Note to Editors: This speech was delivered in the Gauteng Legislature today by Gauteng Caucus Leader, Solly Msimanga MPL, during the debate on the 2019 State of the Province Address
Today I stand here a proud man as the Leader of the Official Opposition in Gauteng.
Sometimes, our colleagues on the other side of this House understand the word opposition in its denotative form and misinterpret our stance on several issues and challenges that face the people of this province, on a daily basis.
Our existence is a critical one.
Ours is to hold the powers that be to account and to contribute robustly and critically to our democratic discourse.
Ours is not to simply oppose, ours is to be the light that guides the way through these dark socio-economic days bequeathed to us by successive failing governments.
In digesting what was said on Monday, one can only describe it as the Premier’s State of Planning address, a phrase that most aptly jumps to mind is that of surrealist painter Pablo Picasso, and I quote:
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”.
The question I have to ask the Honourable Premier is, if you were to die today, would you be happy with the things you have left undone?
In your address on Monday, the 6th administration intends to pick up directly where the 5th one left off, with much talk and very little action.
In 2014, I sat in this House and listened attentively to what you had to say, hoping that under your watch, the province would begin to turn the tide on skulduggery that was your predecessor, and state capture damsel Nomvula Mokonyane’s reign of terror.
Sadly, by 2015, with the cancellation of the Life Esidimeni contract which led to the most horrendous deaths of some of the province’s most vulnerable citizens, the “Giant-slayer” hype had all but died and it was business as usual.
In your inaugural State of the Province address Honourable Premier, you envisaged so much for this province, yet very few of these promises were fulfilled. Just to remind you, here are but a few:
- Gauteng securing its own source of energy to mitigate the impact of load shedding;
- The retrofitting of solar panels to GPG buildings to reduce government’s carbon footprint and to save funds which could be better directed elsewhere;
- Convictions of crooks fleecing the state of public funds;
- Down-scaling the extravagance of MEC lifestyles and closing the taps of unbridled opulence within departments;
- The mass roll-out of broadband and Wi-Fi throughout the province; and
- Fixing an ailing health department that bleeds public funds due to negligence while at the same time kills businesses by not paying them on time.
These Honourable Premier are just a few items that slipped off your radar, there are many more.
But while I am on the topic of things left undone, I must address the elephant in the room, e-Tolls. In 2014, you instituted a review panel to deal with this unjust system whose gantries cast an ominous spectra over our freeways.
This review was nothing but a ruse. Your so-called “people’s march” to the union building was nothing but a ruse. I am most certain that once again, your utterances on Monday were but another ruse.
You have the power to dismantle this system. Nothing should hold you back. If this system was the anathema you claim it to be, you would have rid us of it long time ago.
You say the Gauteng Provincial Government will even pay towards the debt to free us of e-Tolls, but my question Honourable Premier is where will you get this money?
The province is already barely scarping through to make ends meet, now you want to throw good money after bad National government decision, which lacked proper public and inter-government consultations.
We as the DA don’t buy what you’re selling and come end of August, if we don’t have a definite date of the removal of those gantries, we will bring a motion to this House to lodge an inter-governmental dispute on the matter so that the people of Gauteng no longer have to endure the anxiety of being persecuted for using the roads.
Similarly, it is quite sad that through your pronouncement to pawn the Gauteng Provincial Health services off to National Government, you have officially tried to shirk the responsibility of providing caring and dignified health services to the people of this province.
It is a widely known fact that the Health Department is in an absolute shambles.
It is widely known that if you need to make use of a GPG healthcare facility that it is likely you may come out worse than when you went in.
This is evident through the high number of medico-legal claims against the department year in and year out.
This department must care for the highest number of patients in South Africa, yet as the country’s largest economy, this province should be up to the task of managing this demand.
If it were not for the nefarious deeds of some of your comrades and cadres, who have seemingly escaped justice, this department would not be in the state that it is.
Hospitals and clinics should be allowed to control their own budgets and manage their own affairs, as it is the staff at these institutions who know best what is required and how to react to the demands of our people.
If we continue down the path we have been on, it is likely that more shameful incidents like the cancelling of operations at the Thelle Moegerane Hospital due to a shortage of clean linen will occur and continue to put lives of our people at risk.
Another risk this government has taken is by playing games with our young people’s futures.
It is all good and well to implement tablets and smartboards, but if the critical juncture between teacher application and learner comprehension is not met, then all the technology in the world will not save our children.
What is needed Honourable Premier is for you to tackle SADTU head-on to resolve the issues that are plaguing the education system in Gauteng.
It cannot be the case that learners are abandoned in class while teachers head off for union meetings and do not make this time up.
This does our youth a disservice and, likely, contributes to the high dropout rate of children who do not make it all the way to Matric.
