The premier, Mr David Mabuza, will on Friday deliver his annual State of the Province Address (SOPA), and the DA sincerely hopes that he will use this opportunity to set a clear road map of development for the province. Previous State of the Province Addresses were filled with unclear, unspecific and often unattainable jargon which have produced little result.
The SOPA must address real issues to improve the lives of real people. After a series of consultations with citizens from all walks of life, the DA has identified five key priorities for the premier to address to make a tangible difference to the well-being of the province.
It is a well-known fact that Mpumalanga is in dire need of infrastructure development, and premier Mabuza should take the lead from the President, Mr Jacob Zuma, and make this the provincial administration’s priority. This would be a major boost for the province’s economy, jobs would be created, skills would be developed, and desperately needed infrastructure would be established. From educational facilities to health facilities, water supply and sewer networks and roads, the needs are endless, and must be a government priority.
Local governance and provision of water
Local governments across Mpumalanga are on the verge of total collapse. There is a dire shortage of skilled professionals in all municipalities, and service delivery leaves much to be desired. Municipalities stumble from one crisis to the next, and are in constant turmoil due to poor political leadership. Water supply is jeopardised in virtually every municipality, and clean potable water has become a luxury item, instead of a basic right. The premier must stop paying lip service to water provision and provide the province with an effective plan to improve its provision.
Premier Mabuza has to take a bold step and put an end to the ANC’s cadre deployment policy, attract suitably skilled and qualified personnel, and secure their appointment to all levels of local government. The DA proposes that premier Mabuza conduct a “skills audit” throughout municipalities and embark on a recruitment drive to attract the best officials the market has to offer.
As a department with one of the largest budgets, its outcomes are negligible. There are insufficient qualified and competent teachers, who are faced with having to teach under adverse conditions. Classrooms remain overcrowded, and more often than not, more than one grade has to be taught at the same time.
As part of the infrastructure development programme, more schools and classrooms need to be constructed, and premier Mabuza must commit himself and the administration to the establishment of teacher training colleges and fill the skills gap.
As initiator of the debate around the establishment of Mpumalanga’s own university, the DA insists that premier Mabuza open the debate on its location and composition for optimal economic benefit. At the moment the debate is closed, and no clarity exists on whether it will be a single tertiary institution, or the renaming and amalgamation of number of failed FET colleges.
While access to health care and health facilities is generally available, Mpumalanga citizens certainly lack access to quality health care. Hospitals and clinics are faced with shortages in essential and non-essential drugs, and are suffering from severe staff shortages. The lack of suitable medical equipment further hampers treatment, and patients are either referred to other hospitals, where they have to wait for hours on end for treatment, or are simply not treated.
The poor management system within the health department’s administration has a further detrimental effect on health care professionals, as doctors and nurses have to deal with an uncaring bureaucracy which does not begin to understand the complexities of the medical profession.
The establishment of a permanent humanitarian culture within the public health sector is critical and Premier Mabuza has to shift the administration’s emphasis from basic access to improved quality, and ensure that increasingly skilled medical personnel are attracted to our province. The management of health facilities must be decentralised and delegated to hospital managers, who must be empowered to appoint staff and service providers, while being held accountable accordingly.
Tourism and conservation
Mpumalanga’s tourism potential knows no bounds, and the resulting economic growth and job creation potential is virtually limitless. However, the tourism sector is not up to standard, and it is largely thanks to the efforts of the private sector that Mpumalanga enjoys any tourism benefits at all. The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency remains in turmoil, is grossly underfunded and the agency fails to meet its basic mandate.
Conservation in our province is in crisis, and provincial parks are in a state of collapse. Rhino poaching has spiralled out of control, and while other provinces and South African National Parks have established anti-poaching programmes, nothing noteworthy has come from the MTPA nor the provincial administration.
Premier Mabuza needs to break his silence on rhino poaching, acknowledge that it is a crisis, and explore the possibility of classifying it a disaster. In the short term at least, disaster funds must be made available to increase patrols, employ more game rangers, as well as repair and maintain infrastructure in provincial parks.
Premier Mabuza must use his 2012 SOPA to address directly the lives of Mpumalanga’s citizens. Job creation is critical and government, through infrastructure development and skills attraction, must create a developmental environment that will lead to the increased creation of opportunities for all.
Anthony Benadie MPL
DA Leader Mpumalanga Legislature