KZN: A province of missed opportunities

Sizwe Mchunu, MPP

Leader of the DA in the KZN Legislature

KZN Premier, Senzo Mchunu, used his State of the Province Address (SOPA) as an opportunity to crank up the ANC propaganda machine. There was little real reflection on the real state of the province or plans for the future.

It was a campaign speech that had little to do with taking KZN forward. Instead Premier Mchunu chose to focus on the successes of his predecessors as opposed to talking about the true state of our province.

It is the Zuma ANC’s primary electioneering tactic to claim Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela’s successes – even though they’ve sold out the values of the ANC of old.

Everyone knows and celebrates that South Africa is better than in 1994. But the real question is whether the ANC of today is taking South Africa and KwaZulu Natal forward?

The DA believe that Zuma, and the corruption he brought with him, has taken us in the wrong direction.

Yesterday the Premier presented his ‘wish list’ for KZN with no clear course on how he and his cabinet will reach these objectives.  In so doing he showed that he does not have a real plan for our province.  He also showed that he is out of touch with the suffering of ordinary citizens in our province.  Many of the promises and ‘commitments’ made yesterday today are in fact ‘old news’, having been said many times in recent years.

There are some aspects of the SOPA that the DA welcomes.

These include the announcement of a Committee on Social Cohesion aimed at race-based attacks are investigated.  We also welcome the inroads made by the Ezemvelo Anti-Rhino poaching campaign against this scourge.  We welcome the task team which will analyse the profiles of companies awarded government and/or municipal contracts by provincial government departments during the last five years.

We remain concerned by two critical omissions though – that of job creation and getting rid of corruption.

Today I want tell the real story of KwaZulu Natal.

It is the story of a province whose potential is being held back by an ANC leadership.

It is a story of a province where real job opportunity does not yet exist.

It is a story of a province in which a select few are enriching themselves at the expense of many.

It is a story of a province in which citizens still live in fear of violent crime.

In 1994, South Africa was a country ignited by the prospect of a better future.  This renewed hope was foremost in people’s minds as they formed long queues to vote – many for the first time in their lives. They dreamed of a country that would overcome apartheid; fight injustice and join hands in reconciliation despite hundreds of years of oppression and discrimination.

Mama Mamkhize of Ward 3 in Mthonjaneni municipality was one of those first-time voters.   She had a dream of a democratic South Africa as she made way to her voting station in Isikhehle to cast that very first vote.

She was filled with hope that South Africa was going to change for the better and was excited by the fact that her vote would help to bring about equality and a government that would care for its citizens. She could not believe that she was finally able to realize her dream of being an equal citizen for the first time.

Mama MaMkhize was resolute in her thought, that by casting her vote she could make a real difference to the future of our country. Twenty years into democracy, her enthusiasm, dreams and excitement have largely faded.

She pointed out that she expected that by this time into democracy children in her area would not have to walk for hours to reach schools such as Mgabhi and Mfanefile Primary schools. She never thought that people would still not have access to running water and sanitation.

Stories like Mama Mkhize’s are not unique.  They are prevalent across the length and breadth of this province. In Imbali Township where I come from, I have interacted with people who have lost hope in this democracy. These are people who had put their own lives at risk as they played part in bringing about a democratic order in South Africa.

It is those same people who have also pointed out that the party that they entrusted with their votes and mandate to lead the course of real change, has consistently let them down.

They further point out in no uncertain terms that under the current administration, the country’s economy is largely benefiting one group.  That group is what the DA refers to as the ‘insiders’ – the select few who are either in power, or those that are closely associated with them. Meanwhile, the poor are left out to dry and do not benefit in the country’s wealth.  These are the ‘outsiders’.  The only time outsiders feel important or their worth, I when elections are imminent.

When Mama MaMkhize and many other KZN residents who share her discomfort go to the polls in May, they will be voting for change.  They will be voting for real jobs.  They will be voting for a corruption-free government. They will be voting for a government committed to the people. They will be voting for a better education – They will voting for a government which does not break it promises.

I want to express my appreciation to his Majesty, Isilo samabandla, for dedicating some time in his speech on Tuesday and reminded us of the 1994 breakthrough and subsequent promises. In his address, his Majesty reminded this house that, “In April 1994, the people of South Africa, who had been at loggerheads for more than 400 years, took an important decision about their future. In 1994, both the former oppressors and the oppressed took a decision to accept one another as people of the same nation. Although it was difficult and incredible, these two communities went to the polls, which was the beginning of a new chapter and new history for the people of different racial groups.

