The following remarks were delivered today by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane, at the announcement of the DA’s Premier Candidate for Limpopo in Masodi Village, Mokopane. Maimane was joined by DA Limpopo Provincial Chairperson, Geoffrey Tshibvumo.
I am delighted to be in Masodi Village today to announce Jacques Smalle as the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Premier Candidate for the 2019 Election.
Eight years ago, the Ratunku Primary School was meant to be built for the children of Masodi, some of whom are with us today. You can see why it is now referred to as the ‘invisible school’ because all that has come of this promise is the abandoned space we find ourselves in. There is still no school today, as the young children of this village are left behind by the ANC government
The effect of this ANC government’s empty promise is that the only existing primary school in the village is crammed with over 1 500 learners where 64 pupils squeeze into a classroom, and 4 children use the same desk. Young children have no choice but to walk 7km to schools in other villages, crossing a river and road en route.
At least 7 children have lost their lives on this long and dangerous walk to school. Thabang Matjiu is one of the lucky few who survived with injuries after being hit by a car walking home from school.
Thabang is here today with his mother, father and grandmother. Thabang, I would like to commend you and your family for being here and assure you that we will seek accountability and answers from government as to this complete failure by the ANC government.
The Limpopo Department of Basic Education (DBE) continues to fail in delivering quality school infrastructure. The national DBE conceded in June that it did not achieve any of its Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) goals. As few as 22 of 115 selected schools through South Africa were built. And although there is a more than R5 billion school infrastructure backlog in Limpopo, this year’s infrastructure development programme was allocated R300 million less than four years ago.
But much like this ‘invisible school’, even when the Limpopo DBE did set aside as much as R200 million of this programme to build new schools and administration blocks, these projects were abandoned and have still not been finished. Limpopo Education MEC, Ishmael Kgetjepe, continues to protect the political architects of these invisible schools over learners like Thabang who suffer with the consequences.
These learners are growing up in a world where just over a quarter of the entire province do not have jobs. Worse yet, when accounting for those who have also given up searching for jobs, this harrowing number spikes to a staggering 37.4%. The people of Limpopo need real change, and the DA is ready to bring that change. Change that creates work, cuts corruption, fights crime, speeds up service delivery to all, and ultimately betters the lives of all.
Of grave concern here in Limpopo is also the Makhado Project negotiated between South African coal exploration, development and mining company, MC Mining, and a Chinese construction enterprise, China Railway International Group. This almost R150 billion deal to develop a 4 600-megawatt coal-fired plant in the Makhado-Musina Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Limpopo has been signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
As with the R33 billion loan that the President signed from the Chinese Development Bank (CDB) to Eskom, the terms of reference of this deal have been cloaked in secrecy. The electricity and jobs created will only benefit the new Chinese-controlled industrial park, akin to a country within our country.
While I continue to fight the Eskom-China loan in Parliament, Jacques is probing the Chinese SEZ deal to get answers from government as to the impact it will have on the people of Limpopo. Jacques has a passion for this province and its people. He was born and raised in Limpopo’s Vhembe district and is a proud Tshivenda speaker.
His career in politics spans more than two decades from two terms as a Councillor, a Member of the Provincial Legislature and a Member of Parliament in various capacities.
When the province was placed under administration, it was his dogged fight that more than tripled norms and standards for quintile 1 to 3 schools from a meagre R320 to R1 060 per learner which made it possible for schools to become more independent. So when he offers to focus on funding incomplete infrastructure projects in the province such as Ratunku Primary School before starting on new infrastructure projects to ensure that we use resources effectively, you know that he will fight tooth and nail to realise this.
Jacques has been an entrepreneur from a young age, successfully running multiple businesses from a bakery, butchery and supermarket to an avocado and nut farm. His commitment to a civilian service programme that would provide young school leavers an opportunity to receive industry of their choosing and a programme partnering school leavers is reflection of the fundamental importance he places in investing in the future of young South Africans.
His cross-sector experience leaves him well placed to deliver on his offer to ensure that locals are the first to benefit in all SEZ developments by ensuring transparency on all Terms of Reference (TOR) and Memoranda of Understanding (MoU).
Few are as well qualified as Jacques to champion the DA’s call for Freedom, Fairness, Opportunity and Diversity throughout Limpopo. As of now, he will champion the DA’s charge for change and mission to unseat the incapable ANC government in the province.
Jacques will lead a team dedicating to eradicating corruption and will call for a commission of inquiry into the VBS Mutual Bank investment scandal before Limpopo municipalities lose another R1.1 billion to service delivery projects in the province.
His team will target its spending on completing incomplete infrastructure projects and clearing the infrastructure backlog for rural township schools. With 37.4% of Limpopo without a job or having given up hope of every finding a job, Jacques will make it a priority to support emerging businesses and equip SMME owners with the relevant business knowledge and skills to grow and create more opportunity.
In a province where so many have been left behind, Limpopo needs a leader willing and able to fight for one Limpopo with one future for all. I pledge the support of the DA’s national leadership to Jacques in his campaign to bring this change to Limpopo.
Because it is only the DA that can bring change for Thabang, his family and the rest of Limpopo to ensure we never again find ourselves gathered around an ‘invisible school’ remembering children who have lost their lives because of ANC government neglect. We believe in a better future for all in Limpopo and Jacques is the DA’s custodian of this belief in the province.