DA question KZN Legislature ban on Blackberries

George Mari, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Human Settlements

 

The DA in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature strongly condemns a Ruling by Deputy Speaker, Mtholepi Mtimkhulu earlier today, which saw DA MPP, George Mari, barred from reading a motion to the House from his Blackberry.

The Deputy Speaker interrupted a DA motion calling for the Cornubia housing allocation policy to be expedited to prevent further protest action by Kennedy Road informal settlement dwellers.  These residents are living under appalling conditions despite numerous promises of housing by eThekwini officials.

After being cut short, I drew the Deputy Speaker’s attention to the fact that I was using the technology given to me by the Legislature and that my Blackberry had the same functions as an Ipad, a Tablets and a laptop – all items provided for and used by Members while in the House.  DA KZN Legislature Leader, Sizwe Mchunu and Caucus Chief Whip, Radley Keys also drew the Deputy Speaker’s attention to a Rule which clearly states that electronic equipment can be used as long as it does not disturb proceedings.

The Deputy Speaker refused to accept this.

Many Members of the KZN Legislature read their speeches from Ipads, Tablets and laptops.  Yet it appears that there is now a different set of rules for the DA.

The DA disputes the Deputy Speaker’s pronouncement and views his actions as a pitiful attempt to suppress a DA motion.  We strongly condemn his arrogant and dismissive attitude and call on KZN Speaker, Peggy Nkonyeni to ensure that the Rules of the House are applied consistently.

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KZN Community Safety Budget goes way beyond mere number-crunching

Sizwe Mchunu, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison

The budget for Community Safety and Liaison is one which goes way beyond mere number – crunching.  This is the budget that must work towards keeping the citizens of our province safe – safe in their homes, out in their communities and at their place of work. It is paramount for one to caution the department that its major responsibility is to the public.  The real barometer to measure its success lies not only in its financial management but rather in its effectiveness in fighting the scourge of crime.  How this money is spent is critical.  How the powers that be manage this expenditure is critical.  And how seriously the employees of this department take their job is also critical. Indeed one accepts some of the reasons you have given for your lack of attendance at portfolio committee meetings, however this denies members of the committee an opportunity to effectively exercise their oversight on you and the department.

Crime impedes growth.  It deters investment and it costs jobs.  It violates people’s rights to live without fear. Safety directly impacts on our economy, on attracting investment, on how our children learn, perform and whether they stay at school. A safe environment creates the climate for economic growth, development and ultimately jobs. Education and a job is the ticket out of the cycle of poverty.

The population of KwaZulu-Natal is waiting for provincial government to act in a proactive manner and ensure their safety.  My invitation last year to the MEC and his Cabinet colleagues – to spend a week in the life of an ordinary South African without bodyguards – still stands.  Perhaps then they will have some understanding of what it is like to live in fear day and night.

I do wish to commend those members of SAPS who work tirelessly; day in – day out; with dedication and commitment to the course of eradicating crime in our province.  We know the risk and extremely life compromising conditions they work under.

The police service is certainly a great part of the safety solution.  It is however, not the only solution. The DA believes that law enforcement agencies, communities and civil society institutions should be working together – there are many successful examples that this is the way to increase safety in this province. There is a need for this province to explore mechanisms or systems to monitor not only police conduct, but that of all law enforcement agencies in KZN and to use such powers of oversight to improve service delivery.

In January this year, the DA revealed the results of the 2007 Commission of Enquiry into alleged policy inefficiency and ineffectiveness in KwaZulu-Natal.  The contents of this document, kept under wraps for six years, were explosive.

  • KZN police officers were labelled “clueless” with the vast majority of communities having a negative perception of the SAPS.
  • Police top brass were accused of blocking access to information and there were allegations of intimidation of members of the public at open meetings held in the province.

The Commission found that the following were the main areas of concern within the KZN SAPS;

  • A failure to investigate cases properly or at all
  • Inadequate feedback by SAPS members for complainants and witnesses
  • Police members being involved in criminal activity
  • Unprofessional conduct by SAPS members’

MEC – are the KZN police aware of this document and, if so, what has been done to address the numerous problems brought to light by the Commission?  The KZN public has a right to know the answers to these questions.  This document may now be six years old but the same issues continue to plague our province and the Commission cannot simply be filed away, never to be looked at again.

