Over the past year, the Western Cape government has faced exceptionally difficult circumstances which have forced us to focus our attention on fewer priorities, cut what little fat was left in our budget and focus on providing key services targeted at improving the dignity and wellbeing of our residents, making our province safer and building an economy that supports job creation – all while responding to two waves of Covid-19.
At the same time, we have had to step up and into the gaps left by the national government, because the life of every person matters to us and we cannot sit back and do nothing while people do not receive the services they desperately need.
As part of this focused approach, we have continued to roll out our safety plan to fill the gaps left by an under-resourced police service.
Our Department of Social Development has had to undertake the provision of food and meals, and our Department of Agriculture has been providing food gardens to address the growing humanitarian need in communities, at a time when the South African Social Security Agency and the National Department of Social Development are missing in action.
We are working with municipalities through our Municipal Energy Resilience Programme to reduce this province’s reliance on Eskom, which continues to cripple our economy when we can least afford it.
And we have had to fight for what is right, even when the national government told us to stop feeding children during Level 5 lockdown.
This is why we have also made contingencies to allow us to procure our own vaccines – because we know that the national government has not procured enough, and because we must fight for the lives of the people of this province.
Covid-19 is still with us and we must prepare for another wave. Our investment in our healthcare facilities during the second wave and the decision to keep the Brackengate Hospital of Hope as our primary Covid-19 intermediate facility are part of our strategy to deal with whatever may come our way in subsequent waves. But the key to reducing the impact of Covid-19 on the province and the country is the roll-out of an effective and widespread vaccine strategy.
Centralised procurement requires a contingency plan that is complementary to the national strategy, which is why the province has put a framework in place that will allow us to procure our own vaccines if necessary. This does not mean we will not work with or support the national government. In fact, we are committed to ensuring they are regularly informed about our plans.
Doing this not only reduces the risk associated with only one supply, but would also support the national effort since any additional vaccines sourced for the Western Cape would be in support of the national cause overall.
A successful vaccination programme in the Western Cape has to be one of our top priorities.
Reducing the impact of Covid-19 will help our economy, allow us to provide other medical services to our residents which may have been put on hold over the past year, and allow us to focus on making the province safer.
Despite the difficulties we have faced over the past year, we have made progress in key areas of delivery. We have also been able to introduce innovations to the system that will improve service delivery in the long term.
In our Covid-19 response, we took the advice of our scientists and looked to use new therapies such as high-flow nasal oxygen. We put a project in place to reduce the risk of death in our highest risk group, diabetics, contacting them daily and admitting them to hospital early, which paid off and saved many lives.
In healthcare, we have delivered more than one million medicine parcels to chronic patients in their homes, something that has changed how we look at service delivery going forward.
In education, we have delivered lessons to children online, even in areas where WiFi and devices aren’t widely available so that they do not miss out on learning.
Our first 500 LEAP officers have been rolled out in five crime hotspots, where they have made hundreds of arrests and confiscated harmful drugs and illegal weapons.
We have provided funding to two K9 units in the province and worked with neighbourhood watches to accredit them so they can play a part in making their communities safer.
To support businesses and jobs, we have provided R39-million in funding through the Covid-19 Business Relief Fund, providing relief to 257 businesses and helping to sustain 2,041 jobs.
To support the wine tourism economy, which was battered by restrictions and the collapse in tourism, we registered 1,165 employees for the Wine Tourism Workers Support Stipend.
To support the creative economy, R4.7-million in relief funding was allocated to 715 successful arts, culture and heritage applicants.
And we have done all this openly and transparently. We provided regular updates to the public on the Covid-19 pandemic. We were also the first province to release our Covid-19 procurement data so that it was available to the public.
This represents just a fraction of the work we have done as a provincial government at a time when the world was changing and budgets were shrinking. We did it because we owe it to the people of this province who have endured so much loss this year. We did it because we know the potential of this province, and how realising that potential will change many lives. And we will continue to do this work because we cannot stop until the people of this province can live dignified lives they can be proud of. DM