On Monday 26 February 2018, Gauteng Premier David Makhura delivered the State of the Province address (SOPA), inspired by the thematic message of hope and renewal from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address. In it, he not only gave a reflective account of progress made since 2014, but also re-emphasised President Ramaphosa’s message that we want to be there and lend a hand to deliver on our electoral commitment and mandate given to us by our people.
We want to be guided by our revolutionary obligation and zeal to deliver a Gauteng city region that real belongs to all. We want to be there for those in the townships, the informal settlements, in hostels, farmworkers and everyone else who remains marginalised and on the periphery of economic activity and society within Gauteng.
In reflecting on the significant strides we have made since coming into office, on a ticket of radical transformation, modernisation and re-industrialisation as the fifth administration in Gauteng in 2014, one is immediately drawn to the words uttered by Steve Jobs, the co-founder and former CEO of one of the world’s most iconic companies, Apple Inc. when he said: “I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why, because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed.”
As a government of revolutionary democrats, from the onset we set out on a radical path geared towards structurally re-aligning our economy, redressing past imbalances and creating an inclusive economy that creates opportunities for historically disadvantaged individuals to work and live in a better quality environment, grow their asset base, build new wealth and participate significantly as well as meaningfully within the mainstream economy.
Rolling out a revolutionary programme of such immense proportions is much harder and more taxing than looking to make incremental gains as Steve Jobs reminds us, especially given the patience that our people have shown in the past twenty plus years in their quest for the better life that the post-1994 dispensation promised them.
It is also, as Jobs once again reminds us, a path filled with many critics who will inadvertently be waiting in the wings to constantly tell you that you have failed or are failing, hence one is never surprised to hear such constant criticisms from opposition benches and certain groups within society. It is “the road less travelled” to use a famous cliché by poet Robert Frost.
As Premier David Makhura highlighted in his State of the Province address earlier this week, despite the naysayers and doomsday prophets who thrived in the difficult environment that we have just recently come out of as a nation, we have indeed made much progress in our quest to build a more just, equitable, inclusive society for all our people.
Through our Tshepo 1 Million partnership with the private sector and other stakeholders, we have been training and equipping our young people in digital skills in order to prepare them to participate within the mainstream economy, especially as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the era of the knowledge economy.
The total number of youth to have benefited from the programme since 2014 is 450,000. The programme is geared towards deliberately reaching out to marginalised and excluded people, with each young person who benefits from the programme supporting an average of four to five people and 41% of youth within the programme having children of their own.
Not only that, we have also been the leading province in deploying digital technology for learning and teaching as well as created platforms for innovation and entrepreneurship through our roll out of eKasi Labs and partnerships with Gauteng-based universities, research institutions and other knowledge economy catalysts for skills development as well as investment in research and development.
We have invested in catalytic, strategic economic infrastructure in order to rebuild and develop the productive capacity of our township economy, with seven new industrial and business parks developed, 16 more in progress and another 10 industrial parks refurbished.
Infrastructure investment is integral to our social and economic transformation agenda and is right at the heart of our industrialisation drive within the city region. In the period under consideration, since we came into office +R30-billion was spent on infrastructure investment, with an average annual growth rate of 20.7%, which is the fastest growth rate in the country.
Through the implementation of the Gauteng Economic Development Plan with its sector based approach we have managed to create industry action labs in the following areas: capital equipment, mining and mineral beneficiation, automotive, Information and Communications Technology, Business Process Services and steel sectors.
These engagements have not only had the impact of saving jobs in highly pressurised industries such as the steel sector, but have also created transformative initiatives such as the South African Capital Equipment Export Council/Gauteng Growth and Development Agency partnership which is equipping 30 black industrialists from within the province. We have been able to create access to new markets through exciting initiatives such as the Zambian hub, which will give our entrepreneurs steady markets within which to sell their goods.
Progress has been made in modernising our services with online systems being implemented in provincial agencies such as the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller and the Gauteng Liquor Board and through our one stop investment shop, the Gauteng Investment Centre we have managed to facilitate investment that contributes significantly to the GDP of the provincial economy.
Our procurement policy has contributed largely to Township Economy Revitalisation, with over R17-billion now being spent on township based enterprises. This means that our spend on township enterprises has increased by 55% per annum. We are working at expanding this spend campaign to S0Es and the private sector through partnerships.
Some 24,487 SMMEs were supported along with 5,510 co-operatives, indicating our belief in the importance of small businesses to the growth and transformation of our dynamic, modern economy. Close on 40 township manufacturing projects where funded and 70 township tourism nodes were promoted in order to develop manufacturing capacity within our townships and use township tourism experiences with its rich heritage to grow township tourism.
We completed our asset register for government owned land and property and from that, we are going to lease out suitably located properties for township businesses, a critical intervention since the land question is one of the biggest challenges that township enterprises and black businesses are faced with.
The agricultural sector is a core part of our industrialisation drive and in order to increase our agro-processing capacity, we managed to build eight agri-parks using ground-breaking hydroponics technology in some of them and we supported 60 agri-businesses with access to markets.
We have managed to roll out agro-processing machinery like abattoir equipment, vegetable cutting machines, cold trailers, moringa pellet machines, feed mills and egg grading machines. Agripreneurs and co-operatives in the Agri-parks and surrounding the Agri-parks where supported with vegetable inputs.
A total of 8,235 households benefited from agriculture food security initiatives, with a further 2242 smallholder farmers supported with agricultural advisory services as we sought to help them build sustainable agricultural enterprises in order to transform the sector.
In order to broaden access of veterinary services to all communities, we launched a project to roll out mobile clinic veterinary services. We pioneered the movable and mobile abattoir project in 2016, procuring four mobile abattoirs, with an additional six mobile abattoirs currently under procurement.
With regards to land reform, we have completed phase 1 of the land audit, helping us get a better understanding of land ownership patterns within the province and we are currently busy with phase two, which is the final step before we embark on our progressive programme of land expropriation without compensation, in line with current constitutional prerogatives.
Much progress has been made in building and transforming our economy, yet much more still needs to be done in terms of promoting localisation and manufacturing, in supporting black businesses to enter other economic sectors and to build new economic nodes, in linking our SMMEs, township enterprises and black businesses with supply chains of major corporations.
All of this remains a work in progress as we are into the final year of our term in office and requires us, in looking back in order to more impactfully go forward, to embrace the attitude encapsulated by the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said, “Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.” DM
Lebogang Maile is Gauteng MEC of Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development and ANC Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee (PEC)