The DA’s commitment to present workable solutions to making this province a safe place to live, work and be, still stand. A safe province allows its people to be free – free from the fear of becoming victims of crime. A safe province attracts skills and investment and a safe province empowers citizens to take charge of their own futures. This is the KwaZulu- Natal of our dreams. We are indeed aware that to realise this dream, there is a great need to create growth and jobs and thereby extend opportunities to all the people of this province, allowing them to better their lives.

It is against that backdrop that the DA will be submitting before this Legislature for consideration, a Bill titled the “Community Safety Bill”.

The Bill in no way seeks to control or interfere in the operations of the SAPS.

In terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996 the control and management of the SAPS rests with the National Government. At the same time, the Constitution clearly states that “each province is entitled to monitor police conduct; oversee the efficiency and effectiveness of the police service including receiving reports on the police service; to promote good relations between the police and the community…” (Section 206(3) of the Constitution)

The Constitution further states that in order for provinces to carry out these functions, “a province may investigate or appoint a commission of inquiry into any complaints of police inefficiency or a breakdown in relations between police and any community”.

Our proposed Bill caters for, among others, the following issues;

  • The creation of a police Ombud who will investigate complaints regarding inefficiencies  as well as breakdown in relations between the community and the police
  • Provide for mandatory reports from the Provincial Police Commissioner on matters such as: lost and stolen firearms, death of police officials in the execution of their duties, death by police action and in police custody, the allocation of funds and resources, quarterly reports on numbers of arrests, cases referred to court, prosecutions and convictions, complaints regarding police conduct and service delivery
  • Provide for similar reports from the executive heads of municipal police services in the province
  • Improve the responsiveness of the police to the safety concerns that exist in our communities
  • Provide for directives regarding the establishment of CPFs [Community Policing Forums] and CPF board with a view to depoliticise and strengthen the local oversight capacity of this entity
  • Provide for the accreditation and support of neighbourhood watches in order to improve the functioning and accountability of these structures
  • Provide for the registration of security service providers and require that they report on safety concerns as well as submit reports on lost and stolen firearms
  • Establish, administer and maintain an integrated safety information system
  • Provide for a database of community organisations that are actively involved in safety and assist these organisations with training and other resources. Community organisations on the database must also report information on crime incidents and safety concerns in order to assist in the determination of the province’s policing needs and priorities
  • The integrated safety information system aims to reduce the dependency on crime statistics alone so that we can deploy our limited resources to where they are most needed
  • Provide for partnerships to improve the relations between the police and communities
  • Provide for co-operation with the national secretariat for police and the appointment of the head of the Provincial Secretariat, as per the recent Civilian Secretariat Act
  • To establish the Provincial Safety Advisory Board to advise the provincial minister on matters related to the monitoring and oversight of police
  • To provide for awards for meritorious service in promoting safety

The Bill has been drafted on the premise that each province requires its own specific formula in order to combat crime.  In improving oversight and reporting police will be far better informed, and therefore more able, to successfully reduce the incidence of crime in KwaZulu-Natal.

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Speech – Learning from international best practice in school safety

Minister of Education Donald Grant

Western Cape Government

Civic Centre – Cape Town

Background:  In 2012, the WCED and the City of Cape Town officially launched a new joint pilot project – the SRO project. A School Resource Officer (SRO) is a sworn Metro Police officer assigned to a school on a long-term basis to help make our schools safe learning environments.

The pilot is for a period of 12 months with six participating schools from the Cape Town Metropole. SRO officers were placed in schools at the start of the 2013 school year.

To further equip the SROs, each SRO officer was required to complete a training programme by the USA-based National Association of School Resource Officers. (NASRO – http://www.nasro.org/) . NASRO is a leading school based law-enforcement organisation which trains and educates school resource officers.

The course also ensures that school resource officers maintain an understanding of current school safety issues and trends from around the world.

The WCED are delighted to have benefited from international best practice in this regard.

