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