‘There is always a place for the eager and a role for the willing.” - Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
These are great words from a great leader and speak the truth in giving hope in a state of hopelessness. If indeed the authorities of KwaZulu Natal could heed the call encapsulated in these words, KwaZulu Natal could probably be saved from the encroaching pessimism in the country.
As reported, the economy of the country shrank by 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019. Even before that, the sluggish economic growth in the country has for long been failing to provide the country with relief in providing the much-needed jobs especially for the youth. Because of its big population numbers, when South Africa gets affected negatively, KwaZulu Natal suffers the most. The unemployment rate of KZN stands at 25.1%, with the expanded unemployment rate (EUR) at 42.4% against a figure of 38.0% (Eur) for the country. The levels of inequality (Gini-coefficient) in South Africa are amongst the highest in the world. This is worse for KZN because of its population figures with its struggling economy.
Statistical reports suggest that KZN records the highest levels of youth dependency to adults because of poor education, poor economy, poor health, high HIV and TB infections and fatalities and other social factors. Of the total figure of 17 453 451 grants in the country, as a province KZN has the highest at 3 876 439 in total. KZN leads in dependency with 678 582 in Old Age grants; Leads in dependency with 232 256 in disability grants; Leads in dependency with 55 344 in grant in aid; Leads in dependency with 2 789 699 in child support grant. In KwaZulu Natal, the total dependent population amounts to 4 209 229, and the economically active population stands at 7 175 492, out of a total population of 11 384 722 for the province.
These figures suggest that whilst the government of South Africa is prioritising economic growth and job creation, in KwaZulu Natal such a focus should double or triple the efforts of creating a growing, reliable and jobs providing economy. This calls for integrity and honesty in this province. This calls for a most caring leadership in attending to the plight of the citizens of this province. This calls for tremendous dedication, selflessness and people-oriented leadership. If the Premier and his team will not provide this kind of leadership, this province will not rise from its downward spiral.
Health care in KwaZulu Natal is crumbling. Medical facilities in the province suffer shortages of staff, especially nurses and doctors. Some medical facilities suffer the disease of bad staff attitudes towards patients. Some of this is a result of long unbearable hours because of shortages of personnel. Averages of waiting times in some facilities are abnormal. Health equipment in hospitals and clinics suffer neglect in repairs and result in unreliability with diagnosis and results. Normal healthcare becomes very difficult to access in some rural areas of the province because of distances, the terrain and the conditions of some rural roads. Some facilities suffer the challenge of stock shortages and supplies. All these affect the provision of proper and quality healthcare to the citizens of the province. In accordance with the international norm of one ambulance to every 10 000 people, in reality, KwaZulu Natal has a shortage of 565 ambulances.
The IFP has for a very long time maintained that quality education in our country and in our province is a reality only to those chosen few of South Africans who can afford to pay for quality education. The millions of other South Africans are subjected to education of sub-standards because of poor infrastructure and poor facilities in our schools, especially in rural and township schools. Government still need to provide proper sanitation to schools, proper classrooms, libraries and laboratories, sports facilities, technical equipment for tuition and well-trained educators equitable to the numbers they teach. In some areas, learners are still being subjected to very long walking distances to schools because of non-provision of learner transport for those areas.
Hence, KZN government must prioritise provision of quality education by ensuring that every primary school in the province has a proper grade R classroom; that grade R educators and/or practitioners are properly remunerated; that schools and education offices are professionally managed by skilled personnel; that effective teaching and learning takes place in schools; that schools are safe environments for learners and educators in order for healthy engagements between learners and educators; that government provides adequate learning and teaching materials on time; that monies provided by the department to schools is properly utilised without corruption; that monitoring bodies like Umalusi and others adhere to quality standards without fear or favour; and that all other stakeholders like school governing bodies, teacher unions and others, also commit to the ideals of the provision of quality education.
KwaZulu-Natal has experienced an increase of crime levels year after year. Of late, the province has suffered a spate of murders, especially in relation to the persecution of political leaders. With this kind of an unhealthy environment, it will be very difficult for the province to be able to attract the much-needed investments into the province. The province must be tough on crime. The justice system institutions of the province must be made to be fairly accessible to all the citizens of our province irrespective of their geographic location as it is the case at present. Government must ensure that political leaders who are alleged to be involved in criminal activities do not get compensated by redeployment to other positions in leadership offices. Government must ensure that civil servants who get involved in corruption are brought to book and that they do not later resurface in other positions of power elsewhere in government.
The bad road infrastructure in our province is a hindrance to economic development of the province, to the provisions of proper social, educational, health provision in the province. Bad roads retard progress in the criminal justice system. Bad roads disrupt the whole development initiatives of the province in a variety of ways. Therefore, government must provide good roads for the areas of our province in order for the province to prosper. KwaZulu Natal recorded the highest number of road deaths in the country during the 2018 festive season. Out of 1612 fatalities for the country, KwaZulu Natal alone had 328, followed by the Eastern Cape with 238 fatalities. This is not good for tourism in the province and for the wellbeing of both our citizens and our visitors who bring money to the province.
KwaZulu Natal is a great province with a potential and with great people. Sporting talents that individually exist with a great number of our citizens must be well taken care of and be well nurtured. So far, our province has lacked proper facilities and proper programmes and initiates to make KwaZulu Natal the number one province in providing the country's sport teams with KZN talent. Government must make adequate financial investments in our sports programmes in the province. Arts, sports and culture should not be made the Cinderella programmes of the province through under-funding.
The province has recently suffered a string of service delivery protests in a number of communities. Some of these have turned out to be violent. Whilst no amount of unhappiness justifies the destruction of government property, these can however be eliminated if municipalities can be geared towards the provision of quality services to the people of our province. Municipalities must do their work without political partisanship. Municipalities must employ their staff without any form of favouritism and nepotism. Management of municipalities in our province and in the country lives a lot to be desired.
When issuing the audit outcomes for 2016/17, the Auditor-General raised serious concerns about the way in which finances are utilised in the municipalities. He raised serious concerns about lack of accountability and accountability failures, increase in irregular expenditure, noncompliance with legislation and lack of consequence management by relevant authorities and bodies. KwaZulu Natal municipalities recorded a regression from the previous audit reports with 13municipalities regressing. The Auditor-General noted that of the regressing municipalities in KZN, what was clear was a sense of complacency and lack of follow-through on the commitments of the previous administration commitments. This province needs a very strong monitoring of the goings on in our municipalities. The recent developments in our only metropolitan municipality in Ethekwini, and in our aspirant metro in Newcastle municipality, points out that the rule of law in the governance of municipalities needs to be enforced without fear or favour.
If the province is geared to lifting the development of our people to great heights, these are the areas which will have to be the focus of the Premier and his government in the next twelve months and the next five years. We expect the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal to lay out practical actions to deal with key challenges of this Province: creating the growing economy to provide jobs, provision of decent housing to our people who are still without proper and dignified shelter, crime that affects our communities and schools and the intervention of the government in key service delivery issues in KZN i.e water and electricity.
Hon Velenkosini Hlabisa
Leader of the Official Opposition in KwaZulu-Natal
076 810 7233