The SROs have now completed two training programmes by NASRO. The first programme was in September 2012, where officers received a basic certificate by NASRO.  In May 2013, the SRO officers participated in the second training programme – the advanced and management training programme.

This morning, Minister Grant, Alderman JP Smith and the Consulate General of the USA, Ms Barks-Ruggles, presented eight SRO’s with certificates for completing the NASRO training course.

Speech by Minister of Education Donald Grant (Western Cape Government) at the certification ceremony of school resource officers.

A warm welcome to the advanced and management training certification ceremony of school resource officers.

I am delighted to be here today at this very special event.

A big thank you to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) for conducting such informative and intensive courses.

It is critical that our school resource officers maintain an understanding of current school safety issues and trends from around the world and we are delighted to have benefited from international best practice in this regard.

I am confident that the skills and expertise imparted here will help assist our SRO’s in making our schools safer and better learning environments.

Congratulations to the eight resource officers for completing the NASRO advanced training programme. In addition, I also wish to congratulate the management team for committing themselves to this unique project. This experience, together with the skills you have learnt over the course of this programme, are invaluable. I sincerely hope you share these new skills with our educators and school management teams at your schools.

It is not secret that school safety is an on-going concern and challenge for WCED.

The reality is that in the Western Cape we are faced with the scourge of gangsterism which is plaguing some of our communities. Community conflict, gangsterism and violence are in turn threatening some of our learners and schools either directly on the school premises or within the community.

We, however, want our learners to be able to work and learn in an environment that is safe and secure. While we cannot be directly responsible for every act of violence within and out of our schools we certainly can try minimize its impact by continuing to implement programmes and security infrastructure that will contribute to the on-going safety of our learners.

This is why the SRO project is so important to the WCED.

The SRO project can improve even further the existing safety initiatives at our schools, and has been aligned to the strategy of the WCED’s Safe Schools Programme which focuses on:

  • crime control by modifying and enhancing school environments;
  • crime prevention by changing the attitudes and behaviour of learners and school staff; and
  • systems programmes by developing effective partnerships between schools, the communities in which they operate and other role players.

Many people don’t realize that SRO’s are more than security guards at schools. As one can see from the course content, SRO’s require special training in counseling, conflict management and problem solving.

SRO’S can be placed in some very tough situations and this requires specific training. They also have an important role to play in creating effective partnerships between the SRO schools, SAPS and the communities in which they operate.

Partners such as this, in the fight against violence and crime, are essential if we are to improve safety at our schools.

While it is still too early to determine the overall success of the SRO pilot project we can however tell that the presence of SROs may have contributed to an apparently low incidence of fighting or assault and drug use at the six schools at which they serve over the last five months.

I am therefore looking forward to the final evaluation of the pilot project later this year, which will determine whether this programme is a success and whether it should be expanded in other schools.

I am confident that this will be the case and I would like to thank the City of Cape Town for their on-going co-operation and commitment to this project, as well as NASRO, for supporting, informing and teaching us how best to deal with school safety in our schools.

I would like to end off by honouring and thanking the SRO officers before me today who work in very difficult and extreme situations. We admire and value their efforts in trying to create and secure a stable teaching and learning environment for our learners.

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KZN Transport Department has lost its rudder

Radley Keys, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Transport

 

The Department of Transport has been hailed since 1999 as one of the best managed and most efficiently run departments in the province. Many accolades have been heaped on the department from its early days.

Unfortunately the department has lost its rudder and is sliding into decline.

The core function of the department is to provide a safe and affordable transport infrastructure and systems for all the people of the province. Instead what we witness is an increase in sod turning and canvassing events for the ANC at the tax payers’ expense.

In these budget debates the challenge that faces us all, especially the MECs, is to deal with the issues raised rather than attacking the messenger when corruption and incompetence is exposed. It is a regular occurrence in this house to throw the race card when an MEC or a member on that side of the house is not able to deal with a serious issue we raise. We hope that they will refrain from this puerile response to matters of importance to the people of our province.

