Debate – State of the Province Address

Roy Jankielsohn MPL

DA member of the Provincial Legislature

The following speech was delivered today (Tuesday 26 February 2013) during the debate of the State of the Province in Bloemfontein.

Honourable Deputy-Speaker

In his document titled: “The Federalist Papers”, James Madison wrote in 1788 “But what is government itself but the greatest reflections on human nature”.

Let us look at human nature and determine whether our government has become, in South Africa and especially in the Free State Province, a mere reflection of human nature. We could argue that the opposite of Madison’s argument could also apply, in that the nature of our society could be a reflection of the nature of our government, since government has great influence and much control over individuals in society.

Human nature could be placed on a spectrum ranging from extremely good to extremely evil, with variations of these aspects in between.

Let us examine at our government and society and determine where we as South Africa and the Free State find ourselves on such a spectrum of human nature.

I start with our government. In our ANC-run government corruption has become entrenched. Lawson Naidoo of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution has indicated that an estimated 20% of our GDP is lost to corruption annually.

Our government invests the most per capita on education in the developing world, yet our young people remain functionally illiterate.

Honourable deputy-Speaker, our pass rates are increasing, but the quality of education is declining at the same rate. Education is about quality, not about quantity. Dr Ramphele Mamphela recently noted during an address at the UFS that what our government doing to our children, under the pretext of education, is “a crime against humanity”.

Our government spends huge amounts of money on healthcare, yet our life expectancy remains extremely low. Poor management in our healthcare system has denied our people value for money out of this system. Two weeks ago my family lost someone who was very close to us for six years, only two weeks before a doctor at a state clinic told her that she was not ill enough to apply for a medical disability grant. The good work that many of our doctors and nurses continue to do in the province is often neutralised by poor management, shortages of resources, and the lack of a nurturing attitude required by all individuals working in this sector.

We have one of the best constitutions in the world, yet our crime rates indicate that many of our people show very little respect for their fellow citizens in South Africa. Rape, murder, and brutality against women, children, and our senior citizens are out of control. Such perverse crimes have become so prevalent that only the most brutal of these become headlines, unless of course a high profile person is involved. Many of our crimes are accompanied with the sadistic physical and mental torture of the victims.

Only two weeks ago a six year old child in Bohlokong (Bethlehem) was forced to watch for two hours while a vicious criminal raped her mother and bit her body parts while she was tied with wire to her bed. She almost lost her lip and nipple in the process. The police reaction and work was outstanding, but these victims sadly received no counselling or social assistance. Unfortunately our society has become immune to these extremities that reflect the most evil or dark side of human nature.

The daily enactment of the evil side of human nature is destroying our social cohesion. It is encouraged by an environment within which indifference has become the norm, and by a government that at times itself displays that which is bad and evil in human nature. Our families which are the building blocks of social cohesion are being eroded by drug and alcohol abuse, separation, and the lack of role models. Our ultimate role model, the president of the country, has through his indiscretions, shown little regard for any of the values on which our families should be built.

Honourable Deputy-Speaker, in 2012 the head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) informed Parliament that between R25-billion and R30-billion of government’s annual procurement budget alone was lost to corruption, incompetence and negligence.

Our people as a nation have lost a staggering R385 billion due to corruption at every level in government since 1994.

We are aware that pre-1994 governments were morally corrupt, but 1994 was meant to open an era of mutual respect among citizens and accountability, honesty and transparency in government. Our democratic political order is currently threatened by all of that which our democratic constitution was meant to prevent.

Let us examine at the Free State:

In the Free State, millions of rand are spent on forensic investigations into alleged irregularities into municipalities such as Matjhabeng, Dihlabeng, Nala, Setsoto, and Mohokare. The executive summaries of the reports that our public pay for make allegations of irregularities, and even criminal activities, yet the full reports with the names of the criminals are never exposed. We just hear that such people have once again been redeployed. Is this in line with the bill of rights that says that: “Everyone has a right to access to any information held by the state”?

Under the banner of Operation Hlasela, the Department of Rural Development indicated to the legislature that it did not have to follow procurement procedures because the instructions regarding procurement come from the Office of the Premier. Corruption in procurement leads not only to waste of public money and resources, but inferior quality of products and services. DA Leader, Helen Zille, is correct when she continuously repeats the phrase that “corruption makes poor people poorer”.

Early in the current Premier’s term of office, his Director-General instructed all departments to direct their communication to the Office of the Premier.

Communication tenders are a source of concern, with the Office of the Premier issuing instructions that government and municipal advertisements must be directed to The Weekly newspaper belonging to the same Letlaka Communications that has a monopoly over many other lucrative provincial and municipal government communications contracts.

Before she left the legislature as Secretary, one of the last things that the current DG did was to give The Weekly a multi-million rand contract with the legislature without a tender which is still in place, and through which, the legislature still places mostly irrelevant full page advertisements every week. Senior provincial government officials have threatened businesses who place advertisements in newspapers that do not produce reports favourable to the current governing faction of the ANC.

Advertisements in the provincial government budget increased from R32 616 000 in 2009/10, to R43 900 000 in 2010/11, to a whopping R68 967 000 in 2011/12. This expenditure has more than doubled in three years.

Hlasela TV, which should showcase and promote the province, does nothing more than promote the Premier and his Executive Committee. When visitors enter the Free State from the airport, they are confronted by a big screen TV with nothing about business opportunities, accommodation, or tourist destinations in the province. No, they are confronted by a number of promotional snippets about the Executive Committee. This, together with the weekly Hlasela programme on the SABC costs taxpayers millions of rands. Once again, millions spent on self-promotion.