His Majesty went further to remind us of the commitments that were made in 1994 i.e “We should also remember that we agreed that, as we crossed the bridge, poverty and development supersede politics; poverty and development affect everyone. We agreed that different cultures and religions would have to be respected. We also agreed that the institution of traditional leadership would have to be respected. We agreed that no lives should be lost as we compete for votes. It is important to remember these agreements as, in the long journey that we have travelled since 1994 to this day, we are beginning to see those who either do not understand these agreements or pretend to be ignorant about them gradually taking us back to the past. It is for this reason that we become concerned when we hear about reports about communities that do not get services because they belong to a certain political party.”

During the last 10 months, I have travelled the length and breadth of our beautiful province to deliver the DA’s message of hope to the people of KZN. They have invited me into their homes, their schools, their churches, their businesses and – most importantly into their hearts and minds. Never have I witnessed such despair, and never have I witnessed such a yearning for change.

There can be no doubt that KZN is a better place to live than it was in 1994.  Much has been done to eradicate the inequalities of the past.  Yet the hope that the people of this province shared 20 years ago is fading fast. That hope is directly linked to employment and KZN’s story is not a happy one.  From job creation to service delivery, the ANC-led government has broken promises and stolen this hope for a better future.

The latest labour market trends released towards the end of last year by Statistics South Africa paint a dismal picture. And unemployment is not just a statistic – it is a cold, hard reality for those who must face it.

President Zuma’s promise of 5 million jobs has backfired horribly with just over half a million jobs created – one job out of every ten promised.  Today, there are a staggering 1.4 million more unemployed South Africans than when the President took office in 2009. Here in KZN, rather than improving, the province’s unemployment rate climbed from 20.45% at the end of 2012 to 20.80% at the end of 2013.  These figures are proof that KZN’s leadership is not capable of creating economic transformation, and therefore jobs. They are proof that KZN’s ANC-led government is more interested in political side-shows than it is with changing people’s lives -that it is more interested in handing out food parcels, sword turning ceremonies and other political grandstanding than it is in job creation. Many opportunities to create meaningful inroads into job creation infrastructure have been missed – simply because it is not a priority.

Premier Senzo Mchunu, told us his version of KZN’s story. Yet the real story of our province is one poor leadership – a failure to lead with vision and integrity which comes right from the very top.  This has reversed much of the progress South Africa has made as a nation.

Many opportunities to create meaningful inroads into job creation infrastructure herein KZN have been missed. One of these missed opportunities is the implementation of the Provincial Growth Development Plan (PGDP) – a plan aimed at creating “a prosperous Province with a healthy, secure and skilled population by 2030”. In spite of the plan having been presented to this house in 2012 there is a lack of urgency and commitment on the part of the provincial government to have it adopted and implement it. Whilst the Provincial Planning Commission appears to have produced an “Operations Manual” in December last year (2013) there is still no indication of time-frames or measurable targets, raising serious doubts about the buy-in to this plan for growth and development in the province.

Last year, the province’s performance indicator, the Auditor-General’s report, revealed that the three departments which represent 75% of the total expenditure in the province – Education, Health and Public Works – received qualified audit opinions and financially unqualified opinion with other matters, in that order.

Departments and public entities showed a regression in performance-related matters, mainly related to the non-achievement of planned targets.

Similarly over the three year period 2010- 2013, irregular expenditure continued to spiral at an alarming rate.  The increase is R2 180million calculated over a three year period.  Education alone accounts for R742million in irregular expenditure in the past two years.  The AG also noted his concerns over the R18.98 million clocked up the DOH as a result of failure to comply with supply chain management (SCM).

Given the poor performance records of key departments in this province one cannot help but wonder why it’s ANC-led leadership is not galvanised into taking immediate steps to implement its own PGDP. The Premier need only look to PGDP and the DA-led Western Cape to see how economic transformation can and does take place.