I will highlight three main areas under the department that impact negatively on the lives of our people:

1. Increased budget with a reduced level of service

Despite the increase in the budget over the MTEF period the levels of delivery either remain constant or are reduced over this period. The creeping increase in staff costs reduces the resources available to deliver services. This raises the question about a government intent on securing its support base by paying them for their loyalty instead of loyalty to the people and a serious commitment to deliver what is essential to build our economy. Government’s primary responsibility is to the people, not the enrichment of the few.

A matter of serious concern is the cost of road building in this province. There is no consistency when one sees one kilometre of road construction costing R20 million in the lower Sani Pass and down to approximately R4 million per kilometre on other road construction. This vast difference is not justified and smacks of incompetent administration and management of the projects where the perception of pockets being lined is unavoidable.

2. Non responsive government

Members are elected by the people of this province. Every member has the responsibility to be receptive to the people and take up matters citizens raise with them. I have taken up numerous matters with senior managers in the department.  In one instance it took more than a year to get an acknowledgement of receipt of my letter after the intervention of the HOD and portfolio chairperson. To date no action has been taken on any of the issues raised – why am I surprised?

“Together we can do nothing” seems to be the motto of the department that was once the flagship of this province. Ignoring the demands and needs of the people of the province is a recipe for unrest and discontent to grow. Why are we surprised at the levels of unrest and protest?

I am expecting the MEC to attack me personally rather than deal with the growing incompetence in his own department. I challenge him to deal with the issues that have been and continue to be raised by the voters in this province.

3. Disdain for the lives of the people in out province

I come to the third of the critical issues facing the department – that of the recruitment fiasco for traffic inspectors.

Up to eleven people died as a direct result of the incompetent planning and management of the recruitment process.

There are 90 vacancies to be filled. Any sane person would create a shortlist of no more than three times the number of vacancies – in this case it would be 270 applicants put on the shortlist. But no, the department came up with a cock and bull shortlist of 35 000. On the 27 and 28 December 17 000 applicants were called to undergo a fitness test – a four km run in temperatures well above 30 degrees centigrade. There was absolute chaos on the day from chaotic parking, to Harry Gwala stadium being overwhelmed with more people than it is legally allowed to accommodate, and insufficient toilet facilities and no adequate provision of water – e.g. two taps in the gents toilet for more than 10 000 men – and no medical facilities until someone realised there was a crisis.

These arrangements guaranteed a threat to the lives of the applicants, and indeed eight young people died on the day and at least a further three in the weeks thereafter. Hundreds were hospitalised for dehydration, and hundreds of thousands of rands were wasted by applicants who had to travel from all quarters of the province to get to Pietermaritzburg and return again on the 30th for the aborted driver competence tests. The MEC, when he aborted the driver competence tests on the 30th responded to a question from applicants as to why so many were shortlisted said he wanted to give everyone a chance. In fact, what he achieved was to disappoint 35000 young people whose hopes were dashed and distressed the families of those who died.

To date no internal action has been taken by the department against officials who were responsible for this disaster. Indeed we have a commission of inquiry, but this does not absolve the department from proceeding with an internal investigation and action. The department has failed the people of this province horribly, and the MEC has defied this house by refusing to present its report to the transport portfolio committee which it claims has been presented to the Premier.

The DA repeats its call for the MEC as the responsible head to resign or be removed from office as would be done in any self respecting democracy. This would be to respect those that died at the hands of his department.

To end, the DA would dearly like to see this department turned around and reclaim its position as the flagship department of the province – one that focuses on excellence in delivery to the people and not to its cronies.

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Service delivery failures ignite flames in Port Elizabeth northern areas

Bobby Stevenson MPL

Leader in the Legislature and Spokesperson on Safety and Liaison

The underlying cause of instability in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth is the high frustration with the lack of service delivery.

The DA condemns the violence in the strongest terms, particularly the xenophobia targeted at Somali shop owners.  The police must continue with their high visibility patrols and to arrest the criminal element running riot.

The underlying, on-going ticking time bomb in the Northern Areas is the lack of service delivery by the ANC-governed Nelson Mandela Bay Metro as well as the high rate of crime.  This is frustrating residents to boiling point.

