South Africa

STATE OF GAUTENG

A year on, many of Premier Makhura’s SOPA promises are unfulfilled

A year on, many of Premier Makhura’s SOPA promises are unfulfilled
Gauteng Premier David Makhura (Photo: Twitter / @FasihaHassan)

In his 2019 State of the Province Address, Premier David Makhura promised to scrap the e-toll system, promulgate the Gauteng Township Economy Development Act and improve healthcare services at the worst-performing hospitals. Traction on these promises is almost invisible. 

E-tolls remain a contentious issue, and once in a while enjoy centre stage on Twitter wars among politicians. Even though the national government has been stalling in announcing its decision on the future of the user-pay system, Gauteng Premier David Makhura did not hesitate to put it out there in his 2019 State of the Province Address (SOPA) that the Gauteng government was ready to pay some of the debt incurred by the system. 

After years of lobbying to have the system scrapped the impasse continues. A decision from the national government has been imminent since October 2019, but in December it decided to delay the matter until its first Cabinet meeting, on 12 February 2020. 

Wayne Duvenage, CEO of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) – the biggest e-toll opposer – anticipates that an announcement on the future of e-tolls will be made during Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Budget speech on Wednesday 26 February. 

“Government must find alternative ways to deal with e-tolls which do not involve motorists paying for them. Raising the fuel levy is a possible solution that can be used to raise the money,” Duvenage said. 

However, the finance minister’s stance on e-tolls is not popular with Gauteng motorists and the province’s governing party, the ANC. In his 2019 mid-term budget speech, Mboweni criticised motorists’ culture of non-payment and warned that roads were deteriorating as a result. 

“We have been unable to maintain the network. I urge the nation to please pay your bills,” Mboweni said. 

Despite the uncertain future of the tolling system, the Department of Transport gazetted tariff increases on e-tolls (effective from 1 March 2020), but the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) only extended the e-toll management system contract with Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) for three months. 

“The new gazetted fees were part of a formality, they might not necessarily mean that e-tolls are here to stay,” said Duvenage.

“But, of more concern, the contract ended last December and was extended for three months. This is not a good idea… at this point, a new tender has to be put out, lest they find themselves going against the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act]”. 

Following in second place on Makhura’s promises is the provincial government’s long-standing commitment to developing the township business economy. Major commitments were that the province would spend 30% of its procurement on township businesses and pass the Gauteng Township Economy Development Act. 

“Gauteng, more than any other province is applying a fair amount of effort towards the revitalisation of the township economy,” said Miranda Hosking, the director of the Entrepreneurship Development Academy at the Gordon Institute of Business Science. 

According to Hosking, the provincial government’s focus has largely been on developing infrastructure for small businesses in townships. This has been achieved by using existing infrastructure and stimulating the ability for entrepreneurs to have a place to trade. 

“So far, the national government has struggled to set aside the 30% spend on small businesses at large, and that’s not given to township businesses, so to say that you are going to put aside 30% for township businesses is quite a huge promise to make.

“If you’re going to do that, you need to make sure that your procurement and supply chain people are on board. You need to make sure that the systems in place align with that intention,” she said. 

Hosking added that as a government entity, the province is not exempt from the procurement policies with which provincial governments have to comply. How they align the spend in practice to policies in place remains a major challenge. 

What Makhura’s administration has possibly failed to address, is how township businesses will be capacitated to be able to take advantage of procurement opportunities. 

Closely tied to the issue of township economy development, is youth unemployment. Makhura’s third promise was to get 250,000 young people in the province in employment through the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and the Youth Employment Service (YES). 

Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the fourth quarter notes that Gauteng recorded an expanded unemployment rate increase of 0.2 percentage points – the rate is now 35.3%. 

Hosking said the 250,000 job target for the unemployed youth is too ambitious seeing that the province has not even delivered on Tshepo 1Million. She added that when it kicked off, the target was 10,000 people, then it went from 500,000 to one million people. 

“Tshepo 500,000 yielded little results and instead of going back to the drawing board and looking at how we can make sure that we run this programme properly, are informed by reality and look at what research tells us, the province doubled the target of Tshepo 500,000 to one million,” she said. 

Hosking added that not much detail was provided as to what kinds of jobs are being spoken about. “How we report on impact with regards to these programmes remains a challenge and it’s about the definitional issues.” 

After the premier identified the province’s “worst-performing hospitals”, he vowed to improve services at these health facilities, which are often viewed with contempt by patients. 

Mamelodi, Bheki Mlangeni, Tembisa and Jubilee hospitals were some of the health facilities identified as worst-performing. The DA’s shadow MEC for health, Jack Bloom, said there is no visible progress at these hospitals. 

“The systemic problems remain. They have filled most of the CEO posts – one of the promises – but besides that, the problem hospitals are still problem hospitals,” he said. 

In his 100 days in office address, Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku said that all CEO posts would be filled by the end of 2019. Of the 14 CEO posts that had to be filled, the MEC managed to fill 11, with three expected to be filled by 31 March 2020.

The MEC’s spokesperson, Kwara Kekana, told Daily Maverick that all 10 hospitals identified as weak performers have long-term service improvement plans.

She said funding had been allocated for additional posts in Mamelodi, and in Tembisa posts from other institutions had been approved to be moved to the provincial hospital. 

“There has been progress. Senior managers visit health facilities once a week as part of the employee value proposition to improve staff morale,” she added. 

Just a month ago, 10 babies died after antibiotic resistance CRE (Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) was reported between 1 November and 31 December 2019 at Tembisa Hospital. The provincial hospital is notorious for being overcrowded and understaffed. 

Bloom said the department has since approved 83 posts at Tembisa to address the staff shortage. 

The premier’s spokesperson, Vuyo Mhaga, declined to provide feedback on any of the premier’s promises, saying that this would mean he reveals Makhura’s speech for his SOPA on Tuesday 25 February.

“Progress made on all commitments will be reported on in the premier’s speech,” he said. 

Nonetheless, as Gauteng citizens await the premier’s address it remains uncertain whether Makhura will show any tangible gains on these matters, or again use them to score political points. DM

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