Madam Speaker, the Youth Wage Subsidy (YWS) is another missed opportunity. Failure to announce the implementation of the Youth Wage Subsidy – a move his predecessor committed to.    Yet the said commitment to implement the Youth Wage Subsidy is yet to be acted upon.  Our youth need real jobs. By implication, the premier has come to a realization that the multi-million rand Youth Ambassador scheme is a disaster for KZN,that I say because the premier’s answer to Job creation made no reference to his own Youth Ambassadors Programme. Meanwhile, the Office of the Premier persists with its Youth Ambassador’s programme at a cost of millions.  These are not real jobs Honourable Premier and they do not offer any long-term hope to the youth of our province.

Yet another missed opportunity is the Premier’s failure to ensure that the KZN Community Safety Bill is tabled and implemented.  This is a Bill that aims to make our province a safer place in which to live and work.  Rather than do the right thing, the Premier has allowed this Bill to gather dust in the Office of the Speaker since it was first submitted by the DA in June last year.  Why Honourable Premier is this the case when violent crime continues unabated and so many or our citizens live in fear on a daily basis?

Yet another missed opportunity lies within Education.  Increased matric results mean little if they don’t translate into quality outcomes.  ANA results still show massive backlogs in getting all primary school learners to achieve proper levels of reading comprehension and numeracy.  Yes we need properly built and maintained schools, but above all we need quality learning and teaching in schools.  What is the Premier doing to bring about professional standards of accountability and curb the power of SADTU? The rumour that National Government is taking over our FET Colleges, is an indication of the failure by your administration to improve FET’s as centres of Skills Development for young people.

More missed opportunities lie within the health care sector.  Budget pressures have delayed the building of the much-needed Pixley ka Seme hospital while the accumulation of backlogs in maintaining existing hospitals, many with old infrastructure, have placed huge stress on the department.  Honourable Premier – does this Department have the right leadership to cope? Is the Premier satisfied that his MEC and Health HOD have the confidence of key stakeholders such as the unions and health professionals?

The Premier did his best to paint a glowing picture on agriculture in KZN yet the reality is that this sector is another massive embarrassment.  Certainly the much lauded Agrarian Revolution, announced by his predecessor and on which millions were spent, is nowhere to be seen – kindly explain what has happened to KZN’s Agrarian Revolution?  The PGDP identifies the KZN agricultural sector as a key component of job creation in the province.  Yet, in its Annual Report for 2012/13, the AgriBusiness Development Agency reveals that province’s agriculture department has failed to meet 50% of its planned targets.  What are you doing about this massive leadership failure?

Speaker – The promises on slum eradication are also not new.  Successive ANC administrations have said much the same while people have continued to live in squalor.

KZN’s RDP housing process is fraught with irregularities. Houses remain incomplete or are being demolished because of shoddy work. Housing lists are controversial, with various lists doing the rounds. What are you doing to change this and to ensure that housing does not become an electioneering tool?

Yet another missed opportunity is that of service delivery.  This is the biggest issue that struck me when during my travels around KZN.  The delivery of basic sanitation and water within rural areas is at crisis level. By your own admission in your address yesterday, you unashamedly told this house and the public that the ANC-led eThekwini municipality still has areas which use the bucket toilet system.  That is a disgrace.   Honourable Premier – what are you doing to ensure that the promises of your predecessor are upheld?

Corruption and cadre deployment continue to bring our province to its knees, with millions wasted every year.  Inroads to curb this have been made but the time has come for drastic intervention.  The Premier must move his Integrity Unit away from executive control so that it is independent, reporting only to the Legislature.  This will result in greater transparency and accountability from government.

Speaker – during my travels around KZN I witnessed first-hand the dire state of our province’s road network.  What has happened to the many promises to upgrade our transport network, in particular rail, throughout the province?  In his address yesterday there no mention or evidence to suggest that this plan is on track.  What has happened to the express Durban/Pietermaritzburg business express train? Premier did not once mention the revitalisation of KZN’s rail infrastructure – a key element of his predecessor’s SOPA several years ago.  What has happened?

Despite the many challenges facing our province there is still much potential – and we in the Democratic Alliance believe in that potential.

We simply need a government that has the will to make things happen.

In two months time the ANC will face its biggest challenge in 20 years as the people of KZN go to the polls.

They will be looking for real change and we believe that they will look to the DA for that transformation.

We are more than ready to take on the challenge and to give the people of this province the official opposition party they deserve – one which is has a vision for the future, one which is effective and one which will hold the ANC-led government to account.

The choice is in the hands of KwaZulu-Natal’s voters.