Secondary contributing issues are:

  • The criminal element and gangsters that opportunistically jump on the bandwagon of protest to loot and steal.
  • ANC-aligned elements who are trying to destabilise DA-wards which dominate the Northern Areas by trying to blame the DA for the failures of their own government.  What they failed to win at the ballot box, they are now trying to reclaim (PROJECT RECLAIM) by creating havoc on the ground.

These three factors are a lethal cocktail and need to be firmly dealt with.  Unless addressed, the flames of protest will continue to be ignited in the Northern Areas.

Instead of improving service delivery the ANC aligned elements are attempting to destabilise DA-wards through instigating public protest.  This is an extremely dangerous strategy.  These elements must redirect their anger and start toyi-toying on the steps of City Hall, where the blame lies.

The ANC is paralysed and riddled with factionalism.  The long-term solution to the problems of the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth and the Metro as a whole is a new DA-government that will offer residents of this Metro the hope, opportunity and change that they deserve.

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DA cannot support Gauteng Health Budget when so much more needs to be done

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Health Spokesman

Summary extract of speech on the health budget on 31 May 2013

The DA unfortunately cannot support the Gauteng health  budget while there is still so much to be done to serve the health needs of this province.

I do acknowledge that the department has the best MEC that it has ever had. Hope Papo is admirably conscientious and utterly sincere in trying to get things right in  this troubled department.

I feel sorry for him because he inherited a big mess and there are so many things outside his control.

I am concerned by the decreased budget for transfers to NGOs and to local government health services.

Whereas R947 million was paid to NGOs last year, the budget this year is only R741 million. R946 million was paid to local governments, but the budget this year is R647 million.

This is a huge gap that will definitely hit services in these areas.

The four academic hospitals are also under pressure as they have been allocated R9.27 billion whereas R9.76 billion was spent by them last year.

Goods and services are also tight, as R7.93 billion is budgeted whereas R8.33 billion was spent last year.

But I still get complaints from companies that they are owed money for months and even years.

Companies have stopped supplies in certain instances because of non-payment.

This is why food ran out recently at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and patients had to pay for bread and toilet paper at Tembisa hospital.

Compared to previous years the overall budget is actually up significantly – it is 50% higher than four years ago.

The key issue is effective and efficient spending which is where I still have many doubts.

Emergency services are still a disaster. The Johannesburg Metro should have been called to order for refusing to provide response time figures, no doubt because they are so miserable.

The provincial estimate is that about 54% of priority 1 calls are responded to within 15 minutes.

The international standard is 80%, but our official target for the next three years is only 70 percent. So officially we are aiming for a sub-standard emergency service for the next three years.

The supply of essential medicine is also way below what it should be – around 70% due to the mess at the Auckland Park Medical Depot.

There is a complete inability to build anything without spending over-runs, avoidable design changes and delays.

The rot in procurement goes very deep indeed. We get poor value in all sorts of things, including hospital security and servicing of machines.

We retain five poorly functioning and expensive laundries, but it’s not the core business of this department to run laundries when there are plenty of private laundries conveniently close to hospitals all around the province.

It’s really shameful that male patients at the George Mukhari Hospital were given nighties to wear because of a shortage of laundered pyjamas.

The Folateng private wards should be shut down as soon as possible. They lose about R40 million a year, excluding the cost of capital.

I estimate that about R1 billion has been lost since Folateng started 10 years ago. Instead of bringing in revenue from patients to assist public patients, it has actually drained resources away from the public sector.

The department must realise that it has no expertise in running a private hospital, but that partnerships with the private health sector can be very fruitful.

Something needs to be done urgently to cut down the long waiting lists and waiting times for operations. More than 10 000 people are waiting for operations in Gauteng hospitals.

I really hope that the era of delayed operations due to broken machines and missing linen is over.

The sins of the past in this department weigh heavily on the present.

I remember when Amos Masondo was the first Health MEC and he spoke about computerisation and a health information system.

There have been umpteen false starts in this area, and all failed because of corruption and incompetence.

Paper files cause delays and are notorious for getting lost.

A health information system is an absolute necessity to enable proper budgeting and controls.

Without it, you don’t know your real costs and where money can be most productively spent.

