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South Africa

Makhura: Promising game-changers, not fairytales

Makhura: Promising game-changers, not fairytales

Gauteng Premier David Makhura used his third state of the province address (SOPA) on Monday in Sebokeng to describe a more trustworthy and accountable government. He has plans to transform the province and boost the economy, despite slow national and international growth. With major Gauteng metros highly contested in the run-up to the municipal elections, whether voters believe the premier will be crucial for the ANC. By GREG NICOLSON.

“A promise made is a promise kept,” Makhura began his speech on Monday 22th. He was referring to his commitment to hold SOPA in the Vaal. Noting the lessons of his 21 months in government, Makhura ended: “It is possible to restore public confidence and a common narrative if we as government honour our commitments and implement agreed plans. We know that our people are tired of excuses and empty promises.”

The premier said that violent protests engulfed Gauteng before the launch of the province’s Ntirhisano community outreach programme. There was growing dissatisfaction in how government interacts with communities and a distinct trust deficit. Makhura cited figures from Municipal IQ Monitor showing that, while protests in the province are still frequent, they have seen a significant decline since his focus on engaging community concerns directly when they arise.

The premier claimed his government listens and leaders will this year spend more time in communities, refusing to be complacent. “We are governing with a greater sense of urgency, integrity and transparency,” he said.

Citing the unqualified audits received by Gauteng departments (which all of them achieved, except Health ) and warning underperforming leaders they will be replaced, Makhura said the government understands that the public won’t tolerate incompetence. “In this province, failure is not an option,” he said. He also said that he was committing to eradicating corruption.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng leader John Moodey said he didn’t believe the province has become more responsive. “If his is a government that is as caring, as he says, he would be holding his government to account,” said Moodey. “I don’t see any fundamental difference to people’s lives.” The DA leader said people need basic services, jobs and hunger alleviation and the government could address core challenges by managing its budget and fighting cronyism.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) tried to submit member statements before Monday’s special sitting but were denied by Speaker Ntombi Mekgwe. During Makhura’s address, they chanted “e-tolls must fall” before they were asked to leave. EFF caucus leader Mandisa Mashego said, “The reality on the ground remains the same. So if he wants to be the emperor looking in mirror that’s okay.”

Throughout his speech Makhura emphasised the province’s plan of transformation, modernisation and revitalisation. He noted job growth, but said the government must “work doubly hard and do things differently” in the challenging economic environment. Gauteng has formulated a new economic plan, linked to the goals of President Jacob Zuma’s nine-point plan, which will be launched in May after public consultations. Makhura said it will focus on boosting the province’s service and manufacturing sectors. Attempts to reduce red tape for businesses through investment centres have led to a reduction in processing development applications and the time to process environmental impact assessments (EIAs) have reduced from 18 months to three months. Makhura said EIAs will soon be completed in 30 days.

The premier also emphasised efforts to support township economies and young, black entrepreneurs. The provincial government spent R1.8 billion and municipalities R1.6 billion procuring goods and services from township businesses last year, meeting the 12 percent target. By 2019 they aim to procure 30 percent of goods and services from township entrepreneurs. Before the Township Economy Revitalsation Strategy, 400 township businesses benefitted from the province’s procurement spending; now, 1,805 benefit.

Makhura said 10 of 14 departments achieved the goal of 90 percent compliance in paying service providers within 30 days but admitted the largest departments – education, health, human settlements and infrastructure development – are those who are failing. “We cannot be a government that destroys black businesses and SMMEs through non-payment or late payment of invoices,” he said.

“Honourable Members, the Township Economy Revitalisation is not a fairytale. As we said before, it is becoming a game-changer,” said Makhura.

On infrastructure, the premier reiterated the commitment to spend R30 billion in the medium-term expenditure framework to 2019. Johannesburg and Tshwane are still looking at private partners to renovate the Kelvin, Pretoria West and Rooiwaal power plants, which could ‘add 1200 MW to the grid’.

The Bus Rapid Transit system continues to expand in Johannesburg and Tshwane, with Ekurhuleni’s system going operational in July. The 48 new Gautrain cars being built at a cost of R3.5 billion should be built locally, said Makhura, adding to the province’s locomotive, bus and minibus manufacturing sectors.

Noting the R7.2 billion to be spent over three years upgrading roads, none of the new developments will be tolled, the premier repeated. “In many meetings I have addressed since the announcement of the new dispensation, I have heard many motorists who say that they are not paying e-tolls due to affordability, rather than being part of a campaign of civil disobedience. Affordability is the issue, not civil defiance,” said Makhura, disappointing those who wanted him to scrap e-tolls.

While citing the ANC government’s delivery of 938,000 housing opportunities over 20 years and the 20,000 stands delivered last year, Makhura said constraints meant housing delivery had not been impressive. Appointing ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile to the portfolio will improve performance, he said.

“Once more, the evidence that Gauteng is a construction site is indisputable. The cranes are up and construction is underway at Savannah City, Sandton City, Steyn City, Waterfall City, Tshwane West Capital, and Africa Gateway in Centurion,” said the premier, also mentioning the development of Lanseria Airport City and Vaal River City.

On crime, the premier called on religious leaders to lead the fight against substance abuse and noted successes closing drug labs. He expects a provincial SAPS commissioner to be appointed in March and also said metro police should be used to fight crime, and not just wait to catch speeding drivers.

Makhura also condemned racism and announced the appointment of a group of eminent persons who will consult with civil society on how to lead conversations combatting racism and xenophobia.

“Obviously we are satisfied,” said ANC Gauteng spokesperson Nkenke Kekana. “What is called the global city region is beginning to take place,” he added, referring to cooperation between the provincial government and its municipalities.

The DA’s Moodey however said he is “terribly disappointed” and accused Makhura of exaggerating successes. “He plays around with figures quite frankly to bamboozle us,” he said. Moodey questioned the premier’s job figures, said the transformation, revitalisation and modernisation plan was “rehashed”. He claimed Makhura’s stance on corruption wasn’t backed up by action and said the admission that the highest-spending departments aren’t paying invoices on time leads to closures of small businesses. He said the premier’s comments on e-tolls makes light of the serious issue. In his statement, Moodey said the premier “offered residents of Gauteng old ideas packaged as new initiatives”.

The EFF’s Mashego said the party will respond in full during the SOPA debate on Thursday, but said, “The continuation of lies must stop.” She said the ANC thinks it can fool the public while poverty is increasing and the quality of new jobs are not scrutinised.

The Inkatha Freedom Party’s representative in the Gauteng Legislature, Bonginkosi Dhlamini, said the premier painted a realistic picture of the province’s challenges but called for the implementation of policies. “The time for planning is over,” he said.

Early on in his speech, Makhura said, “As the leadership of this great province, we are neither superstars nor celebrities. We are simple and humble servants of the people.”

Opposition parties are gearing to take Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni from the ANC. The premier struck the right note on Monday, but whether voters believe his humble approach could be key in whether the ANC can keep its metros. DM

Photo: Gauteng premier David Makhura speaks at a Gauteng township economy revitalisation summit in Soweto, Tuesday, 7 October 2014. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA.

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