Likewise, it is critical that there is an introduction of the Common Annual Provincial Assessments. The primary purpose of these assessments is to inform teaching and improve learning.
These assessments contribute to constructive learning processes and provide useful feedback to learners, parents and teachers. Without standardised and frequent monitoring, it is impossible to gauge the level of competence of learners and what steps can be taken to rectify difficulties that may be taking place.
It is also of critical importance that learners are provided adequate and safe school environments. It is imperative that an audit is done of our schools to assess their safety and establish enforceable maintenance plans.
Quality educational outcomes are not possible in dilapidated, overcrowded and unsafe schools. Without quality education, we as a nation are doomed. Perhaps in this term we should also visit the case of schools buildings that are not being utilized, which in some cases turn into havens for criminal elements.
On the Economy
Look no further than the perilous state of our economy and the thousands of young people within the ranks of the unemployed.
Sadly, under this administration, our unemployed youth have little to look forward to.
If we look to our regional competitors, the likes of Rwanda, Ghana and Ethiopia the approach we have been taking has indeed been unrewarding.
The fundamental difference between them and us is that an environment conducive to investment and growth has been fostered, unlike here where outdated and debunked Marxist theory still manages to find a space on the economic stage.
Our systems of governance are bureaucratic, cumbersome and lethargic. It is difficult for any business to be born, grow and prosper.
Yet despite this, the market is still finding ways to make inroads where it can.
During your speech on Monday Honourable Premier, you peeled off a string of success stories that you tried to claim as your own. The truth is, these success stories have nothing to do with your administration.
Rather, they are the fruits of the labour of those that seek to prosper in the face of adversity.
This shows that it is the market that is best poised to make in-roads. Imagine if government created a conducive environment for growth by making doing business easier, providing policy certainty and then standing back allowing enterprising individuals to prosper. I hear you talking about this now as I’ve heard you a number of times before.
The question is, will we now see action, or will we at the end of this term face the same situation?
If we were to act, Imagine the economic benefits this would have?
Imagine the dent this would make to the unemployment figure and the trickle- down effect it would have on the families of those for whom gaining meaningful employment has been just a dream?
If your government can start to understand these principles, this province’s economy would prosper. More foreign direct investment would start pouring into the economy, creating a positive stimulus and ultimately, more jobs.
If you are serious about fostering this environment Honourable Premier, we will be more than happy to assist. We will show you how to do as we have done in the Western Cape where unemployment is decreasing while job creation is booming through the bold initiatives we have put in place.
You see Honourable Premier, the 21st century is poised to be the African century.
Markets across the continent are booming, many have faced up to the fact that the 4th industrial revolution is an inevitable epoch and as such have started to mould their way of operating in order to reap its many rewards. With the African free-trade agreement in place, South Africa and particularly Gauteng could be a major role player in this common marketplace.
Many successful South African companies have already branched out into Africa and are succeeding. As you said on Monday, this agreement could foster growth domestically and abroad, yet if this government continues to operate at the snail’s pace that it currently does, our people will be left in the successful wake of others.
To do this Honourable Premier, you need a strong dose of introspection. This province is riddled with corrupt individuals who rob our people of their dignity and opportunities.
A few years ago, you held a Corruption Summit and established an advisory panel, yet very few individuals have been held to account.
Corruption eats away at the fabric of our society.
Where are the lifestyle audits you so proudly claimed would be introduced to ensure public servants are held to account and kept inline?
You say you are waiting for the go-ahead from national government, yet like the e-Tolls, you have the power to act, yet you vacillate in the hopes that like many of your other so-called bold initiatives, this plan gets confined to the dustbin of history.
In this regard, you held a crime summit with the intention of coming down hard on criminals and odious characters who have our people in a vice-like grip of fear.
Some of the most atrocious crimes take place in Gauteng, and they happen Honourable Premier, because like much else that falls within the mandate of the ANC there are no consequences for wrong doers Criminals know that the SAPS is under-resourced, fatigued and in some instances are criminals themselves.
They know that people living outside of metro areas are highly vulnerable because policing in these areas is minimal.
People living in informal settlements suffer terribly at the hands of criminals because they are often overlooked and there are insufficient resources in place to service these highly populous areas.
Premier Makhura, we are cognisant of and welcome your stance on fighting crime, yet it is high time we start to see results.
The people of Gauteng can no longer endure living in a gangster’s paradise. They deserve security and peace of mind in their homes and public spaces.
Your Zama-Zama initiative is commendable, but it comes with a number of issues that if not carefully dealt with could further entrench the dangers that come with this activity. Who will regulate their activity and how will they do it? How do we ensure their safety? How do we keep the communities in which they operate safe?
I am sure you have not answered these questions because like so many of your other promises, it has probably been kicked into touch, only to be thought of again in 100 days’ time.
