19 and the 2019/20 billions that you spoke about, Mr Premier: where were they spent?

In this Province, financial mismanagement and corruption by officials and service providers is never dealt with seriously. Officials mismanage government money, which is people’s money, and are allowed to get away with it scot free. For as long as this state of affairs is allowed to continue, those who steal from Government are never going to stop.

Officials mismanage funds in one department and when they are subjected to disciplinary processes they resign. A few months down the line they appear again as employees in another department, to steal again. Investigations into wrong-doing by officials are slow or absent, and seldom reach completion. Where they are completed, wrong-doers get away with murder. Those who are convicted through disciplinary processes are only given a slap on the wrist. Money stolen is never returned to Government.

Even some politicians are allowed to mess up here, and will resurface elsewhere in the immediate future. People see this as a reward for doing wrong. Mr Premier, in order to stop corruption and mismanagement, Government must be strict. Those who steal must be charged and arrested. Those who are arrested must serve their time without any mercy of parole, as happened to Shaikh and Jackie Selebi.

In his 2019 SOPA, the Premier committed to conducting lifestyle audits in order to deal with sophisticated thieves. To our disappointment, this has not happened. The Premier committed to signing performance agreements with the members of his cabinet in order to deal with mediocre performances by political heads. To our disappointment, this too has not happened; and we fear that it will never happen because of cadre deployment.

Honourable Speaker, let me address the global threat of the Coronavirus. All continents in the world have already reported cases. Recently, three cases were reported in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Coronavirus is slowly, but steadily, approaching South Africa.

The Premier has assured us that his Government is ready, because four hospitals have been placed on high alert. Is that enough? The Coronavirus has the potential of shutting down the world. Hospitals and clinics will be overwhelmed and overburdened. Are we really ready for the worst eventuality in this Province, Mr Premier?

It is difficult to hope that Government will move quickly enough to do what needs to be done. Consider how slowly it has responded to crises in State-Owned Enterprises. During the State of the Nation Address on 7 February 2019, the President said; “Eskom is in crisis and the risks it poses to South Africa are great. It could severely damage our economic and social development ambitions.”

In June 2019, the President said; “One reason for the lackluster economic performance has been… continued uncertainty in the supply of electricity and the state of Eskom. The lesson is clear: for growth, we need a reliable and sustainable supply of electricity. Eskom is facing serious financial, operational and structural problems.”

Finally, on the 13th of February 2020, the President said; “The recovery of our economy has stalled as persistent energy shortages have disrupted business and people’s lives.”

Government needs to respond much faster and with much greater boldness to the problems we face.

Finally, Honourable Speaker, the IFP is a champion of social cohesion. We appreciate the Premier’s statement that “building social cohesion is a key imperative” and we welcome the commitment to erect a statue before the November 2020 commemoration of the arrival of indentured Indian labourers to our shores. We encourage all our people to participate in this commemoration. We must understand this as part of our shared history. It is only by embracing a shared history that we can work together to create a common future.

On that same theme, Honourable Speaker, the theme of the State of the Province Address, the IFP must sound a warning on how we remember the conflicts of the past between the various components of the liberation struggle.

The Honourable Premier has said that the commemoration this year of 25 years since the Shobashobane Massacre should be used (and I quote), “to deepen peace, consolidate reconciliation and promote political tolerance”. If that is what we seek to achieve, it matters how the story is told.

We cannot change history, but it takes two to tango. We know that the People’s War was a two-way street of violence, counter-violence, revenge attacks and even pre-emptive violence. Members of the ANC and IFP attacked and killed each other. Many lives were lost. That history must be recorded and cannot be forgotten.

But we are now in a time of democracy, in which we have committed to seeking reconciliation and peace. Let us remember therefore how the families of victims of black-on-black violence in Thokoza sought healing from the wounds of the past.

In October 1999, members of the ANC and IFP together invited the then President of the ANC, Mr Thabo Mbeki, and the then President of the IFP, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, to visit Thokoza and to unveil a monument together. The lives lost on both sides were commemorated, together; after which a joint rally was addressed by both leaders.

Thokoza was the theatre of terrible violence. Yet a wound was healed in the way that reconciliation was approached. Both sides were involved. If we are to use commemorations to deepen peace, consolidate reconciliation and promote political tolerance, we need to take the example from Thokoza.

This is all the more important as the IFP and ANC seek to finalise the long-standing agenda of reconciliation and peace.

I thank you.