Honourable Madam Speaker Ntombi Mekgwe
Honourable Madam Deputy Speaker Nomvuyo Mhlakaza-Manamela
Honourable Premier David Makhura
Honourable Members of the Gauteng Executive Council
The Citizens of Gauteng
Madam Speaker, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) welcomed the frank tone of this year’s State of the Province Address (SOPA), wherein the Honourable Premier David Makhura acknowledged the dire state of our province and the urgency of action required. Speaking with great conviction, the Honourable Premier presented a stark picture of the challenges confronting our country, and the people of Gauteng in particular. Ours is a province that is riddled with emergencies, ranging from high youth unemployment, corruption, violent crime, a decline in investment in our public infrastructure, and service delivery challenges, amongst others. All these challenges have been undeniably worsened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its accompanying economic downturn.
The Honourable Premier made the plea for all hands to be on deck in rebuilding and moving Gauteng forward from the public health emergency, to an economic and service delivery emergency.
However, his address fell short of tabling a new set of ideas and proposals that demonstrate his administration’s determination to change tack from the old way of doing things. Instead, the people of Gauteng were presented with rehashed ideas and nothing more than a promise to act with a sense of urgency when responding to the current challenges. We all know that some of these are challenges predate the era of the Covid-19 health emergency. Thus, there can be no gainsaying that this was a missed opportunity to inspire public confidence.
Today, the rate of unemployment in Gauteng stands at 37 percent, last year it was at 32 percent. This issue has long been our most pressing economic and social emergency, especially since it contributes to poverty, inequality, and other social ills. Yet, on Monday, the Honorable Premier heralded the successes of the Tshepo 1 Million Programme in reducing unemployment amongst the youth.
If this programme was so effective or lived up to its name, which means “hope”, kumele sibuze ukuthi kungani iningi lentsha lihlezi emakhaya, kungani belindele ukuhola ama-R350 grant, instead of being employed? Until this question is answered, it remains a mystery to me, as to how this programme can be seen as having made a significant impact on unemployment in the province.
Honourable Speaker, if the people are to believe that all hands are on deck in rebuilding our economy and creating jobs, then all Departments should be seen working together to minimise the emergency of rising unemployment numbers. But that is not the case. And that falls on you, Honourable Premier, because you told this esteemed house, during the SOPA in 2018, that the “buck” stops with you.
As the steward of this ship, you ought to be giving the directives and making the tough decisions to ensure that this employment programme is prioritised by all within your administration.
The IFP puts it before this House that a mere promise of an emergency mode of leadership is not enough. It must be seen in practice. So far, it has not been practiced.
Madam Speaker, the citizens of Gauteng have long been subjected to infrastructure projects that either take too long or cost too much money to complete. Be it in public transport infrastructure; human settlements; water and sanitation; healthcare and other areas of basic service delivery, there are serious backlogs. The slow pace in resolving these issues has given the impression that this government is neither serious nor sincere in its commitment to efficient delivery of services.
The Honorable Premier acknowledged the problem of collapsing infrastructure as something that “requires an emergency response akin to the way we dealt with the Covid-19 public health emergency” (SOPA, 2022). In this regard, the IFP shares the same sentiments. But further to that, we want to see an emergency response that is propped up with resources, clear political will and determination, to ensure that this is not another empty government promise about expediting the pace of service delivery.
Honourable Speaker, another emergency is the issue of maladministration and corruption practices, which effectively rob all citizens in need of public goods and services.
It is an indictment on this administration that this has continued to take place, even though an anti-corruption strategy and integrity management framework was adopted in 2016. The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) Reports, released last month, reveal that this province lost a significant amount of money, in excess of billions, through Covid-19-related procurement contracts. Again, we say that the time for tough rhetoric about anti-corruption is over. People want to see the criminals charged and placed behind bars. That includes the criminals from the leadership ranks of the governing party and officials in government who are implicated in the theft of public funds.
Honourable Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not mention the good commitments, which we will be watching closely. This includes the revitalisation of the township economy and the pending adoption of the Township Economic Development Bill intended to support businesses in the local townships; the commitment to focus on the development of six hostels owned by the provincial government; the developments to expand the Cannabis Industry; and the progress of refurbishing the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, amongst others.
In conclusion, when one looks at the levels of unemployment, poverty, crime, and corruption, the reality is that we have long been beset with economic and social emergencies. Citizens are becoming despondent, and others more impatient, waiting to see the tangible results of the electoral promises made when this administration first assumed its duties. We dare not fail them!
I thank you.
Bonginkosi Dhlamini, MPL
IFP Gauteng Provincial Chairperson
082 565 3571