Release Immediate 21 February 2012

KWAZULU-NATAL Premier, Zweli Mkhize, made all the right noises today but we urgently need to see a far more aggressive provincial leadership when it comes to accountability and the monitoring and oversight of service delivery projects – “on time and on budget”.

There can be no doubt that the Premier’s strategic plan for the province for the coming year is well-intended. But whether our province’s political leadership or its minions have either the capacity or the political will to implement such a grandiose plan remains to be seen. For too long, these plans have become part and parcel of the annual State of the Province, announced with much fanfare only to disappear into the annals of history.

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the Premier’s acknowledgement of the triple challenge that faces our province – namely poverty, unemployment and inequality. We also welcome the shift towards adopting best international practice which will see greater collaboration between the public and private sectors, in particular the small business sector. The unemployment statistics announced by the Premier are little cause for celebration and there is no indication as to whether these are permanent or temporary jobs.

The Premier’s stance on the prohibition on staff doing business with government is on-track – but must go further with the introduction of a Bill which eradicates this scourge completely. Of concern is the Premier’s plan to build museums and erect statues of liberation struggle heroes. The decision to spend taxpayers’ money on items that do not address the well-being of the citizens of our province is questionable.

The DA also disputes the figures quoted by the Premier in terms of the Vulindlela housing project. The Premier claims that 1 000 homes have been built but the number of homes that are completed stands at closer to 500.

In terms of macro-financial management – there is a lot of good being done in our province relating to budgetary control and clean audit outcomes. The strong commitment to turning local government around is also welcomed but we need to see stronger action in terms of intervention for those municipalities that are unable to manage their own affairs.

The DA is delighted with the Premier’s move towards realizing the potential of location and resources in our province – we whole-heartedly support this initiative. We also believe that the increased KZN capital budget, from R11 billion to R15 billion, is able to bring much-needed relief to key areas, including health and education, if it is spent where it matters. The structures within education are in place – what we now need is a focus on quality outcomes. It cannot be denied that infrastructure, in particular the supply of basic services such as water and electricity, are key concerns. But infrastructure development will not create jobs if our province is unable to create an environment where young people can develop skills or, even worse, retain these well qualified individuals. The current dearth of highly qualified health professionals and scarce subject teachers, who continue to leave the province in their droves, is a case in point. It is absolutely no use having new laboratories and world class hospital facilities when nobody knows how to use them.

Unlike President Jacob Zuma, in his SONA Adress, Premier Mkhize has recognized that effective classroom learning relies crucially on the professionalism of teachers. We note that he recognizes that there has been a decline in professional standards and we welcome his commitment to engage anew with Teacher Unions on measures to ensure teacher discipline and integrity.

The DA welcomes the progress in terms of maritime growth. This, we believe, is the result of DA policy input within portfolio committees. This programme needs to bring genuine opportunity and expanded skills – specifically in rural development. KwaZulu-Natal’s road network also featured prominently in today’s address with a big focus on potholes and the plans to patch them. What the Premier failed to mention is that many of our roads are now beyond repair, and will have to be rebuilt completely – leaving the “patch work programme” an exercise in futility. The current state of our roads is an indictment against those authorities responsible for ongoing maintenance.

In line with our ports and our rail network, our road network remains one of the key drivers for economic growth in our province – the much-needed solution to address the so-called “Triple Challenge”.

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