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The Western Cape has reached a Covid-19 fork in the road – we have four main choices to make


Alan Winde is Western Cape Premier.

The road to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic will not be easy. Tough choices need to be made, with far less money than before. Together with civil society and the private sector, and across political lines, we will focus the Western Cape on creating jobs, building a safer province and entrenching the rights of residents to dignity and wellbeing.

On 22 October 2020, I delivered a special address to the Western Cape provincial parliament where I set out our government’s plans to recover from the Covid-19 crisis.

We face a fork in the road, as does every other provincial government in South Africa. The demands on us have never been greater, with growing unemployment, poverty and hunger, and we will have significantly less money available to get the job done. 

We have no choice but to make the hard choices needed now – to pick that correct path so we ensure our province keeps on moving forward.

This moment is indeed hard, because it will require trade-offs. 

When your budgets decline, you must pick some programmes that can continue and others that cannot. How will the Western Cape government make these tough decisions? I believe the people of the Western Cape deserve to know.

We have identified four major choices that we must make.

The first relates to prioritisation, the second to efficiency, the third to spending and the fourth to the delivery model that we will use.

On prioritisation, our government considered whether we must try to do more with less, with the potential of not doing any of it well enough. Or whether we should be brave: do less, but do it effectively, achieving real outcomes that will change our people’s lives for the better.

Our decision is that it is better to focus our efforts on fewer, key priorities that will make the biggest impact on the lives of our people. And to do it well.

On efficiency, our government considered whether we must stick with the current mechanisms that we have used to date – drafting annual plans which we religiously stick to whether they are delivering maximum benefit or not.

Or whether we should be brave, take the risk and allow our staff to innovate and make changes along the way so that we can deliver a better, smarter government.

Our decision is that innovation is the only way to make a difference in this resource-constrained environment, and that we must find new ways of delivering more efficient, cost-effective services. 

Our third choice is on spending, and whether we allow our administration to become bloated by our own wage bill, like so many other administrations across the country, or whether we should be brave and fight against this.

Because we believe that only a major investment in infrastructure, and excellent service delivery, will spark the economy and create jobs to the degree that we need to properly recover from this crisis, our decision is to make as much money available for this as possible.

That is why we have put a freeze on the filling of non-critical posts.  

We have also written to the president and the minister of public service and administration to ask for a seat at the wage bargaining table. Since the decisions made there are ones for which we will need to pay, we want to have our say.

And lastly, on our delivery model, our government must decide on whether we tackle these challenges through using our own government services. Or whether we should be brave and make the bold decision to partner with others when they can do it better.

Our decision is to join hands with civil society and the private sector, and by empowering them in this way, we will also grow our economy, boost employment and roll back poverty.

These brave decisions will require courage and determination – the very same grit that we demonstrated in executing our Covid-19 “all-of-government” response. We were agile and innovative and what we delivered was world class. We need to now do the same going forward.

When making these tough choices, and in remembering all the lessons learnt from the past year, we also need to be clear on what our government’s “north stars” are. That is, what will we pursue, single-mindedly and courageously every day, every week and every year until the job gets done?

We have selected three key priorities.

First, that our job is to create an enabling environment for the economy to grow, and to create employment because without a job there can be no dignity and wellbeing in our communities. A job is a golden ticket out of the cycle of poverty and inequality in South Africa, and it is the foundation for any recovery. 

That’s why creating jobs remains our number one priority.

Second, that no person can live a life of true value and have real dignity if they live in fear of violence and crime. The reality is that the Western Cape is not a safe place for many of our people, and this needs to change. And so, our second priority remains to build a safer, more compassionate province.

Third, and fundamentally, that every person has the inalienable human right to dignity and wellbeing. From the moment we are born to the moment we die. And every moment in between. Every life must matter, and we must make it so.

When you have a job, when you feel safe and when you are treated with dignity, you create wellbeing and hope. They are all interlinked – without one you cannot achieve the other.  Together, they are the recipe for real change. 

These are our ingredients for hope.

As we now move forward, we need to stand together regardless of political affiliation – to make sure we get through this challenging time. Because every life matters.

Let’s have the courage this moment requires, and let’s get the job done. DM


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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All Comments 7

  • It is really time to push for a federation so that WC get more autonomy. Taxes should remain in the WC to build it up and keep it alive. SA is in such a mess and on a slippery slope – start actions that saves the Cape. Our province can no longer be governed under the existing set of rules. Cele plans to interfere more with policing – i.e. gangsters are supported with weapons by the police ( and after only 4 years the chief crook is on parole). All indicates the ANC wants to destabilise the Cape further until it also resembles the mess in the rest of the country. Mr Winde, we need to change course.

  • Dieter Button has spelt it out correctly. The DA is the only party that can do the job correctly so should be allowed to do it without the anc’s destructive interference. Some other provinces would probably do better on their own as well.

  • The Western Cape needs to become a separate entity from South Africa. I think we all should support Cape Exit and start to govern ourselves, use our taxes for the betterment of the Western Cape and regulate the massive bussing in of indigent people to disrupt and cause absolute chaos in the only Province that has a semblance of reality in South Africa.

  • Cape independence may seem appealing but is not the answer to South Africa’s problems. The country needs a change of government and if only the likes of DM and News24 would stop doing all they can to undermine the only party capable of replacing the ANC with competent government and, instead, start acknowledging the success of the DA in governing Cape Town and the Western Cape, then there might be a realistic chance of displacing the ANC.

  • Perhaps DM & their journalists can dedicate some space to explain why the DA and the Western Cape is constantly under fire for running a tight ship, rather than the usual rhetoric with the usual racist undertones. I would take a page from their book if I could make sense of it.

  • Deidre Lubbe, the answer is probably because the Western Cape is not a tight ship and its socio-political policies are adamantly anti-poor. I’m not a journalist and it’s probably not the answer you want to hear, but there it is. The proof: voters in other provinces are not flocking to the DA.

    Here’s the problem: The DA seems to think it can govern without the support of the majority of South Africans and then, the Afrikaans vote has relocated to the FF+. Second, to be blunt, what we see is the DA fronting whilst Zille calls the shots. Furthermore, the DA continues to make a hash of a land crisis in Cape Town; makes victims of the City’s homeless; has its own factional issues; and frankly, the Province resembles every other in a number of ways.

    The narrative of “the best-run Province” is spin which is why it does not translate into votes. From this side of the Karoo we have a clear view.

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