I hope that real progress in this and other areas can be reported on when the next budget is tabled.

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Hoedspruit community excluded from crucial council meetings

Desiree van der Walt MPL

DA Limpopo Spokesperson on Local Government

The Maruleng Municipality in Hoedspruit this week sought to illegally exclude members of the public from attending its deliberations.

Crucially on the agenda of the meeting were matters of major public interest such as the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and the Municipal budget.

The doors to the council chambers and gallery where the members of the public sit were literally locked after the speaker started the meeting.

This is an established practice to have closed meetings at this Council. Doors are locked after the speaker starts each meeting.

The doors were only opened after a group people started gathering outside close to the council chambers.

There is no justification whatsoever to lock the doors, there needs to be free movement in and out of the council hall.

This attitude shows a disturbingly scant understanding of the democratic processes by senior organs of state in this municipality.

The IDP and the municipal budget are matters intrinsically of public concern; they cannot be discussed with the public excluded.

Our Constitution fosters an open democratic system in which transparency and accountability are the integral part.

This is also underscored by other various local government laws such as the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act.

Specifically section 20 (2) of this Act says “a municipal council, or a committee of the council, MAY NOT EXCLUDE THE PUBLIC, including the media, when considering or voting on any of the following matters:
(a) A draft by-law tabled in the council;
(b) a budget tabled in the council;
(c) the municipality’s draft integrated development plan, or any amendment of the plan, tabled in the council;”

Our public representatives, particularly those in charge of running local government, must be fully informed of why openness is important for our democratic order; it is one fundamental way to hold them accountable.

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Legal costs double in Municipalities to R130 million

Dacre Haddon, MPL

Shadow MEC for Local Government

The amount paid in legal fees by Eastern Cape municipalities have doubled in one year.

Municipalities in the Eastern Cape racked up an astounding R130 million in legal fees during the 2011/12 financial year.  This amount was more than double the costs of R60,45 million recorded in 2010/11.

Until there are real consequences for poor performance by municipal officials, the citizens of the Eastern Cape can forget about decent service delivery.

I will be asking the MEC for Local Government, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, to answer in the House during oral question time in the Provincial Legislature on 19 June 2013 what action has been taken against employees in municipalities who through negligence caused litigation and how this can be prevented in the future.

A response to a question I posed to the MEC revealed that:

  • As at 31 October 2012 73 matters had been recorded at the Mthatha High court.
  • Of the 24 municipalities that reported their legal fee costs, King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality recorded the highest legal costs of R 9,86 million.  (These costs were attributed to defend a matter where the municipality was being sued by parents of children who were burnt from a negligently exposed electricity cable.)
  • The beleaguered Kouga Municipality ran up legal fees to the tune of R4, 2 million.  (These fees were incurred by the municipality defending the actions of wrongfully suspended official Fred Dennis which cost them R1, 5 million and recently the wrongful suspensions of two other officials.)
  • No statistics could be obtained for cases involving municipalities from the other High Courts namely Bhisho, Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth.  For the reply, click here

According to the MEC his department has intervened by placing legal advisors in 22 municipalities.  However, this is not working and is causing double legal costs because these advisors have to appoint professional practitioners to handle these cases.

Furthermore, during a meeting of the Eastern Cape Local Government Legal Advisor’s Forum, provincial Auditor General Singa Ngqwala pointed out a 98% lack of consequences of poor performance and transgression in municipalities.

The exorbitant legal costs incurred by municipalities, caused by negligence and incompetence, mean less money for service delivery.

I will next week be asking for a full disclosure of details of every legal matter against municipalities during the budget meeting of the department and how we can resolve these matters quickly with minimal further cost.

It is clear that the anger in communities over the lack of accountability in their municipalities by the ruling party can only be addressed if they, as voters, take the first step by making their voices heard by voting DA in 2014.

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Decentralise decision-making and improve health care delivery

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

Note: The following address was made by James Masango to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the Policy and Budget debate of the Department of Health.

Honourable Speaker, last year during the 2012/13 Department of Health’s policy and budget debate I stood here and spoke at length about the unacceptably high vacancy rate among doctors, nurses and other medical staff, the department’s failure to retain critical personnel, regular shortages of critical medication, and of course its failure to spend on infrastructure and revitalisation for two consecutive financial years.

