On Monday, 23 January 2015, Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, will outline the provincial government’s service delivery plan of action in his annual State of the Province Address (SOPA).
In only his second address, the “people’s premier” and his “activist government” have to pay heed to last year’s SOPA promises, by giving back the power to the people of the province, and not leave them behind – and that will require a few bold steps.
The contentious tolling system of Gauteng’s freeways has been a thorn in the side of Premier Makhura since taking office. In response to the beating the ANC took at the 2014 polls, the premier established a review panel to assess the socio-economic impact of e-tolls on the people of the province.
During its consultation process and in the panel’s final report it became abundantly clear that e-tolls were forced onto the citizens of Gauteng with limited consultation, and that their unilateral implementation harmed the poor, the working class, and the provincial economy.
The people of this province have on numerous occasions and on numerous platforms said that e-tolls must go, yet the premier and the ANC refused to recommend they be scrapped.
Only one solution remains, and that is for the premier to announce a provincial referendum on the future of e-tolls in his address.
The Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (DID) is a department that shows neither fear nor favour when it comes to thwarting service delivery. It continuously overspends, underachieves and shifts blame – and the premier needs to tackle this department head-on.
Government departments’ service delivery programmes are undermined by DID’s incompetence, and the province will not unlock growth and development unless this department fires on all cylinders.
There will be no growth without infrastructure.
The health and well-being of residents of this province remains a major priority for Premier Makhura, and he needs to re-establish public confidence in government health facilities.
Too often do stories of malpractice, medical shortages, long queues and ailing health infrastructure hit the headlines, with very little or no reassurance that this administration is serious about caring for the needs of the people.
As a starting point, the premier should announce the decentralisation of procurement to hospital CEOs. By doing so, bureaucratic red tape that often hinders critical care will be minimised – improving the quality of healthcare to residents of the province.
Coupled with this, the responsibility of maintenance and repair should be removed from the ambit of DID and be done in-house. This will alleviate the backlog in infrastructure projects and increase maintenance turnaround time.
While Gauteng may be the economic heartbeat of South Africa, its pulse is rapidly fading.
Innovative and incentive based approaches are needed to increase employment and economic growth.
It cannot be business as usual while the people of this province are crying out for the right conditions to steer the ship of Gauteng into less stormy waters, and the premier needs to announce a definitive policy direction to loosen the economic shackles of cumbersome, bureaucratic red tape.
By simplifying processes such as registration and regulation – business will flourish: Particularly SMME’s and those individuals trying to eke out a living in the province’s townships.
Special Economic Zones and Innovation Hubs in our township economies will go a long way in bringing people into the formal economy, while at the same time improve skills and increasing the provincial revenue base.
As migration into Gauteng continues in search of a better life, the demand for education in our ever-expanding communities remains a priority.
So too should it be a priority for Premier Makhura.
Failing infrastructure, overcrowding, and a lack of sanitation, electricity and water; coupled by the limited number of state schools – are all factors that harm quality education.
It is imperative that these issues are dealt with in a timeous manner to ensure that Gauteng provides quality basic education to all learners.
If not, the province will suffer an educational disconnect.
Local government remains the coalface of government’s service delivery agenda.
It is where the political will to do, or not to do, has the most direct impact on the day-to-day lives of the people.
This administration needs to pay heed to the cries of people living in municipalities around the province, who are in a daily struggle for water, electricity and decent housing.
Corruption runs rampant, the law is openly flouted, wrongdoers are protected and communities’ service delivery needs are disregarded.
It is the poorest of the poor who bear the brunt of maladministration and malaise – waiting, and in some instances dying, before their basic human rights are met.
The introduction of new metropolitan municipalities is neither feasible nor will it be conducive to the residents living there as centralisation is not the master stroke to cure all ills.
This is apparent in other metros such as Ekurhuleni, where communities are only serviced when the premier comes to visit; or Johannesburg, where financial management and billing is a shambles; and Tshwane, where government contracts are reserved for the mayor’s extended family and comrades.
Local government is slowly reaching boiling point, as communities are increasingly resorting to violent protests as a means to an end.
Gauteng is on a precipice, and Premier Makhura will do well to heed the DA’s recommendations to intervene in municipalities failing to carry out their constitutional mandate.
Instead of telling good story to his comrades and his friends on Monday, Premier Makhura must be the “activist premier” he purports to be, and lead his government and the people of Gauteng into an era of prosperity and economic growth, free from e-tolls, corruption, nepotism and maladministration.
John Moodey MPL
DA Gauteng Provincial Leader
082 960 3743