Reply to the State of the Province Address

Andrew Louw

DA Provincial Leader

Northern Cape

I recently visited the informal settlement of Transit Camp in Kimberley to speak with ordinary citizens ahead of the Premier’s State of the Province address. In order to properly represent the people of the Northern Cape here today, allow me to share with you their sentiments.

Twenty-year old Bongani Lehlwesa, who gave up his studies at the FET College due to financial constraints, didn’t know who the premier was. Meanwhile Lydia Motsabi said that the only time they saw any government services was when ambulances or police visited the area. But it was pensioner, Thomas Abbott, who summed up the general feelings of this community. “We are forgotten people,” he said. “Only when parties are preparing for elections do people come here because they want our votes. I have little hope for my three children, what will happen to them because there is no light at the end of the tunnel?”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the sad truth. At the moment, under the current administration, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Jobs aren’t being created, sexual assault and drug related crimes are escalating, more and more people are living below the breadline, corruption remains rife and the quality of our education system is decreasing, as is evident by our falling matric pass rate and our poor maths and science marks. I could go on and on criticizing this administration but the Democratic Alliance is tired of the old rhetoric. So instead, as a party preparing to govern the Northern Cape in 2014, I have opted to share with you some of the DA’s alternatives, which not only speak to the very same goals that this administration is failing to achieve, but which have already proven to be been successful in the DA-run province of the Western Cape.

Jobs

The DA knows that a shortage of jobs is at the forefront of the people’s concerns. We also know that jobs, or a lack thereof, are part of a more complex issue, linking to economic prosperity, crime, corruption, education, poverty, social ills, and even agriculture. A multifaceted approach is therefore necessary to bring about the creation of more jobs.

However, before outlining the DA’s plans to facilitate the creation of jobs, you should understand that sustainable job-creating growth is driven by the private sector, especially small, medium and micro enterprises. The job of the state, on the other hand, is not to create jobs but rather to create an environment that will attract and retain investment, entrepreneurship and skills. In other words, government should be making it easier for people to go into, and stay in, business. To unlock the Northern Cape’s economic potential, we will therefore centre our economic strategy in the Northern Cape on three focus areas: creating opportunities for people; high-level support for key industries; and world-class public education.

Creating opportunities

We will flood major towns and cities in the Northern Cape with broadband internet. This means that no matter where you are in Kimberley or Upington, for example, you will be able to connect to free, wireless internet.

We are pleased that the current administration has outlined similar plans for the John Taole Gaetsewe district. However, whether the current administration has the capacity to roll this out remains to be seen.

Nonetheless, imagine the economic potential that can be unlocked by allowing people to share and communicate for free, 24 hours a day. The World Bank has calculated that for every 10% growth in broadband internet in a developing country, the economy grows by 1.38%. By this logic, flooding major centres in the province with broadband will not only benefit residents, it will also grow the provincial economy. The DA has made this a top priority for the City of Cape Town and will we will do the same here in the Northern Cape.

High-level support for key industries

We will establish am Economic Development Partnership where all stakeholders in the economy will come together to develop and help implement a shared agenda for economic growth, development and inclusion.

According to a 2011 World Bank study, South Africa is ranked 75th out of 183 countries for ease of starting a business. This said, a DA provincial government would waste no time in establishing a dedicated Red Tape Unit in an attempt to cut out bureaucratic delays for businesses, as has been done in the Western Cape. The unit consists of representatives of several departments and identifies and tackles the restrictive bureaucratic processes widely known as “red tape” to, where possible, quickly clear any administrative obstacles facing businesses. It is neither costly nor difficult, and it is the DA’s view that this should be replicated in the Northern Cape.

Through our local municipalities, the DA will also impose tax breaks for periods of 24 months, for new businesses and expanding businesses that promise to create more jobs.

By capacitating municipalities with skilled and competent employees, we will also prioritize the recovery from bulk infrastructure challenges, at the same time setting aside a certain portion of infrastructural resources especially for new businesses, so that development isn’t stunted, and investment opportunities aren’t lost, while our municipalities make haste to catch up with infrastructure backlogs.

As a key driver of growth, the DA will also reorient the current Northern Cape Economic Development Agency to a different, more inclusive and more effective model. Under a DA government, the NCEDA will be a not-for-profit organization and not a statutory body. It will be a public-private partnership instead of the state-dominated model currently in place. The core business of the NCEDA will be to coordinate growth in a way that is regionally relevant to each of the province’s five districts. Through market research and inclusive strategic planning between the public and private sector, the NCEDA can provide directives to government on how to align its programmes to best serve economic growth.

World class public education

Besides the efforts of government, citizens need to be empowered with opportunities through world-class public education. A DA government in the Northern Cape will begin by rolling out three key programmes for education.

First, we will pass the Northern Cape Schools Amendment Act. This Act will, for the first time, allow the provincial department to hold principals and teachers accountable for the performance of their schools. Principals will be performance-managed. Where schools under-perform, assistance will be provided. If under-performance is consistent, principals and teachers will be held accountable and replaced if necessary.

And let me just say this before I go on: learners, especially in the poorest of schools, are being failed by both the provincial departments of education and SADTU. A DA government will implement a private members bill to put learners first by balancing the right of teachers to strike with learners’ right to education. The constitution protects both teachers’ right to strike and the best interests of our nation’s learners. But when these constitutional imperatives clash, it is imperative that the rights of teachers to strike do not adversely affect the education of our children.