Honourable Speaker, unfortunately nothing has changed, and in many instances the situation worsened. This year the premier and the MEC again promised that funds would be set aside to appoint medical professionals – yet the vacancy rate is still at 76% for medical doctors and over 50% for nurses.

If the MEC and the department are serious about appointing staff then they must do so with determination and commitment, to both increase the number of doctors and nurses in our health care system as well as to retain those we already have.

The same goes for the state of Mpumalanga’s hospitals. Every year hundreds of millions are made available for hospital revitalisation and infrastructure, but somehow, conditions don’t improve. Rob Ferreira has potholes in casualty, in Bernice Samuels the roofs are leaking and patients lie in the passages due to a shortage of beds, Tintswalo is still dilapidated, while Mapulaneng and Themba don’t have enough water or sanitation facilities.

Honourable Speaker, late last year the premier visited hospitals across the province and promised that action would be taken, and that health care would improve – yet, we still don’t see an improvement. The Human Rights Commission is currently investigating the state of our hospitals and health care in the province, and still the department is slow to respond.

  • Every year 422 new-born babies die in our hospitals;
  • 196 women die annually due to complications while giving birth;
  • We have 58 community healthcare clinics (CHCs), of which 21 are not able to provide any maternity services due to a shortage of staff, leaving an estimated R1,9 million worth of medical equipment to stand idle; and
  • The number of reported TB cases for Mpumalanga have increased from 23 312 to 24 451 in a space of only one year.

This while a world-class service exists in the private sector, but its costs put it beyond the reach of 88% of Mpumalanga’s residents.

Honourable Speaker, the basic health care system in Mpumalanga needs to be streamlined and overhauled to bring effective health care delivery to more than three million people who cannot afford private health care.

We have to explore options such as bringing private, public, community and NGO health care providers, who currently operate on separate and sometimes conflicting tracks, together in a comprehensive health care system, making it more efficient and more responsive to the needs of the people.

We have to decentralise hospitals and clinics, giving CEOs and CFOs the authority to set their own rates for patients with incomes above a certain prescribed level, appoint staff, collect fees, and respond to the health needs of the area they serve in the way that they see as most appropriate, within an overall national framework.

This would almost immediately improve service delivery as decision-makers would be held more accountable. Honourable MEC, why does the department employ Chief Financial Officers in provincial hospitals if they are not allowed to decide how their budgets are spent?

Hospitals must be allowed to attract as many fee-paying patients as they wish, and employ more staff and upgrade their facilities if they are able to generate the means to do so.

Decentralisation would reduce the department to a facilitating body where it monitors and oversees the overall effectiveness and smooth coordination of the health system, and ensure that the basic requirements for an effective health system are in place.

A system such as this would not only reduce the bloated bureaucracy and its massive annual salary bill, but also make more funds available for the operational management of health facilities.

If the state does not undertake health care service delivery with the necessary rigour and sophistication, the lesson from history is that health care become and expensive service accessible only by the elite – or no functional health service at all.

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The war on crime is far from over

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

Note: The following address was made by Anthony Benadie during the Policy and Budget debate of the Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison. Budget vote 9.

During the 2011/12 financial year, 163 756 incidents of crime took place in Mpumalanga. Of these, over 37 000 were contact crimes, over 36 000 were property related crimes and over 31 000 were other serious crimes. These statistics are hair-raising, and reflective of a society plagued by crime. In reality, the question is not if you will be affected by crime, but when will you be affected by crime.

And, despite the best attempts by the ANC government to convince South Africans that they are winning the war against crime, the statistics speak otherwise: while contact crime is down, property-related crime is up, while contact-related crimes are down, crimes heavily dependent on police action is up, while other serious crimes is down, crimes forming part of aggravated robbery is up.

Honourable Speaker, while at least four crime categories recorded decreases in incidents, these were marginal (ranging from 1% to 6%), while those categories which recorded increases in incidents, were significant (ranging from 3,2% to 34%).

