On Friday 24 February, Mpumalanga Premier, Mr David Mabuza will deliver his fourth State of the Province address. The State of the Province address (SOPA) is an opportunity for the Premier to account for the performance of government over the past year, and to give direction and set out government’s plans for the year ahead.
This is undoubtedly the most significant political event in the provincial political calendar. However, Mabuza will deliver his speech amidst growing opposition from within his own (ANC) ranks, and conscious of the fact that when the ANC provincial conference arrives next month, he may very well face his toughest match yet. As a result, the DA suspects that Premier Mabuza will use his 2012 SOPA to entrench his position as ANC chairperson, and parade many so-called “government achievements”.
However, a close look at Mabuza’s performance and his 2011 SOPA reveals many undertakings which never extended beyond their announcements.
Some of these include:
Economic growth and job creation.
”It is a Growth Path that envisages to create 720 000 jobs by 2020. However, for the Province to realize this target, analysts suggest that the economy of the province has to grow at an economic growth rate of between 5 to 7 per cent per annum. Honourable Speaker, given the growth potential of the Province, we believe that these targets are achievable.”
While an amount of R2,7 billion was earmarked to create 720 000 jobs by 2020 (at a rate of 80 000 per year), and stimulate economic growth. The recession and dysfunctional parastatals put paid to that ambition, as research by Statistics SA shows that only 47 000 jobs were created and that unemployment has only slightly reduced to 27,7% from 29,1%.
With Mpumalanga’s Finance MEC, Ms Yvonne Phosa’s predictions showing that the province’s growth rate would average 3% this year, it would appear that Mabuza’s 2020 target remains a distant dream.
Education and skills development
“The importance of education as the stepping-stone to a better future for our children and society as a whole cannot be overemphasized. As government, we remain committed to the objective of enhancing the quality of our education. Our economy needs certain set of skills to generate economic growth that could lead to job creation and the reduction of poverty and inequalities.”
While acknowledging the 2011 increase in matric pass rates, the quality of education presented in Mpumalanga remains amongst the worst in the country. Little progress has been made over the past year to address infrastructure backlogs, with many schools plagued by overcrowding and lack of facilities.
No clear vision exists for addressing Mpumalanga’s skills needs and no plan has been implemented to increase our science and maths results.
“The ANC-led government committed itself to lift up the standard of living of the rural poor. In the past two years, the plight of the rural poor never escaped our attention.”
Truth is that despite spending over R1,2 billion on land acquisition, Mpumalanga’s food security is increasingly under threat. With a disproportionate focus on land ownership, no programme of training, capacitating or skills transfer exists that will empower emerging farmers, and turn them into commercial farmers in their own right.
Instead, scandal after scandal exposed government where it purchased land for development or restitution from middlemen at highly inflated rates, much to the detriment of poverty relief. How premier Mabuza can claim the government increased markets for small-scale farmers and thus reduced poverty, simply boggles the mind, when Agricultural MEC, Ms Candith Mashego-Dlamini has admitted that few to no emerging farmers are currently productive.
“We need to continue paying particular attention to strengthening our health system effectiveness, addressing the challenges of HIV and Aids, as well as expanding access to health care to all.”
In fact, a moratorium imposed on all government departments had a severe impact on primary health care, with up to 70% vacancy rates among doctors, nurses and medical technicians. While staff shortages have the obvious impact of overloaded personnel as well as reducing morale, it cannot be denied that this may have played role in the department being faced with millions in damages claims through negligence.
Furthermore, the department’s programme management is in a complete shambles, with budgetary underspend causing massive delays in implementation and infrastructure development. Health care facilities throughout the province are faced with shortages in essential and non-essential drugs, and many are not even receiving basic services such as water and electricity. If premier Mabuza regards this as being effective, he is much mistaken.
Crime and corruption
“We have made strides in fighting corruption and ensuring that we strengthen systems of accountability to detect instances of fraud and corruption”
Government’s commitments to fighting corruption is a farce. Premier Mabuza still refuses to make the findings of the commissions of enquiry into scholar transport, the disaster management centre, and provincial archives known.
Increased land corruption has gone unchallenged and no word has been uttered on progress made to eliminate corruption. This year the DA will table a private members bill, effectively outlawing and prohibiting government officials from doing business with government, an initiative championed by the DA’s Western Cape Government.
The fact is, that under Premier Mabuza’s leadership, the SOPA has become little more than an expensive party for the well connected, lasting over three days and costing in excess of R6 million. Few, if any of his promises have been kept and SOPA after SOPA has failed to bring about real change. The DA hopes that SOPA 2012 will not be another talk shop. As a result we will in the days ahead highlight what we believe Premier Mabuza and his government should commit themselves to.
Anthony Benadie MPL