Second, a DA government would oversee the roll-out of internet connectivity and computer equipment to every single school in the Northern Cape. A technological roll-out of this size and scope has only been done once before on the African continent: it was done by the DA, where we govern. Over the last decade we provided 1 222 schools in the Western Cape with internet-linked computer centres. The project is ongoing and the day will come where every school in that province will have been served in this way. We’ve done it before and we will do it in the Northern Cape.

Third, we will introduce specialist schools known as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (or STEM) centres. These STEM centres will do what the current Dinaledi schools programme is failing to do: produce the scientists, engineers and financial professionals that this province and this country needs. We have done it where we govern and we will build these schools in the specific rural areas of the Northern Cape, where opportunity can be maximized for learners from poor communities.

STEM centres will assist in providing learners who can go to university and the DA will offer bursaries to the first 100 learners to register in this field at our upcoming university.

At the same time, it is also necessary to improve the quality of our educators. With this in mind, the DA will rebuild its teacher training college.

Beating corruption

With all these initiatives in place, we will be well on our way towards economic upliftment, however, unless we can end corruption, the Northern Cape cannot be competitive and attract job-creating investment.

A DA government in the Northern Cape would thus put four key measures in place to beat corruption:

1. We will pass the Northern Cape Business Interests of Employees Act to prevent civil servants and their families from doing business with government. This is important, as the absence of such restrictions will continue to invite corruption and the abuse of state resources.

2. In one year we will ensure that all provincial government departments get clean audits and we will initiate criminal and disciplinary procedures against all those responsible for irregular expenditure in previous financial years.

3. The DA will introduce a revised Ministerial Handbook for cabinet members to stop all wasteful expenditure on cars, travel and entertainment. The fact is that the Ministerial Handbook permits a level of state-funded luxury for MEC’s that is not morally justifiable. This includes lavish spending on luxury cars for MEC’s. Without stringent regulations to limit this kind of expenditure, the excuse will always be: “Because the Handbook says we can.”
together with this, the DA will impose at least a six month moratorium on all overseas flights for MEC’s and HOD’s.

4. We will also establish a forensic investigation unit in the Office of the Premier to ensure that government deals decisively with any future irregularities

We have achieved all of these things where we govern and we will, unapologetically, ensure that the same happens right here in the Northern Cape.

Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime

Crime also impacts on the economy. In fact, the severe economic and social consequences of being affected by crime are very serious. They can range from being unable to work due to physical injuries, high levels of post-traumatic stress which impacts negatively on the person and the family, as well as the direct financial costs of attending court, legal fees and insurance excesses, among others. These are some of the socio-economic costs borne by the victim and by broader society. The ripple effects are felt by people not immediately connected with the crime incident itself.

As part of our plan to address crime, and especially the upward trend in all sexual offences in the Northern Cape, as well as the province’s exceptionally high figures for assault GBH, the DA will replicate the Western Cape’s Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) programme, which has become an example of the success of a community approach to crime. We will start the roll out in Pabalello, Upington, and in the very rural John Taole district. The programme is designed to reduce crime by improving the overall environment in the community. This will be done by creating better infrastructure, including safe walkways and cycle routes, speed humps and traffic calming at schools, community buildings, formal and informal sports facilities, and area lighting. It further entails setting up a rape crisis office as well as introducing area patrols and creating partnerships with community and other organizations to improve access to services.

Drugs and alcohol:

We also cannot ignore the fact that drug related crimes, of which we have also experienced an increase in the Northern Cape, remain a problem and we realize that our initiatives to reduce crime, provide better schooling and healthcare, improve social cohesion and create jobs through economic growth would be severely hampered unless we were able to curb drug and alcohol abuse.

This would require a different, more focused approach. Our plan will be driven from the Premier’s Office and implemented across provincial government departments in an integrated way and will include the following:

· We will ensure that the portion of the Department of Social Development’s budget, dedicated to address harmful and alcohol and drug use is significantly increased and that it goes towards establishing specialize treatment programmes for children, adolescents, and adults, based on the Western Cape’s blueprint.

· We will establish a rehabilitation centre in the province

· We will implement a Provincial Education Act, as has been done in the Western Cape, to empower schools to introduce drug testing on a “reasonable suspicion” basis. To coincide with this, staff members at high risk schools will be trained to administer testing.

· We will partner with the upcoming university, for it to offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses in drug and alcohol treatment intervention services

Agriculture:

In addition to all the above, economic growth can only be fostered under a thriving market economy, in which property rights are protected, and land reform takes place under the principle of willing buyer, willing seller.

Land reform can be implemented successfully under programmes such as the share-equity model, in which farm owners who want to sell or expand their farms, do so through a scheme in which farm workers buy a percentage of the property. This is paid for by the government, using funding allocated to the Department of Rural Development for Land Reform purposes. Equity share agreements can be negotiated in various proportions, but in the Western Cape – where, despite isolated problems, these schemes have worked – we have found that they work best when there is a 50/50 sharing of risk and reward.

Last year, the DA successfully petitioned the Minster of Rural Development and Land Reform to lift the moratorium that had been placed on the scheme in the Western Cape. We believe that share-equity schemes should be implemented in the Northern Cape, and made central to land reform methodology because they represent an example of redress through the genuine expansion of opportunity for all.

Ladies and gentlemen, in light of the premier’s state of the province address, I trust I have given the house an overview of the DA’s alternative future direction. We invite the current administration to harness our ideas and even to engage in further debate with us over these ideas, because ultimately the DA’s plan for the Northern Cape is that government deliver opportunities to the people – and the sooner we start, the better!

Please share this...Email this to someonePrint this pageDigg thisShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *