DEBATE ON THE
STATE OF THE PROVINCE ADDRESS
TUESDAY, 2 MARCH 2021
ADDRESS BY HON. VF HLABISA:
LEADER OF THE OFFICIAL OPPOSITION AND PRESIDENT OF THE IFP
Hon. Speaker, Hon. Premier, Hon. Members of the Legislature, Hon. Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
For the first time in the history of this province, the annual work of this Legislature in 2021 kicked off in the most unusual manner, when His Majesty the King could not officiate the official opening of the Legislature. It is therefore befitting for the IFP and the people of this province to start this debate by wishing the King good recovery, good health and everything of the best with his state of health.
During the SOPA, the Premier spoke about one of our Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, who became the first South African to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. One of the character traits that His Excellency, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, President Emeritus and Founder of the IFP, values about his growing up is that he grew up under the guidance of both Inkosi Albert Luthuli, and his uncle, Pixley Ka-Isaka Seme. He also values the fact that in his leadership, as he grew up, he was mentored by both Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Pixley Ka-Isaka Seme, amongst others.
Inkosi Albert Luthuli received another prestigious award from the OAU on 10 December 1974, the OAU Merit Award, posthumously in LeSotho, because of the apartheid laws of the time. The Luthuli family asked Prince Buthelezi to accompany uMama Nokukhanya Luthuli to the ceremony, where she was going to receive this OAU award on behalf of Inkosi Luthuli. It was Prince Buthelezi who delivered the award acceptance speech on behalf of the Luthuli family at that ceremony. In the speech, Prince Buthelezi said that he was receiving the award on behalf of the Luthuli family and the liberation movement. This is part of a story that will never be forgotten in the annals of history.
The IFP joins millions of South Africans of goodwill, in expressing gratitude to all healthcare workers and frontline staff of South Africa, for their dedicated and courageous service in the fight against the pandemic. This is why the IFP would nominate the South African healthcare workers to be the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize – not the Cuban Doctors, as President Ramaphosa announced on 2 February 2021. We also express the IFP’s condolences to the families of our colleagues, the Hon. Members who passed away over the past twelve-month-period, of this pandemic’s lockdown:
The Hon. Deputy Speaker Mluleki Ndobe
The Hon. Ricardo Mthembu
The Hon. Simo Mfayela, NCOP Delegate
The Hon. MEC Bheki Ntuli; and
The Hon. Bridgette Ntshangase
We extend our sympathies to all families and members of this Legislature who have lost their loved ones in this province during this trying and difficult time.
Hon. Speaker, when the coronavirus found us in March 2020, the economic fortunes of this country had already been in a downward slide for a long time. Our unemployment rate, especially amongst the youth, was already reaching unprecedented proportions. Our public wage bill as a country was already at abnormal heights. Our infrastructure in the public sector was already in dire and desperate need of improvement, maintenance and upgrades, as it had started crumbling long before the pandemic hit us. Poor service delivery by all government levels was already with us and was characterised by community protests all over the province, and the country. The sides of our system had started falling apart long before, hence the centre was no longer holding. This is evidenced by the pronouncement from the very State President that from 2009 onwards, South Africa had experienced nine (9) solid wasted years. When the pandemic hit us, moral decay – to the extent where people in power and the administration see the government purse as a cash cow for personal enrichment – was already here. The pandemic period only exposed the worst levels of these hidden character traits as shown in the PPE procurement corruption.
One can, of course, not ignore the fact that the bad that was with us in joblessness, economic decline and poverty, was indeed made worse by the pandemic.
The coronavirus has been catastrophic for many industries. In the same vein, some evil deeds were in place already before the pandemic became the scapegoat for decline. State capture became a strategy of the public purse looters long before the coronavirus. That is why today we have a Commission in the country looking at how the public service and the country itself was hijacked from us.
In his State of the Province Address, the Premier outlined the provincial economic measures that the province has set out to rescue the economy. We are all concerned about the decline of our economy, resulting in the closure of some businesses and job losses. Therefore, as the IFP, we support all efforts aimed at reigniting our economic recovery in a response to economic decline caused by the pandemic. The problem with the measures outlined by the Premier is that there is nothing new. It is a repeat of the old song that the province has listened to for many years.
We are living in desperate times, Hon Premier. Actions that might seem extreme under normal circumstances, are appropriate during adversity. Like the Premier said, the tourism industry is amongst the sectors that were hit very hard. Some tourism establishments have shut down, and more are yet to announce closure. The only international airport in the province, the King Shaka International Airport, has been closed for the most part of the past twelve months. The Inkosi Luthuli International Convention Centre in eThekwini, which has served as a centre of attraction for most international conferences, is still going to remain without bookings for many months to come. Sports meetings, which attract international travellers, are getting cancelled. eThekwini has been drawing a lot of its tourists from sporting events, hence, the province dubbed it as the ‘playground’ of the world. The plan outlined by the Premier does not show that we are a people who desperately want to come out of the dungeons of the corona strain and its consequences.