Under Premier Magashule, Hlasela is nothing more than an extended five year election campaign using government funds. In fact it is more than an ANC campaign; it is a personal campaign to promote the Premier and his cronies. It is also a pretext for by-passing procurement procedures and enriching those same cronies, both within and outside of government.

The Premier stated is his written speech that a former Premier Mosiuoa Lekota: “failed to conceptualize post-Apartheid spatial planning as no amenities such as shops, schools, and clinics were located in this settlement”. He spoke as if a different government in power at the time. I would like to remind the Premier that it was an ANC government, under his chairmanship, that was in power in the Free State at that time. These houses that the Premier is criticising were built as part of the ANC government’s Reconstruction and Development Programme under former President Mandela. He makes this statement with the knowledge that it was former Premier Lekota who fired him as MEC under a cloud of corruption allegations. Once again, who has Honourable Magashule ever fired for corruption, and what are the police case numbers? And we mean fired not redeployed.

In an attempt to justify his crony deployment policy, the Premier stated during his speech last week that South Africans have a right to work anywhere. Cadre deployments in the Free State are sadly not even aimed at promoting the best cadre for the job, but rather to place Magashule-friendly cronies into influential positions. These are individuals who are willing and able to manipulate their government environment, whether provincial or municipal, to obtain an outcome that is beneficial to the controlling faction within the governing party.

The Premier also mentioned in his speech that he is aware of collusion between contractors and officials in contracts to build RDP houses.

Who are these officials and what has the Premier done about this? Have they simply been redeployed, or can he supply us with police case numbers?

Last year the premier said that he had requested advice on how to deal with the matter of conflict of interest of public servants. This year he says he is waiting for national legislation in this regard. He only had to go to the legislature to find the solution to this problem. The DA submitted a private member’s bill three years ago that could effectively deal with the issue of conflict of interest of civil servants. This bill has, however, not seen the light of day. The DA would like to be part of the solution to our problems, if we are given the opportunity to do so.

Honourable Deputy-Speaker, I do not even have time to delve into controversial rental agreements and the sale of municipal property. Neither have I had time to delve into the Free State “Roadsgate” scandal in a department where tenders continue to be controversial.

Further potential for corruption exists in the new legislature complex, on which R70 million has already been spent with no visible progress on the ground.

We have a dairy project in Vrede in which R30 million has been invested, but once again little or no progress can be seen on the ground. Perhaps the Premier would like to enlighten us today, in his reply, who the government’s private sector partners are in this PPP dairy project. Is it is perhaps the Gupta’s as alleged on the ground?

Deputy-Speaker, I refuse to believe that our provincial government is a reflection of the general nature of our people in the province. In 1788, Madison was never exposed to an ANC-run government.

I do, however believe, that those individuals in our communities whose actions display the dark side of human nature are to some degree a reflection of this government. Individuals, who have evil natures with a tendency to satisfy their personal needs at the cost of others, will always thrive in a society that is governed by a faction that holds power for similar purposes.

There is still much that is good in the general nature of our society and also in government that could be harnessed to turn our province around. We will support any efforts to create opportunities for the 357 000 unemployed people of the Free State, and improve the opportunities for those who are already employed. The 1000 new jobs in the formal sector and 7000 in the informal sector created last year are important, but remain a fraction of what we require. If all our resources could be channelled towards achieving many of the positive objectives outlined in Free State Vision 2030, instead of being squandered along the way, then the Free State has the potential to revive all that is good in the nature of South African society.

The manufacturing sector has an infrastructure that is greatly under-utilised. Qwa-Qwa, Thaba Nchu, and Botshabelo have a number of factories that have become redundant. These areas also have the largest concentrations of unemployed people in the province. We support the Premier’s statements that this under-utilised infrastructure will be revived to re-ignite this sector of the provincial economy by the end of this year. We require details on who is going to invest in these factories. The province will have to become competitive by providing incentives for investment in this sector, specifically in these areas. Provision of a secure environment, a sound infrastructure, and financial incentives such as reduced rates and taxes and service fees based on the size of the investment and numbers of jobs created could be a huge economic injection in these areas and create much needed employment. The costs to local governments will be recouped through the financial injection into other industries and through the increase in numbers of people able to pay for services. The implementation of a youth wage subsidy could create further incentives to create opportunities and transfer skills.

What is most important to note is that only economic growth in the private sector can create sustainable long term employment for our people. Government projects are temporary and should only assist in building the infrastructure necessary for an enabling environment for investment.

The Premier is correct in dealing with the water problems in the Free State. We must however realise that water scarcity is a reality, and our planning for new settlements must take this into account. Every new house requires an municipality that can deliver safe and sufficient water, sanitation and electricity. This is also crucial for any economic development.

I will continue to repeat what I say at every opportunity in this legislature: “evil prevails because good men and women keep quiet”. I will stop repeating this when the majority of people representing the governing party in this legislature have the courage to do what their conscience dictates. Your failure to do the right thing because of your lack of courage will place you on the wrong side of history, for the same moral reasons that a previous regime in this country was placed on the wrong side of history.

We can all assist in the fight against the mediocrity that has become entrenched as the norm in the Free State’s provincial government and municipalities. Our people must, however, accept responsibility for the actions of a government that they continue to vote for. In a democracy you get the government that you vote for, and you deserve the government that you vote for.

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