This is simply unacceptable and one has to turn to leadership of government to ask why, given all the evidence of criminal activity, no decisive action is forthcoming. The ANC’s lack of political will to deal with crime and to equip our officers with sufficient skill and resources, are turning our communities into safe havens for criminals and a battleground for civilian survival.

At the same time, we need to assess the current state of the South African Police Service. Our officers cannot fulfil their mandate in keeping our province’s people safe, with insufficient resources, too few vehicles, dilapidated vehicles, lack of firearms, too few officers and a depressing working environment characterised by work overload, dilapidated police stations, low salaries, inconsistent and slow promotions – with some officers having served in their current ranks for 20 years.

So too, the deteriorating internal discipline within the SAPS is having a crippling effect on dedicated officers. It is reported that many officers arrive at work when they like and leave when they like, while in some cases disciplinary procedures were riddled with cover-ups, based on who-know-who, with ordinary officers called upon to act as DC prosecutors.

Over 450 officers in our province do not possess a Grade 12 senior certificate. Many don’t have driver’s licenses, and frankly, too many officers are simply too lazy to care, adding tremendous stress and burden to those who are dedicated to their blue uniform.

But, despite dwindling morale, all is not lost.

Every day, hundreds of police and traffic office officers across our province brave dangerous and trying circumstances to catch criminals and keep us safe. To them we say “Thank You”. We recognise your sacrifice and we treasure your commitment. It is those officers that deserve our attention, energy and support.

It is those officers to whom the DA’s vision for an effective and efficient police and traffic force is dedicated.

It is for them:

  • That we support higher salaries and better working conditions.
  • That we lead the drive for increased visible policing and reduced case-loads by reviewing the police / citizen ratio. The DA’s vision would not only see an additional 30 000 detectives countrywide, but 250 000 additional officers employed, trained and deployed on our streets.
  • That we champion the call for the reintroduction of specialised policing units: a narcotics unit to tackle the devastating surge of drug related crimes, a rural safety unit to tackle the orchestrated brutal attacks on farmers and residents of rural areas, and a child protection unit to remove those destroying the lives of our children from society.
  • We support the call for the speedy implementation of the 2011 agreement with the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council to incorporate administrative staff into the SAPS pay grade.
  • That we believe in the depoliticising of the force and ensuring those in position of command are there by virtue of their sincere conviction for safety and security, and not political affiliation.
  • That we need immediate access to professional trauma counselling in times of need.
  • And it is for them that we hold a vision of a corruption free, independent and well resources force, dedicated to the personal security of every South African.

Honourable Speaker, it is true that despite being two very distinct forces, many of the challenges facing the SAPS are also faced by our traffic officers, including insufficient resources, poor salaries and corruption. The work done by our traffic officers is often unappreciated and many of them face hostile and agitated drivers on a daily basis – indeed no one enjoys those nervous moments of interaction with a traffic officer.

So, Honourable Speaker, let us recognise the work done by our traffic officers, the late nights, the long hours, the traffic law enforcement, the accident reaction and their visibility across the province. Indeed their contribution is priceless and their presence essential, however, let me hasten to say that no degree of officer brutality can or should be tolerated. It does not matter what colour you beret is or how wrong a motorist is, you are leaders in uniform, ambassadors of our province, and nothing can justify the unnecessary use of excessive force against a member of the public.

Honourable Speaker, the disappearance of TMT (Traffic Management Technologies) from our province is not only a victory for every motorist, but every traffic officer as well.

Despite R91 million paid to TMT, still unaccounted for, their operations within the province threatened the job security of many officers and their modus operandi relegated many traffic officers to mere spectators in the key field of speed prosecution and traffic law enforcement. Honourable MEC, I sincerely hope that the rumoured negotiations to renew TMT’s contract is not true and that any intention to do so is abandoned. Cameras in bushes don’t make our roads safer, visible traffic officers, enforcing rules of the road do.

Honourable Speaker, crime is not an inescapable reality and road deaths are not a given. Let’s intensify our efforts to keep Mpumalanga’s citizens safe. We wish all our officers in blue and brown the very best. Take care of yourselves, be safe and stay alive!

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