Like you clearly pointed, out Hon. Premier, our heritage sites in the province also draw a lot of international and domestic travellers, which boost the economy of the province. But in order for these sites to achieve this desired outcome, they need to be kept in attractive and marketable conditions. Unfortunately, the province has allowed most of our heritage and cultural sites to crumble. This is not good for business or tourism. Emakhosini Valley, just outside Ulundi, which used to attract a lot of tourists in the past, is in a terrible state of disrepair. Recently, elephants in the park got out and one of them that could not be safely returned to the park, had to be shot dead by the rangers in order to protect the nearby communities. The infrastructure in Hluhluwe Game Park is crumbling. The infrastructure in the Drakensberg Caves, where the treasure of some olden-day Khoi artwork is found, is also in desperate need of upgrade and maintenance.
The IFP welcomes the interventions to rehabilitate the Industrial Parks in KwaSithebe, Ezakheni and Madadeni. The IFP was right in developing these Industrial Parks and the IFP has always maintained that SMMEs and Co-operatives are the way to go, and the backbone of a developing economy like ours.
Whilst measures to upgrade the Margate and Pietermaritzburg Airports, and to develop a new airport in Mkhuze are good initiatives, one would like to know: why is the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Airport in Ulundi getting side-lined in all these developments.
Hon. Premier, a lot of commitments and promises have been made by this government before, without many getting fulfilled. During the State of the Province address here in 2020, the Premier committed that the Dube Trade Port would provide 810 Wi-Fi hotspots at 405 selected sites across the province. This has not happened. The upgrade of the Durban Port, with the construction of the Cruise Terminal, in addition to government’s focus on the oceans’ economy, is a story that we have listened to every year.
The Hon. Premier passionately promised that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development would develop a goat farming value chain that would greatly benefit rural communities. This has not happened.
Addressing us here last year, the Premier directly committed to His Majesty the King that the Isandlwana Heritage project was getting off the ground. However, nothing has happened. The Premier reported that he had instructed the Justice and Crime Prevention Cluster to put an immediate stop to the illegal acts, and to work with communities to put all those engaged in the acts of sabotage in destroying water infrastructure in Ugu behind bars. This has not happened. Instead, the acts of water infrastructure sabotage have escalated to uThukela, iLembe, King Cetshwayo and other areas.
Hon. Speaker, Hon. Members, allow me at this juncture, on behalf of the Inkatha Freedom Party, to express our gratitude and congratulate the Matric Class of 2020 in our province for a job well done.
This class achieved against all odds. Congratulations are in order to Hon. MEC Mshengu, as the political head of the Department. We also congratulate all educators, non-teaching staff, parents and the Department. The IFP salutes all 253 educators and 38 non-teaching staff who succumbed to Covid-19 while in the line of duty.
Having congratulated the Department, the Top 10 of KZN 2020 Matric Class reflected badly and left much to be desired. Well enough, there is Colombe Cynthia Obono Eyoyo, who is an English home language speaker, but of the entire Top 10, none is a black South African. After 27 years of freedom in our country, this should not be the case. The unequal terrain in the education sector is reflected in that those who have access to online learning will always outweigh the previously disadvantaged. Hon. Premier, this needs an urgent turnaround plan.
The roads in our province are mostly in a terrible state. We have lots of gravel roads that need to be tarred, potholes are devastating to the road users, and upgrades and maintenance are a challenge. It is therefore unacceptable that the Department of Transport underspent its Budget by a whopping R1.6 billion.
Hon. Speaker, the Premier has promised the rehabilitation of the poultry industry in Cato Ridge. This is good news indeed. The question remains as to why the poultry industry in this area was allowed to shut down, with thousands of jobs that got lost with this closure. South Africa entered into trade agreements with the USA and Brazil, which allow these two countries to send their cheap poultry products to South Africa. For as long as these trade agreements are in place, the poultry industry of South Africa will suffer, as it finds itself unable to compete with the cheap imports sent to South Africa through these agreements.
The IFP welcomes the establishment of the Provincial Legislature’s ad-hoc committee on investigations, to deal with the slow progress of investigations in the provincial departments, and the lack of consequence management. The IFP proposed this committee, which was seconded by the ANC, resulting in the unanimous agreement by the House. We appreciate the effective, non-compromising leadership of the Chairperson of this Committee, the Hon. Maggie Govender. This is the kind of leadership oversight needs in order to get things right.
Hon. Premier, you spoke of the province having to move away from synonymity with irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditure. Unfortunately, irregular expenditure in the province is getting worse. The irregular expenditure of our provincial Department of Transport, the main culprit, is worse than any Department in the country, with all national and provincial departments combined.
As the IFP, we will perform our mandate of official opposition during this period effectively. Where the ruling party has done well, we will give credit. Where the ruling party has not done well, we will expose its failures. We were schooled in a political upbringing that acknowledges differences of opinion.
I thank you.