Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
The DA notes the provincial cabinet as appointed by Mpumalanga premier DD Mabuza, and is exceptionally concerned over his choice of certain individuals who have clearly been rewarded for their political loyalties, and not their governance skills or experience.
We welcome the premier’s decision to split the departments of health and social development into two portfolios, as both present their own unique challenges, and require their respective MECs’ undivided attention.
We further welcome the merger of the departments of finance and economic development, as efficient government spending on all levels would act as a driver of economic growth and job creation.
However, while certain departmental changes may bode well for Mpumalanga’s people, the DA is highly concerned over the premier’s choice of MECs to take charge of their respective portfolios.
- Community safety, security and liaison: MEC Vusi Shongwe returns to serve a second term in a time when crime threatens to spiral out of control. While we welcome the continuity created by his reappointment, the DA will keep a close eye on his ability to safeguard Mpumalanga’s rural areas and improving road safety.
- Education: The DA welcomes the return of Reginah Mhaule to this critically important portfolio. She is aware of the many challenges and concerns that beset education in Mpumalanga. We believe that the MEC has much to improve upon her past term, but that she brings continuity to a department that regularly finds itself in crisis. The DA will maintain our intensive oversight of the MEC and this portfolio.
- Finance, economic development and tourism: As previously mentioned the DA welcomes the decision to merge the two departments. MEC Eric Kholwane will have to prove himself, especially in tightening up government’s almost unchecked spending and providing the necessary financial support to municipalities. His immediate task will be to bring stability to the chaotic state of affairs at the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (MEGA) and Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA).
- Health: The appointment of MEC Gillion Mashego to this critically important portfolio is probably the most shocking and terrifying decision. Mpumalanga’s health care system is in a deep state of crisis, and requires strong, experienced and capable leadership. Deeply loyal to Mabuza, MEC Mashego has no experience in public office or the health sector. Implicated in tender irregularities during the Pilgrim’s Rest flawed tender process, his appointment is more than likely a move by Mabuza to pacify a deeply divided Bohlabela region of the ANC.
- Human settlement: Yet another department desperately in need of strong and capable leadership is saddled with an MEC who should not be in Cabinet. MEC Violet Siwela has been put in charge of a department far behind on its delivery targets, and the DA fears that under her leadership the housing crisis in Mpumalanga will never be solved. Like MEC Mashego, the decision to keep her in Cabinet is most probably to keep tight control over the Bohlabelo region of the ANC.
- Agriculture, rural development, land affairs and environmental services: MEC Andries Gamede has his work cut out for him to bring stability to the agricultural sector and ensure food security. While he has slowly built up his experience in government, he has to take firm control of this department and build sound relations with formal agricultural unions. He must prioritise the capacitation of emerging farmers and eliminate the vast land reform corruption that ravages this department. While being a Mabuza loyalist, the former human settlements MEC failed to improve the housing crisis in the province.
- Cooperative governance and traditional affairs: Newly appointed MEC Refilwe Mtsweni lacks the skill or strength of character to manage a complex portfolio. Municipal governance across Mpumalanga’s municipalities is the weakest it has ever been, with almost every municipality in a state of financial crisis. With the 2016 local government elections looming, and people increasingly resorting to violent protests over the lack of service delivery, MEC Mtsweni does not have the political backbone to provide strong leadership to a critical part of government’s service delivery programme. The DA will closely monitor this department as municipalities plunge from one crisis to the next.
- Public works, roads and transport: MEC Dumisile Nhlengethwa brings with her a wealth of parliamentary experience where she has served since 1999. Hopefully she will put all this experience to work and clean up a department rife with corruption and missed delivery targets.
- Social development: MEC Nomsa Mtsweni brings with her many years of experience in the Legislature. A former MEC she has the ability to rescue a department beset by maladministration and poor management. How she deals with the department’s ability to keep NGOs and NPOs afloat will be a true test of her ability, provided she is allowed to do so.
- Culture, sport and recreation: MEC Norah Mahlangu’s appointment is neither here nor there. A former councillor in the Thembisile Hani local municipality with absolutely no track record of leadership or governance experience, this position clearly stems from her loyalty to the premier. This portfolio has never been a priority of government, as the development of sport and cultural diversity and development has hardly ever been promoted. Hopefully MEC Mahlangu will be the fresh breeze this department so sorely needs.
Mpumalanga is in its deepest time of need, and as predicted earlier, the province’s darkest days lie ahead. While strong leadership skills across all departments are needed, this Cabinet can only be described as a collection of yes-men and women, whose sole task is to tighten the grip of power and influence premier Mabuza so desperately seeks.