Honourable Premier, I must reiterate that many of the things you announced on Monday are old ideas wrapped in new, shiny rhetoric.
The development of agricultural activities is not a new idea. In 2014, when announcing your activities for the various corridors, the West Rand was to be a place of agricultural prosperity.
I agree Honourable Premier that this is an activity that we as a province must take full advantage of. Not only to grow this economy and create jobs, but also to add to the food security of Gauteng.
This activity will help many of the people living in the region as most of the towns there are dying a slow and agonizing death due to the downscaling of mining activities and dreadful governance .
It is these places that have had to bear the brunt of weak governance. These are the towns that suffer because financial mismanagement has seen their revenue depleted and are now having to operate without funds.
Where, Honourable Premier, is the report into the illegal investments with VBS Bank?
This report was promised to us in February by former Finance MEC Barbara Creecy, yet it has not seen the light of day.
This is yet more lip-service and once again, cadres who have pilfered public funds will not face the consequences of their actions.
How can you claim to be hard on wanton officials when there are a litany of claims of mismangement in various GPG departments?
When, Honourable Premier, will the accounting officers be held accountable for poor financial governance?
I am glad that you intend to sign performance agreements with members of your cabinet, but should action against one of them be required, do you have the conviction to act? Your previous handling of such issues – look no further than how you dealt with the Angel of Death, Qendani Mahlangu, suggest you will be impotent and ineffectual.
I applaud you for wanting to make these performance agreements public, but the must be another political stunt. The people of Gauteng should be able to exercise greater oversight and hold your executive to account. Therefore, these performance agreements and their reviews must be publicized every quarter. Failure to do so will make those performance agreements worth less than the paper they are written on.
Throughout your State of Planning address, you touched on Housing – an issue that is sensitive to many of our people who are yearning for security of tenure and dignified housing.
In the hundred days it will take the MEC for Human Settlements to draw up a semblance of a plan of action – millions of Gauteng’s poor and destitute will have to endure a bitter winter, unprotected from the extremes of freezing evenings and mornings.
Human settlements in this province is a disgrace and your government must hang its head in shame for perpetuating the cycle of poverty and homelessness. It is not only through carelessness and ignorance has this hardship been inflicted on our people, sometimes it is through the greed of cadres that people are subjected to inhumane conditions.
Just yesterday, the Daily Maverick exposed how the roll-out of sanitation in the ANC Metro of Ekurhuleni is being exploited through inflated rates and dubious tenders to benefit the pockets of a few predatory elite.
Another sensational scandal that you were deafly mute on throughout your State of Planning Address were the incomplete Evaton and Alex Renewal projects.
During the campaign season this issue became a political hot-potato with enormous amounts of blame shifting and little accountability from those who were meant to implement these projects.
You undertook to investigate what had happened to the funds and what tangible assets were delivered to our people. However, like Roman Emperor Nero, you seemingly fiddle while these places burn.
When will the people of Evaton and Alex be given answers, when will those who are implicated in wrongdoing be brought to book?
When will there be an audit of these programmes to ascertain what was delivered and what was not?
I must ask you Honourable Premier, how do you sleep at night knowing that the suffering of our people lands squarely at the feet of your fellow cadres?
Your pronouncements on Mega-Human Settlements to address the housing backlog is nothing new. You announced this in 2014. It is critical then, Honourable Premier, to ascertain in the past 5 years – how many of these have come to fruition?
Similarly, the old Apartheid relics known as hostels, which are hellholes, were to be converted into family units. To my mind this has not happened. If so, please tell us which have been converted and where they are so that we can see for ourselves that this is not just another fantasy concocted to appease the electorate.
It would seem Honourable Premier, that many of the successes you boast of are not your own and many old ideas and promises have been recycled into “new” initiatives.
The Aerotropolis, a plan that never took off. The River City, a plan that never took off. The four corridors and their envisaged economies – plans that never took off.
The manufacturing of rolling stock for PRASA, an initiative not of your own doing. Automotive investment, an initiative not of your own doing.
Honourable Premier, the electorate gave you the tiniest majority possible on May 8. Their message was clear, shape up or we’ll ship you out.
The people of Gauteng are tired of empty promises, regurgitated rhetoric and the hopelessness they have come to experience over the past 25 years of your party’s rule.
The winds of change are blowing strong throughout Gauteng. If you do not adjust your sails, they will blow you away.
This 6th administration must be one of more action and less talk.
The Democratic Alliance will be the support you need when you put the people of our province first and center, but will also be a thorn in your flesh when you, the executive and officials step out of line.
14 million people are dependant on you and your performance.
The time has come for implementation.
The fate of our elderly, our youth, the maligned and forgotten – ultimately our collective future, hangs in the balance. Again I say, the DA will work to assist in making Gauteng great, but will also continue to hold you and yours to account for those who are so quickly forgotten once elections have come and gone.